Worrell 1000 Leg 5

Big surf and light northeasterly winds create a slow start and new difficulties

Friday May 11th 2001, Author: Zack Leonard, Location: United Kingdom
The start of Leg 5 went off with no major problems, but five boats had to return to shore after encountering large waves and breaking rudder castings. Lexis Nexis, sailed by Brendan Busch and James Korkosz, predicted the problem and prepared by stowing a spare casting onboard. But the foresight didn't keep them from making a short trip back to the beach to make a repair. Team Guidant helmsman Rod Waterhouse was bucked over the stern of his boat and into the water by a six foot curler, but he was able to drag himself back aboard and get the boat moving forward before the boat was driven back to the beach.
The surf at the start was approaching six feet in the big sets and with the northeasterly breeze less than 6 knots progress was progress slow and difficult. The boats would inch forward, then hit a big wave and move backwards. The proverbial two steps forward and one step back was definitely the word of the day today.

The two yellow boats, campaigned by Nigel Pitt and Alex Shafer of Tommy Bahama and Kirk Newkirk and Glenn Holmes of Key Sailing jumped off the line with Alexander's on the Bay to a quick lead. Guidant righted their early problems to break through the surf in 4th and everyone in the fleet of 18 starters eventually beat the surf-line to begin the slow trek north towards Jacksonville Beach. The forecast calls for Northeast/East at 10 knots, so the going could be slower today. Most of the fleet sailed perpendicular away from the beach on port tack and then tacked 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile off-shore to parallel the beach on starboard tack.

In case you haven't been paying attention, it has not been easy to get these Inter 20 class beach cats off, and then back onto the beach safely. The surf has been unusually large for the Florida coast. A week of strong easterly winds has built the wind-driven swell and it should linger until tonight and then start to ease up. The waves were as high as the spreaders at Jensen Beach, and they are still over six feet here in Daytona. The trick to getting off and on the beach can be simplified to three major elements, but there is a lot of nuance in between that separates the best teams from those that continually struggle on the beaches. 1) Keep the boat moving forward - backwards is very dangerous, especially in the shallow water where the rudders are in jeopardy. 2) Keep the bows and sterns perpendicular to the biggest waves - getting sideways or angled to the surf seems to lead to disaster every time. 3) Keep the crew-weight forward going into the waves - boats can flip bow over stern.

Experienced sailors with no cat-sailing experience and non-sailors must be wondering just how difficult these boats are to sail. The stories of wreckage and bodily harm must be causing some to wonder whether the sailors aren't up to the task or the boat is just too hard to handle. While it's always difficult to make comparisons, these boats probably fall somewhere between a 505 and 49er in level of difficulty. The boat is very sensitive at high speeds and can pitchpole easily if not sailed properly downwind. Despite the extra righting moment generated by the catamaran's width, the boat is extremely overpowered. Huge waves cause the boat to stab under the water, load up and slow down, then accelerate in a hurry throwing the crews off-balance.

Last night we reported that Team Bay Wind had capsized in the surf and lost their mast approaching the finish. The damage to the boat and crew was extensive. The boat buried it's bows into the sand surfing down a huge wave and pitchpoled in extremely shallow water, flipping forward and instantly destroying the mast. The bows of both hulls were split open and all the forward, structural bulkheads were blown out of the hulls. Both Glenn Ross and Richard Pleasants were badly bruised in several places and were moving gingerly this morning. They were not able to start the leg. "I'm really disappointed," said three time Worrell veteran Pleasants, "we got two fifths on the first two legs and we were just learning the boat." Pleasants had praise for his first time partner Ross who has been acting as the tuning partner for Olympic Tornado contender Robbie Daniels for the past several years. "Glenn is very capable, but he may have burned out a little quickly in the early legs, he didn't pace himself too much."

This leg should provide some more rest for strained muscles, but a longer leg means more time in the sun and more dehydration problems. Many of the sailors are wearing breathable drysuits all the way up the Florida coast despite what spectators would call beautiful weather. The windchill at high speeds is part of the reason for choosing a drysuit, but protecting against sun and abrasion is even more important. Several sailors have scabs around their necks from drysuit seal abrasion and advice is being doled out to newcomers by veterans like Jamie Livingston. Jamie wears a fleece turtleneck under the seal to protect his neck and cuts his neck seals loose to prevent the problem.

Continued on page 2.........

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