Sunday, June 19, 2016

2016 Great Texas

Congratulations to Team Yo Baby!, Shannon Galway and Jonathan Atwood, on winning the 14th annual Great Texas Catamaran Race.  They managed to hold off second place Team Great Texas 300, Steve Piche and Juke Ball, by 4 minutes.   Yo Baby also won the F18 Class.  Fastest elapsed time was won by Team Buoy 44, Brian Lambert and Will Rottgering.  They also won the open class.


The first two legs of this year’s Great Texas were run in breezy conditions while the final two legs were conducted in lighter conditions.  The strong breeze on day 1 knocked out two teams, Sailboat Shop (broken mast) and Jack Flash (ripped main).  Fortunately, the other 8 boats were able to finish the 300 mile course.


Off the water, we had great parties in South Padre (sponsored by Silver Bullet Racing), Mustang Island (Triple Threat BBQ), Surfside (TCDYC), East Beach in Galveston (Bolivar Yacht Club) and Galveston awards banquet (Carlyle Homes).  As you can see, we kept everyone well feed during the event.

Thanks to the many, many people who help with the event!

Top 10 List for Leg 4 of the 2016 Great Texas

Top 10 List for Leg 4 of the Great Texas
Surfside to Galveston, 45 miles
By Steve Piche, skipper Team Great Texas 300

Here is your final top 10 list....

  1. Who won?  Ahh, wouldn’t you like to know.  We are not announcing results until the awards banquet tonight.  However, my team needed to beat Team Yo Baby by 2 minutes and 50 seconds and that did not happen so it is not us.  Now, it is not so easy between Yo Baby and Buoy 44 as math is involved here.  Buoy 44 is on a faster boat and did finish ahead of Yo Baby but was it enough.  All I know is that Yo Baby’s math left them with a smile on their face.  We will have to see in a couple hours.
  2. Kites Up:  What a great start to the race.  A number of us put our kites up right off the start and powered through the surf in a modest 6 knot breeze.  Once through the surf, we sailed downwind with a number of us working the beach pretty hard to get the downwind headers and surf action until the wind shifted off-shore and that game would not work anymore.  I know Duane Darling had the drone out so there should be some great coverage of the start!
  3. Awards Banquet:  We are headed over to Cat Alley for the awards banquet.  It should be a pretty special evening at their place.  We are having a huge shrimp boil that is being provided by Joe Carlyle!  Thanks so much to Joe and his family for providing dinner.  Also, once again thanks to Tripp Burd for the keg!
  4. Dashers!  Everyone is welcome to sail the last leg of the Great Texas!  Those that join us are officially part of the Dash race which is run by the Great Texas fleet.  We had about 15 boats sail in the Dash today and they will also be getting their awards at banquet this evening.
  5. Had my chance:  I took my shot at winning the Great Texas today.  I needed to get away from Team Yo Baby who had a 2 minute 50 second lead over me and keep up with Team Buoy 44 who I was virtually tied with going into the day.  The day started out good for me as I was able to work the beach well and tag along with Team Buoy 44 while putting distance on Team Yo Baby!  However, the breeze remained light and Team Yo Baby started to reel me back in.  Then, the breeze came on and Juke and I jumped on our traps and started to motor.  We do really well in double trap conditions and we had smiles on our faces.  But then, the wind fell away for good and we just could not keep Yo Baby from reeling us back in.   Good job by Yo Baby not letting us get away.  They did a nice job of tracking us down after getting in a hole early.   
  6. Trackers:  Did y’all like the trackers.  I have heard that a lot of people have been following the event.  Because of the remoteness of the Texas coast, we have to use satellite tracking devices with 2 minute pings to the satellites.  Not only do the devices allow you to follow the race, but it allows our race committee to know where everyone is on the race course.  Ultimately, it provides another level of safety for the race.
  7. Sponsors:  Putting on this race is not cheap.  In fact, the cost of the trackers alone is over $2,000.  It takes a lot of sponsorship to pull this event off and we have had some very generous sponsors this year including our Diamond Sponsor, Carlyle Homes.  All I can say is a big thanks to everyone that stepped up to support this race.
  8. Last Bit of Wind:  About four miles from the finish, the wind really backed down and it got very light.  We got very nervous as it is easy to lose a lot of time in a race when the wind goes so light.  A lot of the Great Texas teams were bunch close together however if the wind died, there could be big differences in time even though we were close together.  However, as luck would have it, the breeze turned back on right about the time Buoy 44 finished.  This was good for us and Yo Baby but not so good for Buoy 44.  It certainly made the finish very interesting.
  9. Hot Dogs and Beer:  Once we finished, the Bolivar Yacht Club served hot dogs and beer on the beach.  Nothing like having a dog after 300 miles of racing.
  10. You!  We want to see you at the Great Texas next year.  Come as a racer, a dasher, a volunteer, a team manager or just for the fun of it!  We start at 10 am in South Padre on the Wednesday before Father’s Day!  See you in South Padre!

PS:  My record remains intact.  I have completed every leg in the Great Texas over the past 14 years.   Could not have done it without Juke and Jorge!

Top Ten List for Day 3 of the 2016 Great Texas

Top Ten List for Day 3 of the Great Texas
Surfside to Matagorda, 60 miles
By Steve Piche, Skipper Team Great Texas 300

Here ya go, the top ten list for today:

  1. Yo Baby!  Who would have known but Yo Baby (Shannon Galway and Jonathon Atwood) all decked out in pink is back in the overall lead of the Great Texas.  Starting in a light breeze that eventually filled in to a 10 knot breeze, Yo Baby was able to take a big slice of time out of Team Buoy 44 (Brian Lambert and Will Rottgering) lead - enough to push them into the lead.  (Build breezes like today favor slower boats while dying breezes like yesterday favor faster boats.)  They have roughly a 5 minute lead over Team Buoy 44.  However, lurking in the shadows in third place is Team Great Texas (I, Steve Piche and Juke Ball) who cut into the lead of both Team Buoy 44 and Yo Baby today.  Team Great Texas is only 3 seconds in elapsed time behind Team Buoy 44 which means the teams are virtually tied.  So, can Yo Baby hold off Buoy 44 and Great Texas tomorrow?  Who knows.  Forecast is light and fluky, could be anyone’s race to win tomorrow!
  2. Surf eats boats!  Well, the surf won this morning as several boats had a tough time getting out in a light breeze.  Team Buoy 44 jumped out right away and had no problems.  We got pounded by three big waves that stopped us dead in our tracks.  However, after they rolled through we found a soft spot in the waves and pushed our way through.  For a while, only us and Buoy 44 were sailing while everyone else was floundering in the surf.  We heard Lee yell something with great enthusiasm - he broke a rudder or something and got off the beach 20 minutes late.  In the end, everyone eventually made it out for a fine day of sailing.
  3. Dashers!  It is so great to get into Surfside and see everyone from the Dash setting up their boats.  (Everyone is welcome to sail the final leg of the Great Texas!)  We have 12 boats signed up for the Dash which starts tomorrow at 9 am one hour before the Great Texas goes out at 10 am.  The Dash is an excellent way to learn about the Great Texas.  If you can’t make the Great Texas (or are not quite ready), you should try to join us for the Dash!
  4. Light Puffs:  After getting through the surf (and being buzzed by a drone), we went into light wind battle mode.  There is nothing harder than getting the boat going in light, puffy conditions.  Today, someone would get a puff and move forward through the fleet.  Then, a few minutes later, another puff would push someone else forward.  We ended up yo-yoing with Team Yo Baby all day!
  5. Tomko:  It was nice to see John Tomko at the finish line today.  He is sailing on the European Flying Phantom circuit this year and did not have the time off work to join us at the Great Texas.  John has won the Great Texas so many times that we no longer keep track!  He is going to try to come play with us tomorrow on a Flying Phantom.
  6. Surfside Party:  I am now over at Collin Casey’s house in Surfside where the Texas City Dike Yacht Club people are preparing a dinner for us!  What fun!  I love how many people step up to support this event.  In fact, here is shout out to Tripp Burd giving him thanks for buying the keg for our party tomorrow evening!
  7. Cutting the Corner:  After a 45 mile run down the beach today, you have to first round Point Bryan where the Brazos flows into the gulf and then the Freeport jetties.  Since it has been flooding on the Brazos the last couple of weeks, we were all a bit concerned about the outflow.  The first few boats choose to do a wide rounding around the point but we decided to cut the corner.  We sailed through lots of logs and crap but did not hit anything too bad.  We then headed straight for the end of the jetties while other teams went a bit further out.  By cutting the corner, we were able to catch back up with Yo Baby and pass them.
  8. Fire, Water, Burn:  Line honors went to Buoy 44 but Team Fire, Water, Burn (Aaron McCulley and Drew Carlyle) corrected over them by finishing only a few minutes behind Buoy 44.  They had an excellent sail - they squirted out in the light to medium conditions and then held on to their lead as the wind filled.
  9. Team Managers!  Hey, the team managers are the greatest people in the world!  I have to throw a big shout out to my team manager who has put up with me and Juke all week with a wry smile!  Thanks to the Greatest team manager ever on the Greatest race ever in Texas, Jorge Trevino.  We love you Jorge!
  10. Big Day:  I am super psyched to have a chance at winning the race tomorrow.  Shannon is in the driver’s seat with a 2 minute forty second lead (real time) but both me and Brian have a good shot.  It will be an interesting day.  I am just happy to have a shot and that is all anyone can ask for on the final day of the race!  We go live with tracking once again at 10 am tomorrow at gt300.com.  Wish me luck - I am going to need it!

Top 10 list for Day 2 of the 2016 Great Texas Catamaran Race

Top 10 list for Day 2 of the Great Texas Catamaran Race
Mustang Island to Matagorda, 101 miles
By Steve Piche, skipper Team Great Texas 300

Here is your top 10 list for day 2....

  1. Overall Results:  Team Buoy 44, Brian Lambert and Will Rottgering, sit atop the leader board after the second day of the Great Texas.  They beat the F18 fleet of Team Fire, Water, Burn, Team Yo Baby and Team Great Texas 300 to the line by 30 minutes and corrected over these boats to move into first place overall.  Team Yo Baby is in second overall (and first in F18 fleet) followed by Team Great Texas.   Good job by birthday boy Aaron McCulley in being first F18 to finish!
  2. Smoking until....:  Juke and I on Team Great Texas 300 almost had a really big day.  We took off in double trap reaching conditions conditions and smoked away from the rest of the F18 fleet.  We kept even with Team Buoy 44.  Everything was going just great until our main sail came down 10 miles from the finish.  Our shackle broke and there went our great day.  It was really tough because we were simply kicking a** and we were about to post a great time on the entire fleet.  Still unbelievable that a metal shackle would break while sailing downwind.  Arrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
  3. Safely Ashore:  We are happy to report that Teams Sailboat Shop and Jack Flash made it ashore last night after being disabled out on the race course.  Team Sailboat Shop broke a mast while Jack Flash tore their main sail.  Team Sailboat Shop got towed in to a marina while Team Jack Flash managed to sail in under their own power.  Both skippers made it to the skippers meeting this morning.  Mike Rohrer thanked Team Great Texas 300 for rendering aid.  Team Great Texas 300 was given 1 hour and 27 minutes of redress.
  4. Double Trapping Heaven:  Juke and I just love double trap reaching and today was absolute pure nirvana for us.  As soon as the wind piped up in the morning, we both jumped on our traps and put the hammer down.  I worked the traveler in and out to keep us running 44 degrees straight at the finish.  I just stared at the compass and let out the traveler when we were too low and pulled it in when we were too high.  We spent a good 3 hours straight on the traps with no breaks just doing the Monkey.  It was heaven.  Thanks Jukie for such a fun ride.
  5. Happy Birthday Aaron:  As previously mentioned, it was a very happy birthday for Aaron McCulley who topped the F18 class today.  Aaron and I sailed the first five Great Texas’ together.  After crewing for me for years, he has become a very good skipper who too often beats his mentor (me).  He has finally bought his own boat and should be on the line for the Great Texas for years to come.  Anyways, happy birthday to a great friend, sailing competitor, trail running buddy, and skiing friend!  Love you Aaron!
  6. Drone:  We are very pleased to have Duane Darling along on the event as our official photographer and drone operator.  He chased the fleet off the start in South Padre so far that he could not get the drone back to where he was.  Instead, he landed it several miles down the beach and was able to retrieve it.  Check out his videos at www.youtube.com/greattexas300!
  7. Main Sail Saga continued:  So our day was going great until the shackle on the head of the main came broke.  Without a main, you can’t run the spinnaker so we lost two sails instead of just one.  Juke and I knew that we had to get the main sail back up and the only way to do that on the water was to flip the boat and then swim out to the end of the mast and secure the main sail to the main halyard.  All that is easy maybe on a lake but on the gulf it was quite challenging.  I went out to the end of the mast and managed to pull up the sail.  However, securing it to the main halyard was very difficult.  I had about two feet of spectra and it should have been easy to tie the sail to the halyard but the top of the mast was two feet under water and constantly moving due to the waves.  Also, I had to loop my arm around the spin halyard so that the boat would not drift away.  After 10 minutes of effort, I finally got the world’s worst knot tied.  It looked like something a kid would do but it worked and it keep the main up all the way to the finish.  What an adventure!
  8. Organizing Committee:  Thanks to our organizing committee, Terri, Billy and Trey, for their awesome job yesterday during some challenging problems on the water.  They kept track of both disabled teams until they were safely ashore.  Once again, a big thanks to them.
  9. New Teams:  It is fantastic to see a number of new teams at the Great Texas.  A big shout out to teams NacraManiacs and Cat in the Hat who have been hanging in under tough conditions.  Welcome to the Great Texas!
  10. Off to Surfside Tomorrow:  We are off to Surfside tomorrow which is about 60 miles down the coast.  We always have fun in Surfside because the Dashers are always setting up their boats in preparation for joining us on Saturday.  Also, TCDYC sponsors a party at Collin Casey’s house which is always good fun!

Top 10 List for Day 1 of the 2016 Great Texas

Day 1 of the 2016 Great Texas


Back by popular demand, here is Steve Piche’s (Great Texas founder and skipper of Team Great Texas 300) top 10 list for day 1 of the Great Texas:

  1. Wind:  Wind, wind and more wind:  Once again, the first day of the Great Texas proved to be a windy affair.  It started out in a stiff 15 knot breeze and built to a steady 20 knot breeze.  At times it got lumpy and bumpy but it was fun!  Congrats to Team Automotive Solutions with Lee Wicklund and David Cerdes who took line honors.
  2. Broken Mast:  Not such a great day for Team Sailboat Shop who broke their mast 20 miles from the finish.  Juke and I were chasing Team Sailboat Shop and saw their mast break in two while sailing.  After the mast broke, the whole rig went in the water.  We dropped our chute and render aid for the next one and a half hours.  We made sure that they were taken care of before we went back to racing.  Somewhere out in there is a broken mast and sail floating as they had to jettison the rig.  Mike and Chris are such great competitors and it is such a shame to see this happen.
  3. Drone:  Thanks to Duane Darling, we had a drone chase the fleet off the start and got some amazing videos and pictures including the photo shown here.
  4. Jack Flash:  Team Jack Flash also ran into troubles today.  Their boat became disabled and unfortunately they are still working to get ashore.  Race committee has been in touch with them.
  5. Slow Results:  Sorry for the slow results on the race.  With the two disabled vessels and redress, it may take some time for the results to be posted this evening.
  6. Flips:  It got tough out there today.  I think Team Fire, Water, Burn managed to flip over 4 times today.  All other teams went swimming except for my team and Buoy 44.  We went into survival mode for a while focusing on keeping the pointy end up because anybody that avoided flips probably would do well.
  7. BBQ:  Big thanks to Andrew Tatton for the BBQ at the finish line.  It was excellent.
  8. Dolphins:  Off-shore Texas is a beautiful place.  Today, we saw two dolphins jump high out of the water.  Juke and I thought they were checking us out.
  9. Matagorda:  Another 100 mile ride to Matagorda tomorrow.  It should be a bit more reachy tomorrow after a huge downwind run today.
  10. Top 10:  Sorry to be brief on my top 10 today, but it has been a long, long day of going 100% all day so hopefully we finish earlier tomorrow and I can throw in more details.

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 Great Texas 300

2015 Great Texas 300
by Steve Piche

Taking the top five places, F18’s once again dominated the 2015 edition of the Great Texas 300, a 300 mile romp up the Texas Coast that started on Thursday, June 18th in South Padre Island, Texas and finished on Saturday, June 20th in Galveston, Texas.  Taking line honors on a C2 was an incredibly fast Team Lupe Tortilla with skipper John Tomko of San Antonio, Texas and crew Ian Billings of Austin, Texas.  They covered the 300 miles, done in three legs, in 17 hours and 39 minutes with an average speed over 14 knots per hour.

While the race was run in nearly record time, it looked uncertain the days leading up to the event whether the race would take place.  An early tropical storm named Bill ran headlong into the Texas coast the day prior to the scheduled start of the race.  With high winds, big surf and extensive flooding, the race committee decided to postpone the event for a day and combine the final two legs.  Fortunately, the delay worked and the race was run in three days rather than the traditional four days.

On the first day of the race, remnants of the tropical storm presented challenging sailing conditions.    The Great Texas 300 has beach starts and finishes.  A series of big waves broke on Team Lupe Tortilla as they headed out through the surf after the start of leg one resulting in a broken rudder arm.  They went back ashore and replaced the whole rudder assembly.  Starting 10 minutes in the hole, they were able to knife through the whole fleet to finish first despite being last off the beach.

Other teams did not fare as well.  Sailing downwind in big seas and a 15-20 knot breeze, Team Jack Flash, Collin Casey and Joshua Grissom, pitchpoled soon after the start.  Collin hit his head during the pitchpole and received a bad concussion.  Unable to continue the sail, the US Coast Guard rescued the skipper and crew and brought Collin to safety.  He went to the hospital and was later released.  Team Chiindi, Brett Johnston and Anthony Acquilla also ran into trouble.  Anthony got separate from the boat in the big seas and they also needed Coast Guard help to get him back on the boat.

After an eventful first day, the winds and waves laid down and the sailors enjoyed beautiful conditions (south breeze at 10-15 knots) for the next two legs of the race.  After clearing the surf line each day, spinnakers were set and out on the traps went both sailors for a 100 miles double trap spin reach.  It was awesome sailing conditions with the miles flying by at an amazing rate.  There is nothing quite like running 100 miles on an spin reach on an F18 adjusting nothing but the spin sheet and traveler the whole way – just pure awesome sailing.

Once again, Lupe Tortilla was able to win both legs although they had to work for their stage wins.  Overall second place team Yo Baby!, Shannon Galway and Jonathan Atwood, and overall third place team Sailboat Shop, Mike Rohrer and Chris Holt, both teams sailing C2’s, gave Team Lupe Tortilla a fight but John and Ian ultimately put the pedal to medal and won the legs.  It was a good showing by the defending champions.  Lupe Tortilla also won the F18 Class while Team Chums, Lee Wicklund and David Cerdas, took first in the open class.  

Hats off to the race committee who persevered despite the tropical storm and put on a heck of a race.  To see complete results and detailed stories on the race go to www.gt300.com.  You can also follow the race on Facebook by liking the page www.facebook.com/greattexas300.  The 2016 Great Texas 300 will be held June 15-18, 2016 and you are invited to join the race up the Texas Coast!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top 10 List for Day 3 of the 2015 Great Texas

Top 10 List for Day 3 of the 2015 Great Texas 
by Steve Piche of Team Great Texas, June 20th
Matagorda to Galveston Island, 85 miles

Enjoy my top 10 list for day 3 of the Great Texas:
1. 17 hours and 39 minutes: How long does it take to sail from South Padre to Galveston Island? Yep, 17 hours and 39 minutes to cover the 300 mile course if your Team Name is Lupe Tortilla! Can you believe it? That is some serious flying! Yes, the defending champs took a punch on the starting line in South Padre with a broken rudder but once they were back in the ring, they tore the coast up. Congratulations to John Tomko and Ian Billings. Amazing job!
2. Sailing Nirvana All Day: Wow, we ripped off 85 miles today in just over four hours. It was full on double trap spinnaker reach all day. We never dropped below 15 knots. It was, dare I say it, the most perfect sailing leg ever in the Great Texas. It was just nirvana. You will not be able to get the smile off my face for a year. You, yes, you need to come experience this! If you can sail a cat, get your boat here next year. If you don’t sail, learn how and come join us! I guarantee ear to ear grinning fun!
3. The Race for Fourth: We entered today in fourth place with a 1 minute 12 second lead over Team Carbo-Link, Luke McCallum and Aaron McCulley. We were determined to keep our lead no matter what it took and it took a lot! We zoomed down the beach to Bryan Point side by side for 30 miles. Team Carbo-Link got a small lead going into the point but we decided to roll the dice and cut the corner at the point. This was extra dicey because this is where the Brazos River comes out and we knew it would be nasty (waves, shallows, logs and debris). We managed to work our way through the shallows with one rudder pop up and hit a few small float logs. However, our strategy worked and we were able to gain a small lead. We then got in front of them and covered them to the line. We were 10 feet from the line when one of our dagger boards dropped and we stopped. Team Carbo-Link got line honors but only by a few seconds. Mission accomplished, we hung on to 4th. Now, that was tight racing. One minute separated us after 300 miles!
4. Chums takes the Open Class: Congratulation to Team Chums for taking a first place in open class. They proved that Wings lead to a victory. Good job Lee and David!
5. The F18 Battle: John and Ian sailed off the horizon once again but our team, Sailboat Shop, Yo Baby! and Carbo-Link all battled it out in a very tight group. We became obsessed today with covering team Carbo-Link while Team Sailboat Shop and Yo Baby battled for second. For second place, Team Sailboat Shop got an early lead but then Chris Holt got knocked off the boat. Bungee lines broke and they could only use one trap on a double trap day. Yo Baby rolled over them in the last few miles and secured their second in the regatta. Again, only a few minutes separated these two boats. Really good job!
6. Wisconsin and Arizona: We want to thank Team Wisconsin, Todd Bouton and Tyler Gruen, and Team Chiindi, Brett Johnston and Anthony Acquilla/Jose Cerdas, for joining us! They had a great time playing with us this past week and we had a great time meeting them and their team managers! We hope to see more teams from the Midwest and Arizona next year!
7. AnnStrong: I sailed the entire race with my AnnStrong yellow bracelet. Ann Apel had previously served as a race officer on the Great Texas. Unfortunately, she got cancer and it has knocked her out the last couple of years. However, she is a survivor and was just recently pronounced cancer free. She has one more round of chemo and then hopefully she is all done. We all sailed with AnnStong on our wrist this year. We are very, very fortunately to get to do what we do. Thanks Ann!
8. Our Organizing Committee: Thanks so much for our awesome organizing committee. We had some very tough decision to make this week and our organizing committee did a great job navigating some tricky waters. Hats off to Billy, Trey and Terri who keep this whole show moving up the beach.
9. Awards Banquet: We will be handing out awards this evening followed by a catered dinner from Lupe Tortilla. Those that won deserve their trophies but everyone deserves their food. Thanks Lupe Tortilla and Cat Alley for hosting us.
10. Wednesday before Father’s Day Next Year: This is my last top ten list for this year’s Great Texas. I know y’all have a tear in your eye but fear not, I will be back pecking away at my computer in a few weeks when I am in Kiel Germany for F18 Worlds (July 14-18). As I finish all my final top 10 lists for the Great Texas, I invited you, yes you, to join us at the 2016 Great Texas. Come as a sailor, team manager, volunteer or spectator. We start at 10 am on the Wednesday before Father’s Day in South Padre Island! See you in SPI next year!