Wednesday, March 12, 2008

1st Place ?

WaterTribe Everglade Challenges are different things to different people. For some it’s a race fulfilling competitive needs, to other's it's a personal challenge testing skills and mettle, some describe it as a spiritual event not unlike a “vision quest” experienced by Native American Indians. All who complete one say it’s a life changing experience.

Though competitive, I’ve never boasted about being a racer or wanting to race a challenge, and WaterTribe tradition actually tries to downplay the racing aspect. For me, these events are primarily about the “Tribe”; meeting and getting to know the people who do them. We are a varied, and interesting group of people drawn to an event that is a challenge regardless of our personal approach to it. Our boats, and the different boat classes are also as varied as the participants, from standard kayaks and sailboats, to some very original home made craft, all adding to my interest.

This year I entered in Class 3, sailing canoe and kayaks, with my Kruger Dreamcatcher, Pacific Action Sail, and Balogh Sail rig. Unfortunately this year was not a downwind sailing event, and I definitely paddled more than sailed. Photo below is me preparing for the start on the beach at Ft Desoto on Tampa Bay.

However, if I need to fulfill a competitive spark, I can truthfully claim 1st place in solo female Class 3 (sailing kayak/canoe). Being a class of one, I can also be labeled last place in solo female Class 3 :)

This year’s EC was as interesting, exciting, and diverse as any, and with weather conditions offering hard physical, mental, and emotional challenges for most. Many of this year's participants report on the WaterTribe Forum that this was one of the hardest challenges over the past few years. It was also fun. Fun seems a contradiction, but being on the water is my passion, and choosing to spend most days and/or nights with other Tribers when I could, rather than proceeding solo (as must be done by the racers) makes it so much more fun for me.

It was also a year I experimented with different routes. This year, my fifth, I took 3 different routes than previous years. For the first time I started the race by immediately going outside into the Gulf rather than down the Intercoastal Waterway, coming back inside at Venice Inlet. I also paddled East of Pine Island, rather than paddling down Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound on the second day. During the last miles of the Wilderness Waterway in the Everglades National Park, I chose to paddle down Joe River rather than White Water Bay. Each challenger is responsible for choosing their own routes, and navigating their own way to the required checkpoints. Having options allows for varied experiences, but also allows one to work with the different weather conditions. (More about routing in future postings.)

And of course, this year was also a family affair (adding somewhat to the emotional part of the challenge). My son Alan and husband Paul teamed up to race the EC in our new sailboat "Dawn Patrol" we had just built.

We passed each other on the course within the first few hours of the challenge. I actually paddled passed them for a couple hours while they rowed during an afternoon calm. Once the wind picked up, they sailed past me and we never saw each other again till the finish. Our presence on the course was always in our minds (and an occasional worry and concern), and we were generally aware of how each was doing through our shared daily contact person.

Challenge rules require a 24 hr land contact (when cell service available) reporting back to race management through the forum. Our shared contact was Mike, Alan's college roommate, and veteran of last year's EC as Team RAF. Mike also kept up Alan's blog, providing reports on all of us to our family and friends. Mike did a great job, my Mom was very happy. Thanks Mike. Photo below of Team RAF in 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge.

Over the next week or two, I'll post some stories about my challenge, and the people I was fortunate enough to paddle and camp with. They're company made the even more than worth while.

1 comment:

Ginger Travis said...

Dawn, way to go. You gave a lot of people the fun of following you through your race. (Mike did great.)
Very inspiring.