The first running of the Florida 300 was successful with 12 boats taking the start and nine completing all four legs. There was a good mix of seasoned veterans and new talent combined with two new venues. Competition was close with seconds separating overall leaders Key Sailing from Marspeed going into the final leg.
Sunday was setup/registration day at the Islander Resort in Islamorada. The teams were busy unloading their boats and working on setup. Safety and equipment inspections were also carried out as the boats were fitted with satellite tracking for the race. After registration ended the race committee, sailors and teams enjoyed a pig roast and live music on the hotels beach.
Each day presented different challenges. Day one started with the only water start and was the toughest of the four days with winds in the lower twenties and an 80 mile beat to the finish in Key Biscayne. The conditions took their toll on Royal White who had to pull out due to severe cramping and other related issues. The leg was won by Marspeed followed by Key Sailing however F-18 teams Waveyhaven and SolarWind corrected out into second and third places respectively putting Key Sailing in fourth. Royal Yellow and SMS Racing battled for 5th spot overall and finished first and second in N20 fleet. After the remaining boats finished, pizza was served poolside at the Silver Sands Resort. In a true show of camaraderie, Bret Moss from Marspeed skipped the pizza party and did fiberglass repair work on the Royal Orange boat. The boat had an issue with delamination on the bow seam. THAT is what endurance sailing is about!
The second day was from Key Biscayne to Palm Beach Shores. Although the run was not a complete beat, the sailors had to compromise a little speed to cut down on tacks. Once again Marspeed led Key Sailing to the finish followed by Royal Yellow and Royal Orange but the Royal boats would end up behind the Team Cat Fever and Waveyhaven who finished third and fourth on corrected. Showing off in front of their home crowd was Turtle Mojo/Space Coast Sailing Campaign. The singer Island based team slid through the finish line, flying over the sand berm and landed mere feet of the other boats on shore. The day was capped off with a gumbo party at the Seaspray Inn tiki bar.
The main challenge on Palm Beach Shores to Vero Beach leg was the start. With an East wind and rough shore break, the boats had to battle through the surf. The surf took its toll on Marspeed's Marstrom 20 damaging one of their rudders. The Marstrom 20 was the only boat designed without a jib which made getting through the breakers more challenging for the team. At the finish Key Sailing had a substantial lead over Royal Yellow. Marspeed was able to hold on to third overall narrowly edging out Royal Orange but ended up seventh corrected. The battle for third corrected was tight between F18 teams with Team Cat Fever finishing about six minutes in front of Turtle Mojo/Space Coast Sailing Campaign.
The teams took a well-deserved dinner break at Waldo's enjoying live music and swapping racing stories and tactics for the final leg. Cat In The Hat had a crew substitution in leg three but the original crew was back in for the final leg. Eight seconds separated Key Sailing from Marspeed with a comfortable distance from Waveyhaven sitting in third. Royal Yellow and Team Cat Fever rounded out the top five going into the final leg.
The winds on the Vero Beach to Cocoa Beach leg were predicted to be very light. The sailors prepared for a long day on the water. At the start, the light wind and light surf played havoc with the fleet. The lack of wind allowed the waves to push SMS Racing into Turtle Mojo.
Turtle Mojo suffered minor superficial damage but SMS Racing had major damage to the front of their boat. Not realizing the extent of the damage, SMS Racing continued for another 4 miles before noticing they were taking on water and had to pull out. As the race progressed, the wind picked up and so did Key Sailing's lead on the rest of the fleet. Towards the end of the leg, Marspeed headed offshore hoping to get better wind and better angles but their effort was futile and no time advantage was gained finishing 16 minutes behind Key Sailing. As the train of boats streamed in it was Royal Yellow followed by Royal Orange. Waveyhaven kept the pressure on and managed to correct in third place over both Royal boats that finished 4th and 5th corrected. SolarWind finished second in the F18 Fleet and sixth overall corrected.
The “Ribfest” and awards were held in the Best Western conference room. There was a slight delay as a hearing on SMS Racing's request for redress was heard by a US Sailing judge. The request was granted allowing SMS Racing to receive "one hour longer than the last boat having sailed and finished that leg". As the awards were presented, the new perpetual trophy was also unveiled. It is a blown up aerial shot of the Vero Beach start including all of the finishers of the inaugural Florida 300 encased in acrylic with a stand. Congrats to Kirk Newkirk, Thomas Whitehurst and Mark Smith of Key Sailing on their hard fought win.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the sponsors that made the race possible. Waves Surf Shop, Key Sailing, Kattack, Shark Bait and Islander Watersports. With the 2014 Florida 300 in the books, we are already looking toward next years event.
Below is a complete list of fleet results:
1. Key Sailing
1. Royal Yellow
2. Royal Orange
3. SMS Racing
4. Cat In The Hat
3. Team Cat Fever
4. Turtle Mojo