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2017 Rick White Steeplechase

The Rick White Memorial Steeplechase, in Key largo, Florida, 9-10 December 2017

The 32nd Steeplechase took place as always on the 2nd weekend in December, 2017.  Hardy souls mounted 5 Catamarans to face high winds of near 20 knots to see who is the fastest out and back from/to the Upper Keys Sailing Club, a great venue.  One boat decided not to over extend and dropped out early.  Four Boats left the start line and headed towards Porjoe Key to the north and into the teeth of the wind.  Boats have been sitting idle too long and 2 of 4 had issues of rudders and mast, but two made the trip.  All were here to see the Nacra Carbon 20 manned by Steve Lohmayer and Kenny Pierce charge the winds of 16-18 knots.  Excitement for all as they rounded the pin end of the start line on their first trip around the 6-mile course.  Both boats finish in a rush, and put their boats away ‘til day two.  Greg Paiewonski & Brandon Natal manned their Nacra 6.0 in the second boat to finish.

We had decided to delay the first days racing to 1PM because of higher wind and storm forecast.   Larry Ferber intended to tie his boat down but didn’t.  So, about 10:30 the front arrived and Cat N Hat in place by the starting deck, decided it was time to sail. It laid over bouncing the mast on gravel, and began its trip around two vehicles and toward trailered boats across the driveway.  One hundred feet later, Club members ran to stop Cat n Hats trip.  Vanessa, a moth sailor, and two others held the nacre down until lines could be placed to hold it back.   Larry arrived in his camper, placed it on the windward side to block and the lines were removed.  The boat was scratched up and later he found the mast attach point too damaged to continue,   Another story.

Sunday arrived with glorious skies and more wind, Clear skies convinced all available it was truly time to race.  Five boats prepared to race.  Since this was a two-day race and two had already finished the first day the RC decided that the 2nd day was to decide third place.  The instructions were that the two first day finishers had to race and finish the second day to hold their position, then all others could race the second day for third place.  Larry Ferber, having lost his steed, would need another boat, so he borrowed a Wave and decided to race singled handed over the 38-mile course.  We checked his insurance policies and took a sworn statement of capability and let him proceed.  The start was fantastic, with all boats crossing the reaching line closely together and they were off, disappearing fast in their trip through the mangrove islands, typical in the Steeplechase.  Steve and Kenny did not let us down, as the crossed the finish line in 2:24:36.  They averaged 15.76 mph, with a tacking return trip, so easily saw more than twenty mph at times.

Third place was decided by corrected times, and Larry’s borrowed Wave made the trip in 4:40:20 corrected to 3:07:53 with SCHRS rating system.  Proves all boats can win in the right conditions.  So, finishers were:

Tavernier Creek Marina Nacra Carbon 20 Steve Lohmayer & Kenny Pierce 1st Place
Fly Away Nacra 6.0 Greg Paiewonski & Brandon Nat 2nd Place
Cat in Hat Inter 20/Wave Larry Ferber & Luis Balzac 3rd Place
Yahwahhnnah F-18 Chris Stater & Hans Evers 4th Place
Georgia Gang Hobie 21 BrIan Simons, Will Allen & Tim Cahil 5th Place

Trophies were YETI Cups emblazoned with: Rich White Memorial Steeplechase, FOR 1ST, 2ND AND 3RD.

The Rick White Memorial Steeplechase will run next year on 8 – 9 December, 2018.

Our wonderful Hosts, the Upper Keys Sailing Club encourages our return in 2018.  The course may return to the 110 mile, Round Key largo and Islamorada format.  All catamaran sailors are asked for their views on format.  SSPUSA plans this race again as a primary race for distance racing sailors.


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