Photo courtesy of Wendy Daunheimer
So how do I put a nice ribbon and bowtie on this whole week? There were emotional ups and downs, and things to celebrate and things to reflect upon. One thing is for sure, I’m definitely avoiding turning on my work computer’s email – I’m going to be going through those all morning long.
When Team Velocity came to the table of the 2009 Tybee 500, we were heeding the warnings of Race Promoter Chuck Bargeron, who sat us down prior to the 2008 Tybee 500 and told all in attendance that “10 boats don’t pay for this race, simple as that. I’ll run it for one more year but we need at least 15 or 20 boats to make this race keep going.” So Trey and I decided that we were going to push as many people as we knew were capable of competing in the race into participating under the banner of Team Velocity. We brought in the blue wombat, and we brought in Alan and Brett – who would have had a very difficult time getting to the line on their own. We are so proud of how they competed in a race that tested both the sailors physical and mental reserves. We were proud to have them compete under the Velocity name and we look forward to racing with them in future events.
What can we say about Carrie and JC other than – wow. We brought them into the fold to bring an extra spotlight to the event. We knew that while nearly every catsailor would follow the race, we wanted to bring in names that appeal to the larger sailing community – and beyond. Carrie’s status as an Olympian brings that allure that brought in spectators that would otherwise not realize how exciting this race really is. She had a great time, despite being dreadfully ill for the first half of the race; one tough girl thats for sure. What was even better is that they gave Mischa and Eduard a run for their money up the coast, coming in second place overall and second place in the F18 class. Fantastic jobs you two, we are honored to have you sail under the Team Velocity name. Thank you so much for being true team players!
Another huge thank you, goes to Allison Jones, and the rest of our stellar ground crew. Allison managed to do the impossible, and do it with flying colors. When Trey and I had to find someone to be in charge of what was going on while we were off on the high seas, we knew that Allison would be the perfect choice. Our decision proved to be spot-on. She handled the duties we assigned her, and much more. She did it with an air of authority that the ground crew respected – but didn’t resent. She handled the hotels, the logistics behind getting the bags in the room, getting repairs made, getting ground crews tow ork together on getting the boats ready.
The ground crew as well, worked as a well-oiled machine from my limited perspective. Even though I’m sure there are a few gripes from the crew, overall everyone I spoke to said that they thought it went well. They made mention of the fact that more support personell were needed per boat, so that is definitely something that we’ll look into in the future. However, every morning, I walked out to the beach and my boat was rigged and ready to push off. Every evening when we landed, even in Cocoa at 3AM, the boat was meticulously taken care of. When we broke down, the ground crew was there within minutes. Simply put, from the sailors perspective, it was flawless. Thank you guys so much.
We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to our sponsors. Magic Marine hooked up the whole team with the full complement of gear that we needed to compete all week. The thermal wear kept us cool during the hot, windless mornings, and then it kept us warm during the thunderstorms and late nights. The gloves were bar-none the best gloves I’ve used in this race, protecting our hands from those insane double trapped spin-reaching sheet loads. Big thanks go to them and Carrie for sealing the deal.
I need to also thank Kate and Jen for handling the website duties. I know Kate had a whole slew of other duties to fufill and updating the website was amongst them and they always managed to get it done. Thank you girls. I’m sure I”ll be paying for that effort with husband points for a while to come.
I’d like to thank the seemingly tireless race committee for once again managing to herd cats. The cats not being our boats, but the crazy fools who sail them. Its true what they say, that you can only make some of the people happy some of the time and they managed to do that this year yet again. Things always get very sticky during the race when someone violates that boundary around Canaveral, and this year was no different. I certainly appreciate the fact that the committee stayed out till 3:09AM at Cocoa Beach to wait for us after our chute blew out. I appreciate the big hug I got from John Williams when I finished, since he knew how much it mattered to me to get redemption for my failure in 2006. Thank you guys.
In that vein, I had to transition my post into something I wish that I didn’t have to talk about, but it is something that truely put a damper on my feelings coming home after the race. And before you read any further, the following is the sole opinion of me, Tad Pecorak. I don’t know if it lends itself to any kind of credibility, but I feel as a 3-time paying supporter of the race, I earned somewhat if a right to say what I think.
For years, this race has struggled to pull even 10 boats to the starting line. The logistical challenges, the money involved, the preparation needed both physically and financially – it was always difficult, and always monopolizes your life for at least 8 months out of the year. No other race would warrant such an effort. This race is so much more than just a race – its an adventure, and an experience that you cherish for the rest of your life.
For YEARS, the venerable Nacra 20 class has carried this race on its back. It was a symbiotic relationship. The race needs the class to survive, and the class certainly needs the race to survive.
During the awards ceremony, the race organizer, Chuck Bargeron said that “I can see this race going F18 only in two years.” He obviously felt the riot that was about to erupt and then mentioned that “as long as the 20′s keep showing up, they’ll be welcome.” I like Chuck Bargeron. He’s a good man, he does a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that the race happens and happens smoothly. He’s financially responsible with the race and is a good steward of the faith that we as racers put into him. However, this comment has certainly soured the mood, at least from me and probably more than just a couple Nacra 20 sailors/owners.
I can certainly understand Chuck’s intentions. The Nacra 20 is a North American based class who remains relatively strong in isolated areas. The F18 is stronger in North America but it is even more popular overseas, especially in Europe where the competition is simply off the scales in relation to North America. This year proved that F18s can do the race, can do it better than N20′s in certain conditions. This is great news! In addition to the 20′s that showed up in FORCE this year, more F18 sailors will now see the light and come out to compete. From a race organizers perspective, that is great news! F18′s can race alongside the 20′s perfectly! Heck, maybe a group of Tornados want to come out and play, that would bring in even more!
Instead, certain people on the internet, and in person, made the race more about the boat comparison rather than the sailors involved. This bug got in the ear of the organizer apparently, and a line was drawn in the sand that wasn’t the finish line.
While I can certainly understand why people chose to compare the platforms, thats not what this race is about. I know that I wasn’t racing the F18′s. I didn’t care about them once we were racing. If one rolled over me to windward, thats fine, I’m not racing them. My competition was more than stiff in the class alone. When I spoke to Steve Lohmeyer on the beach at Fernandina, I asked him what he was going to do today. ”Just keep Trey within 17 minutes of us, thats all we need to do”. I found it particularly telling that Steve, multiple time OVERALL winner of this race, and by any means an accomplished catamaran sailor with an impressive resume, didn’t say something to the effect that “we need to finish an hour in front of Mischa to win.” Whether Steve was being realistic with his goals for the day or he simply didn’t care about racing against the F18′s, I don’t exactly know – but I do know that he finished the overall race in front of Trey.
So how welcome would you feel, if you were invited to a party, but told that “unless you come with a bunch of people, we’re going to turn you away”?
Thats how a lot of us feel. We feel like we’ve more than proven that our class is willing to support this race year after year, and then told that we are going to be phased out over time is simply insulting. I hate to feel like that after such a great event, but it has to be said so that people understand where I stand.