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Worrell 1000 Race 2024 Legs 3 & 4

by Beverley J Simmons 16 May 12:48 PDT May 12-25, 2024
Malcolm Denemark getting last minute prep photos of the Cocoa Beach start of the Worrell 1000 Race © Roger Scruggs

For those who are familiar with the history of the Worrell 1000, they know this race has claimed many boats, bones and pride. The quote "The ocean is a sleeping giant..." started a post-race story by Bud Zimmerman in 1976, the Race Coordinator of that time. And although the 3rd leg of the Worrell 2024 from Cocoa Beach to Daytona started off innocently enough, by the end, the sleeping giant and mother nature would see 2 boats battered, and have one retire from the event all together.

Skies were sunny and partly cloudy, with SE winds at about 12-15 knots with surf 2-5 feet. Manageable enough for most, team A Gentleman's Agreement pitch-poled shortly after launching their kite, but were able to right the boat quickly and be on their way. Team Meerkat came back to shore to repair a mast cleat and 18 minutes later, were able to restart. With the fleet heading north all under spinnaker, the Race Committee and team ground crews packed up and headed north as well - all fully aware of the line of thunderstorms closing in from behind.

By noon, the fleet were bombarded by severe thunderstorm number one; Sailors reported later being rocked violently by 40+ knot winds, blinding rain and vicious sea swell. At least half the fleet opted to "park" - point straight into the wind, hang on and wait it out. Team Germany (Stefan Rumpf & Christian Schultz) flipped and righted, only to find Team Babysitting Robots (Trey Sunderland and Liam Walz) flipped and turtled not far away. They sailed to them, made sure both skipper and crew were ok, and continued to sail to shore to wait out this storm, and set off again. Trey and Liam were rescued by the private vessel, the "Paddy Ann" and the skipper delivered them safely to a Coast Guard vessel for transport back to Cape Canaveral. Not only did Trey and his crew have to retire from the race entirely, but it's likely they have lost their boat as well - as of the writing of this article, their boat is still adrift at sea.

Just 30 miles from the finish, after braving it again through thunderstorm number two, team Meerkat would have a shackle pin back out of the tang at the bottom of one of their shrouds and dismasted, resulting in a substantial tear in their mainsail. They were able to sail under a rigged-up jib to the forestay and make it to shore, where their ground crew waited. Sail tape and lots of helping hands had them repaired well enough to sail to the finish. A good thing, as the penalty for non-completion of a leg is hefty - Total elapsed time of the last boat to finish plus SIX hours. Now while some may see this as severe, prior to the current race administration, Worrell race teams who did not finish a leg were automatically disqualified. With the idea that teams should be given every opportunity to finish, the rule has been changed to incur the penalty, while still being fair to those who finish every leg of the event.

At the end of the day, 11 of the original 12 boat fleet would make it to Daytona - Ironically, under warm sunny skies and lovely, 15 Knott breezes. The top three to finish would do so within 7 minutes of each other; the next five, within 20 with the 9th and 10th place finishers just 20 minutes after that. And in typical, Worrell dramatic fashion - Team A Gentleman's Agreement would flip in the surf just 30 feet from the finish, and drag themselves sideways across the line for the finish. As for Meerkat? They made it in before the sun fell and logged in a leg of just a little over 9 hours.

For the leg from Daytona to Jacksonville Beach, the last stop for the Worrell in Florida, teams lined up under stormy skies, knowing that more severe weather was on the way. But the teams (and RC) knew they would likely sail North faster than the storms heading for Daytona, forecast to move out to sea and turn right - but not fast enough to reach the fleet. With mild-to-moderate surf, all but one team were able to navigate the start, keeping the Daytona Pier out of range. Team TCDYC (Chris Green & Jean Bolougne) unfortunately got sideways to a few rollers and almost rolled over themselves. After several, tense minutes with the skipper off the boat, they drifted back to shore, made a few minor adjustments and were able to launch back out, getting it together before the pier came in to play, and headed offshore looking for better breeze.

The fleet split dramatically in 3rds about halfway through the leg to JAX Beach. The leaders, Aussie 1 & 2, Cirrus/MM Sailing and Rudee's took flyers well offshore, while some bet on the rhumb line, and a few more would hug the shore. By the end of the leg, those who took flyers and came in about 30 miles from the finish would be victorious, leaving Randy Smyth and Dalton Tebow of Team Rudy's, who elected to sail further out and stay out longer, to pay the price - they would come in 2nd to last for the leg, as A Gentleman's Agreement would dismast and have to be trailered to Daytona, taking a costly DNF. A shame considering that the 10 teams to make the finish by sea, all did so under sunny skies and gentle but sailable breezes.

The 5th leg - Jacksonville Beach to Tybee, will be the longest leg of the event at 120 miles. The forecast is for light to moderate winds swirling and clocking from multiple directions along the route. Although no storms are on the radar, the brutal sun will make the long, light-air slog to Tybee Island an uncomfortable one. The teams will need to pull out their best strategies and make minimal mistakes - the overall standings are tight - one misstep could mean falling several places, leaving fewer and fewer legs in which to make up the time, so make sure you watch the live feeds of the starts and finishes daily, and track the racers in real time at worrell1000race.com/race-tracking

For more information regarding the race, please visit our official website at: worrell1000race.com

And be sure to like & follow the Worrell on Facebook www.facebook.com/Worrell1000

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