Friday, March 05, 2010

EC'10: At the Starting Line

Updated 3/5 6:00pm

Here we go again. It's that March Madness time of year when the adventurous paddlers and sailors of the WaterTribe bring their small boats to Tampa Bay for the 300 mile Everglades Challenge (EC) navigating down to Key Largo, and the 67 mile Ultra Marathon (UM).


But wait, that's not all you get! This year the 1200 mile Ultimate Florida Challenge (UFC) is on. The challengers in that race will complete the 300 miles of the EC and then continue on to circumnavigate Florida. After transiting the east coast to the Georgia state line, the UFC challengers will jouney up the St. Marys River and then make a 40-mile portage from the headwaters of the St. Marys River to the headwaters of the Suwannee River. Down the winding Suwanne River to the Gulf they will go non-stop night and day. Then south down the west coast of Florida will bring them back to their finish line at Ft. DeSoto.

A total of 70 boats are on the starting line Saturday: 42 in the EC, 20 in the UM, and 8 in the UFC. The UM challengers will finish their race in 1 or 2 days. The EC challengers will finish in Key Largo in 2-7 days. The UFC challengers will take almost a month to go all the way around Florida.

Follow all the challengers posts [here] and view a map of their progress [here].

News Thursday (3/4)

At 5:30 am Dawn (SandyBottom) picked up Kristen (KiwiBird) and David (FloatSome) and headed south stopping only once -- for fried chicken near Midway, Georgia.

By 6:00 pm they had arrived at the campground near the starting line --the beach on Mullet Key in Fort DeSoto County Park. They enjoyed visiting with kindred spirits as the WaterTribe gathered from far and wide to make final preparations for the 2010 Everglades Challenge. Pre-race dinner with good friends is always a highlight. Evening entertainment includes fending off roving bands of fearless racoons.

The temperatures this time of year at the campground are often chilly. SandyBottom reported, "We're here and it's freezing." Welcome to Florida.

News Friday (3/5)

At the campground, the weather was clear and 40F degrees at 8:00 am. The forecast for Friday: clear with a high of 61F and winds out of the North at 6-9 mph.

The agenda for Friday focuses on the captains' meeting, final inspection of gear, last minute preparation, and packing the boats as they sit at the starting line. SB, KB and FT moved their kayaks from the campground to the Mullet Key beach and at the high tide mark, which is the starting line, and loaded them with gear. By 4:30 pm they were finished. Their boats (and all the boats) will stay overnight untouched until Saturday morning at o-dark thirty.

All reports are that the line-up of 70 boats at the starting line is a sight to behold. SB reported, "There are some really amazing boats! I hope they all finish because you are going to love seeing them in Key Largo!"

SB particularly liked Matt Layden's (Wizard's) new, tiny boat. Each year he's faster and his boats are smaller. How does he do that !? There is a reason he's called Wizard: years ago the WaterTriber elders insisted on renaming him that in recognition of his amazing EC performances.

The Friday evening agenda: dinner with WaterTribe friends and a good night's sleep. The clock is ticking down....

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