A Boat Concept for The Ultimate Florida Challenge…

The Ultimate Florida Challenge: 1200 miles by small craft in 30 days or less.  This is the race for those who are looking for more of a challenge than the Everglades Challenge, a tough as nails 300 mile race from Ft. Desoto in Clearwater, to Key Largo.  Instead of finishing in Key Largo, you continue around the tip of Florida and up the Atlantic coast until you reach Honest John’s Fish Camp near Sebastian Inlet. From there you go to Canoe Country Outpost near the mouth of the St. Marys River. Then it’s about 90 miles upstream on the St. Marys River to St. George. At St. George you begin the infamous 40-mile portage to the Suwannee River at Fargo. After about 220 miles down river you are back in the Gulf of Mexico – next stop Cedar Key. The final sprint from Cedar Key finishes back at Fort Desoto.   Yep… 1200 miles AND a 40 mile portage after a 90 mile upriver paddle.  This ain’t Disney, folks!

There has been an off again, on again rule called the Boat Switch Rule, which would allow sailboats to have a kayak or canoe waiting for them at the portage, which they would then use for the 40 mile trek and the trip down the Suwannee.  They would have to carry any equipment used for portaging the smaller boat with them from the time they leave Ft. Desoto until they return.

This has been a contentious rule, as many feel it gives an unfair advantage to sailors.  However, an equally valid point is that kayakers and sailors are in different classes to begin with.  On top of that, there are varying philosophies regarding the very reason an entrant does this sort of racing to begin with.   For example, our trimaran embodies what *I* find to be the spirit of the WaterTribe concept, and the E.C. in particular… but I freely admit to that being my opinion.  And I certainly appreciated and admired each and every individual, and their vessels, on the starting line this year, both for making it in the first place, and for showing their spirit and individualism in their boats.  So if  each entrant is finding their place within the spirit of the event, I think the boat change rule is OK… after all, those who don’t change boats will consider themselves a bit separate from those who do (if anybody does).  I sort of suspect that there will be a cadre of those who do the UFC as an all out race against the clock and each other, while others will be competing within themselves.  Both are equally valid ideals, and, no matter how they are accomplished, they are great triumphs indeed.

Now… more to my point mentioned in the title of this post.  Were I going to do the UFC, I don’t think I’d want to switch boats.  But I sure wouldn’t want to portage Clarity, either!  My proposed concept would be a catamaran that demounts into two individually paddleable vessels, each carrying half the gear and rig.  Thus, the boat would be sailed when practical, and paddled up the St. Mary’s as two boats, portaged the same way, and probably down the Suwannee as a flotilla of two as well.  I find a certain elegance and fitness of purpose in doing it that way, much as I found a certain elegance and fitness of purpose in the way we built the 1954 Jaguar XK-120 that we used in the 1989 La Carrera Panamericana Rallye (https://claritysailingadventures.wordpress.com/other-than-sailing-stuff/) .

I’ve posed the question on the WaterTribe website, and we’ll see where it goes insofar as the rules are concerned.  In the meantime, I may just have to do some sketching!

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