After a disastrous start in treacherous surf that decimated most of the fleet, just 5 boats completed the course to the finish on day three.
In the18 years that this race has been held, never has a leg been so destructive. Hatteras has claimed parts of the fleet, but no shore break has ever been as destructive as Jensen Beach this morning. 15 boats were pummeled back to the beach by angry surf, causing race officials to halt the launching and find an equitable way to reward the 5 boats that sailed the course while allowing the others to continue their quest. Masts were broken, sails shredded by broken battens and rudders snapped off like wishbones. Yet the sailors still continued to try to cross the ugly surf-line. Shore teams hustled to fit replacement rigs, and replaced battens and rudder castings hoping not to lose too much time to the leaders when race officials put a halt to the destruction. Katie Pettibone and Eleanor Hay eyed the surf preparing for a second attempt when beachmaster Lee Queensbury informed them that the launching was to halt. Pettibone repeatedly asked for permission to make another attempt, but officials refused.
At the finish Race leaders Brian Lambert and Jamie Livingston recorded their third straight leg victory in one of the bumpiest legs in Worrell 1000 history.
"About 22 miles out Brian lost his footing on the wire and we went over, then again 5 miles later we went over again, then we just sailed it in nice and easy," explained Jamie Livingston.
Lambert wondered what perennial champion Randy Smyth would have done, "we were only single trapezing with the skipper hiking out a lot of the time, Randy would have been double trapping the whole time, pushing it." Lambert explained the secret to their success at the start, "we've got experience getting through surf, you have to wait for the right set, kind of the opposite of surfing, we want the little ones."
The Canadian team of Reigh North and Scott Macdonald took a similar approach. "We tried not to go up a big one," said North, "we were patient and waited for an opening with smaller surf." North and Macdonald sailed a great leg, arriving at the finish third. But they approached the beach at the wrong angle and were cleaned out by a huge wave.
The surf at the finish in Cocoa was possibly bigger than the nasty stuff at the start. Waves were overhead and breaking 6 rows deep off the wide, gradually sloped beach. North tried to run along a trough like a surfer, almost parallel to the waves as he continued upwind towards the finish line. But a big wave broke over him and he couldn't accelerate out of the whitewater and was flipped hard. His mast snapped immediately and the boat floated, boards pointing up, into the beach. He could only watch as Team Outer Banks sailed across the line for a third place finish in the leg. North and Macdonald dragged the boat down the beach with the help of their shore crew and pushed it across the line to finish fourth.
Race Officials have announced a 7 PM meeting for team managers at which point the DNS scoring penalty will be announced. Most of the broken teams have secured spare masts and rudder fittings so the fleet should be back at full strength for tomorrow's 69 mile leg to Daytona Beach. The surf will still be rough, but it's hard to imagine anything worse than today.