300 the hard way

John Casey gives an inside view of the Florida 300

florida 300Offshore beach cat long distance racing has always a niche of our sport only tried by few. It’s hard to take precious work days off to submit to the chaos of the open ocean in a little boat with no cabin, no escape, nowhere to hide if it all goes wrong. At times, just getting offshore can be a milestone. During a couple tough years of east coast races, miles of coastline were covered with broken masts, hulls and sailors who were backhanded by impenetrable surf. Some round-the-world racers without cat experience have tried and ended either by Coastie sling or jury rig. Teams have dropped out due to overexposure or extreme seasickness. Legs have been broken, hands have been annihilated and fingernails regularly fall off after the race from being strangled by sheets wrapped around hands for hours on end.

I’m sure the organizers of the new Florida 300 have their head in their hands yelling at the screen, “No, JC why are you saying this!?” That’s what it is, man. It’s risky. It’s friggin scary sometimes. It’s the unknown every day, and it might just be the adventure of a lifetime. When sailors are firmly planted on the mainland after an extremely intimidating day, life seems a little more precious, specialty drinks taste a little better and the smell of surf and sand has new meaning.

You know, it’s hard enough just to finish, but now we have to add another layer to this traveling show. This year we’re gonna foil it on the new Nacra 20 FCS. Now we’re talking. Let’s take unknown to a while new level. There are a whole lot of questions out there about completing this race on a foiler. Does it successfully foil in waves faster than low boats? Can you actually beach launch that thing? Well, I’ll give a daily update to let you know. To make it a little more tantalizing, there will also be a Flying Phantom on the line to make this the first beach cat race of its kind in the U.S. to have a foiling ‘class.’ There will be also be the old tried and true Nacra 20s, F18s, F16s and even a standard Nacra 20 Carbon to see how the new foilers stand the test of elapsed time.

The Florida 300 starts Wednesday at 10 AM EST in Islamorada, FL and ends in Key Biscayne, approximately 70 miles. Then there are three more days of racing starting at 10 sharp, eventually ending in Cocoa Beach. Follow the Florida 300 Tracker to see how it goes. Check the Florida 300 website for live streaming of starts and finishes and more action.

If you happen to be in the Keys Tuesday night, stop by the Islander Resort and look for our fleet on the beach and we’ll pour you some of Hemmingway’s own adventurous rum, Papa’s Pilar !