It was 8am, and the PRO (Principal Race Officer) John Williams was starting the daily Skipper’s meeting. The general feeling in the air was one of mild “dis-jointedness”… just a little “off”. The reason was likely due to the fact that the start of the leg this day had been moved up to 9am – an hour earlier than usual.
And, that the teams were facing the longest leg of the event: Jacksonville Beach, FL to Tybee Island, GA – Roughly 128 miles on a rhumb line. To put this in perspective, the previous legs were all under 90, although those upwind legs made for a tack fest that added another 20 or more miles over ground.
Friday, the forecast called for winds that would slowly start to clock around toward a more Southerly and appealing direction – the spinnakers would finally be needed and a more direct course could be sailed. Still – the wind was expected to diminish quickly in the late afternoon and evening, making it a very real possibility that the Worrell would get its third “night leg” of the event.
At the start line, 11 of the 13 boats pushed off through the surf with two pushers instead of the rule-dictated one – the Race Committee decided to allow this again as with the last leg, and it almost produced the desired outcome: 9 of the 11 made it through the surf with relative ease, and without dangerous collisions, however – Team Outer Banks (Hardy Peters and James Eaton) became sideways to the surf, flipped, and were washed back to shore. They managed to right the boat at the beach, suffering only a broken top batten in the square-top main, and off again they went. This time, getting through unscathed. Two boats weren’t quite ready to make the earlier start at 9am: Cat in the Hat, Larry Ferber and Brett White moved up to the line after all boats moved off the start, finished some last minute rigging and were on their way about 15 minutes after official start. The German Team, Way of Life (Stefan Rumpf and Andre Hauschke) had a trapeze line that they were still working on from the previous day – They worked it out and also got under way several minutes late, but made it through the surf without incident.
With the leg to Tybee, there is a wicked temptress of a rhumb line: A straight as an arrow shot, avoiding shoreline dangers and additional mileage to the island of Tybee – seemingly do-able in a slightly-curvy line under spinnaker. However, if you ask veteran Worrell Sailors… she is a temptress not worth her wiles: the rhumb line rarely pays. Watching the trackers, it was surprising to see that only one boat decided to stay below the rhumb line and follow the coast – Team Netherlands – and they enjoyed an early lead that lasted half the day, as the remaining 12 boats headed for the temptress.
About five hours in, the leaders of the rhumb line pack, Team Rudee’s (Randy Smyth and Dalton Tebo), Team Australia (Rod Waterhouse and Chris Way) and The Clean Sailors (Chris Green and Mathieu Marfaing) all caught the gist: Gerard Loos and Fred Serafin had it right – the winds on the rhumb were hurting them. Those three jibed away towards the coast, and the pack followed. From there, the winds started to turn, and by the time the fleet was passing Little Saint Simon Island, the kites started launching. Once the fleet was on this below-the-rhumb line course, that’s when separation really started: Six boats passed The Netherlands and would maintain a leaders “pod” through the finish: The Clean Sailors, Rudee’s, Australia, Restream and Team Allen would stay within minutes of each other until the last 12 miles to the finish.
And even then, the top five all finished within 30 minutes of each other:
- Rudee’s at 11:46:01pm (total elapsed time 14h 46m 01s)
- Australia at 11:46:47pm (total elapsed time 14h 46m 47s)
- The Clean Sailors at 12:05:43am (total elapsed time 15h 05m 43s)
- Team Restream at 12:15:31am (total elapsed time 15h 15m 31s)
- Team Allen at 12:23:31am (total; elapsed time 15h 23m 31s)
- Fast Forward Composites at 12:30:27am (total elapsed time 15h 30m 27s)
It would prove to be an overnight sail for the teams and the Race Committee, with the next 2 boats not finishing until after 2am and the final 2 boats (both, having gotten stuck on the shoals less than half a mile from the finish) not reaching the finish line until almost 5am…..
The sunrise would reach the beach at Tybee in an hour and a half and by that time, all were just starting the hazy list into R.E.M dreams….dreams I am sure of sailing into glorious sunsets just beyond a tropical island destination, on a forgiving, soft and easy breeze with no care to the time it takes to get there…..
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