Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Psychology of the Great Texas by Mike Rohrer

The Psychology of the Great Texas 300
By Mike Rohrer 6/2012
The Great Texas 300 is a huge event and takes tremendous preparation to sail/race 300 miles on the open ocean in a small open craft.  Teams are often working out details months in advance and preparing for months prior.   Have you ever wondered what the competitors are thinking and feeling about this race?  If you have ever raced, you may have experienced the adrenaline that happens during the starts at regattas and a little of the angst while setting up on the beach especially if the conditions are extreme.  This is just a small sense of the feelings and thoughts that you experience prior to and during the Great Texas.  There is an interesting psychology about this race that I have come familiar with after having done this so many times.  What motivates a person to spend 4 days on an 18 foot catamaran on the open ocean?  How do you stay focused and complete all the preparations?  How do you deal with the fear and butterflies?  What is it like to blast through the surf knowing you will not be returning to that beach?  How do your feelings and thoughts change throughout the race?  What is it like to finish the 300 miles?  I will explore these questions and more.

What motivates individuals to give up a week of vacation and family time to place themselves in potentially dangerous situations on the open ocean in an 18 foot catamaran?  Any extreme sportsman will likely give you a similar answer.  Overall, it’s the adventure.  Each year it’s the same beach, but a different adventure.  Yes we all love sailing and going fast downwind and the beach scene, but there is a real sense of adventure whenever you place yourself in remote locations with only your skill and preparation to carry you to your destination.  Men need adventure.  The bigger the adventure, the bigger the sense of accomplishment you can experience.  The GT300 is a great way to have an adventure doing something that is so fun and that we love to do.      

How do you stay focused and complete all the preparations over months of anticipation?  I think this comes with the experience of failure.  If you don’t prepare, you often times suffer the consequences.  This can come in many forms including, boat breakdowns, subpar equipment, poor performance, physical ailments, an unhappy boat, and further difficulty.  All these things can make the experience less fun and more laborious.  If you want to do your best and enjoy the adventure to the fullest, preparation is the biggest thing you can do to place yourself in position to succeed.  Also, when you are prepared you often are more able to relax knowing you have done everything you know to do.    

Weeks prior to the event our bodies are already undergoing physical changes.  Part of this is driven by fear or worry which can also be categorized as stress.  We know what can happen.  We hope for great weather, but we could be in situations none of us would otherwise willingly place ourselves in.  How do we deal with it?  I often feel the stress building as I worry that I will not finish all my preparations.  If I complete my task lists, this subsides.  Unfortunately, the list has a way of growing faster than I can sometimes cope with especially since we are racing hard in the spring.  If you can be finished with boat stuff a couple of weeks out, then it makes a huge difference.  A day or two before the race, the real butterflies start.  It’s the feeling in your stomach that reminds you that your about to do something difficult.  You start finding it hard to eat.  The doubts and fears begin to attack.  You must remind yourself you can do it, you have done it before, it’s going to be fine.  You have to eat more frequently and just eat smaller meals or snacks.  Most of us have learned the foods and the methods to combat this.  If you don’t eat properly, you can run out of steam and it will affect your performance.  We even take special foods along with us to be sure we maintain proper energy levels.  It’s really important to stay ahead of this.  Once the race starts this generally gets much easier.  I have found sailing the day before the race really helps to help manage the butterflies and the next morning you already feel like you are in a routine.  I can also tell you if you are not rushing to the start, it’s better also.  This year we made sure the boat was completely ready the practice day and packed for the race leaving much less for us to deal with.  We also started earlier each morning to leave time for Murphy and we found ourselves with plenty of time and consequently much less stress.

What is it like to Lemans start and blast through the surf knowing you will not be returning to that beach?  It’s a huge adrenaline rush.  Minutes before the gun goes off, your heart rate has already increases and so does your breathing.  You keep looking at the waves convincing yourself, you will get out without mishap.  Of course the amount of convincing is proportional to the size of the waves and wind condition.  Your body is responding to get you ready for the push and sprint through the surf.  If often times take significant energy and skill to get through the surf.  The skipper usually has both hands busy with the rudder and the mainsheet.  So you have to hang on with your feet and legs each time a wave hits.  The crew is calling waves, getting boards down, and adjusting the settings.  If you don’t keep your wits, it can get ugly.  We all know the consequences of screwing up can mean a broken boat parts and the potential end of the race.  There is a huge feeling of elation when you exit the surf cleanly and turn north especially if you look back and see other boats still struggling to get out of the surf.  Often you can ride the adrenaline for hours after the start.

The thought process
How do your feelings and thoughts change throughout the race?  The first two legs are long and can be punishing.  You must move around to prevent cramping and limbs going numb and your neck locking on you.   It can be a great sail, but it can also be physically punishing.  Often, the last two hours you just want to be done.  You often question your sanity and why you are out there.  I have a saying on the first day “It’s not fun until it’s done.”  For me the fun really starts when I hit the beach the first day.  By then you have erased the doubts and settled the butterflies.  Now you are really in the groove and can enjoy having just completed the longest and many times toughest leg.  The second day is long, but usually a reach and fast.  Then you know it just gets easier and more fun normally.  You start to relax and think more about your strategies and the details of the race.  Difficulties of the race begin to be overshadowed by the adventure and the fun.  By the last leg you are wishing there was more.  

The Finish Line
Each day it is so cool to run up on the beach and finish.  There is usually plenty of cheering and congratulations.  Then you can enjoy the accomplishment, eat, and drink without the salt water spraying in your face.  It can be just as challenging to beach the boat as to launch it.  It takes good judgment to pick the right gybe angle and approach.  Even so you have to make corrections to line up the finish line.  You have to pay careful attention to the braking waves to not get caught sideways or driven straight in.  All the while your crew gives you instructions on where the flags are while rapidly getting the boards up and secured many times while flying the kite.  Done right you generally hit the beach with a good head of steam and the boat well under control and the boat does a nice little pivot on the beach.  Done wrong, well you can feel pretty stupid and spend time swimming or dragging the boat back to the line.  On the final day, it is usually really cool because you may have family there and you certainly have a larger crowd cheering.  The final day is usually short, but it’s the culmination of 4 days of racing.  When you hit the beach you realize the accomplishment of completing another Great Texas 300.  Many times you check and monitor the time because minutes and even seconds can count even on the final day in your overall placement.  I personally have won and lost this event by seconds in the past when there has been over 20 hours of elapsed sailing time.  It’s hard to do anything but celebrate and congratulate each of the teams finishing.  It’s a great feeling.  It’s the Great Texas 300.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Race Summary Top 10 List

After 9 years of the Great Texas Catamaran Race being won by Texans, John Casey and Dalton Tebo from Florida broke the steak!  They overcame an 8 minute deficit on the last day of the race to walk away with the trophies for overall champion, fastest elapsed time, and first place in F-18 class.  Lee Wicklund and David Ceredes, sailing on a Nacra 20, took home the first place hardware for the Open Class.  Here is the final top 10 list for the 2012 Great Texas:
1.        The Epic Battle - Tomko vs. Casey:  From the very start, everyone knew this was going to be a battle between the two big dogs of long distance racing, John Tomko and John Casey.  Both showed up with amazing crew, Ian Billings and Dalton Tebo respectively, for one of the greatest off-shore, long distance, cat duels in nearly a generation.  They did not disappoint.  On day 1, Tomko bested Casey by two minutes on a 100 mile course.   On day 2, Tomko showed he was a jib reaching machine and cruised to a six minute lead on the leg over Casey.  On day 3, the two battled to virtual tie, finishing 4 seconds apart over 60 miles.  With an eight minute lead going into the final short 40 mile leg, Tomko looked to solidly have the upper hand.  However, the steady predictable wind of the first three legs was not to be found on the final leg.  In the unpredictable winds, Casey was able to shake loose of Tomko, find a ribbon of good air off-shore and sail off the horizon through a storm to 40 minute victory in the final leg!  It was an amazing come back and will be remember for years to come.
2.       Beautiful Sailing Conditions:  After two years of being pounded by tough conditions with only 4 of 16 teams completing all legs last year, we finally got beautiful sailing conditions.  The first two legs, both about 100 miles long, were sailed in near perfect conditions.  John Tomko set a first leg record on day 1 finishing the 100 mile leg in a little over five hours.  On day 2, the fleet was once again blessed with beautiful jib reaching conditions.  After such great conditions on the first two days, the fleet did not complain when the conditions went light to medium on the final two days.  In the end, the weather allowed 8 of the 10 teams to enjoy all four legs of the event.
3.       Bringing the Race to Fans Live!  Once again, live steaming proved to be a big hit on the internet.   The on-air duo of John Williams and Jeremy Leonard brought expert commentary to the live feed and the dueling catamarans provided the thrills and spills to the broadcasts.  Constantly looking to improve coverage of the race, Jeremy headed out on a RIB for the final two legs.  They were able to provide real time updates from the water during the final, critical leg of the Great Texas.  It was a hugely popular with the fans of the GT300.  It set a new bar in coverage of long distance catamaran sailing.  The media team already has this event on their calendars for next year so expect even bigger and better coverage on the 2013 GT.
4.       The Fight for Third Place:  Back behind the big dogs of Tomko and Casey, the little dogs (everyone else) battled it out for third place.  Team Monkey Business, Steve Piche and Juke Ball, looked to be in the driver’s seat  after the first two legs after scoring two consecutive 3rd place finishes and building a 4 minute lead over Team Quicksilver, Mike Beuerlein and Philippe Bettler, and a 20 minute over Team Sailboat Shop, Mike Rohrer and Chris Holt.  However, on leg 3, Monkey Business slipped on a banana peel (stuck in the surf and a pitchpole) and lost 8 minutes to Team Quicksilver who moved into third place.  Then, on the final decisive leg, in crazy shifty winds, Team Sailboat Shop was able to hook up in the wind with John Casey and spanked both Team Quicksilver and Monkey Business to collect the third place trophy (both overall and in F-18 class).  This was tremendous come back for Mike Rohrer who just two years ago was diagnosed with colon cancer and missed the 2010 race due to surgery.   Mike is healthy and once again dangerous on the race course sailing the old school Hobie Tiger!
5.       The year of the Go-Pro!  For the first time in the history of the race, we had video cameras on many of the boats and wow did we get some great stuff.   Bo Kersey’s GoPro, mounted on the spinnaker pole, captured his flip in the surf followed by a subsequent demasting.   Jeremy used the footage to create a video that went viral on YouTube.  GoPro’s on Monkey Business and Yost captured pitchpoles in action.  Based on the great video, it is clear that the GoPro’s will be an integral part of bring the race to the fans in the future.
6.       The Old Dogs Get Their Trophy:  We had the big dogs (Casey and Tomko), the little dogs (almost everyone else), and the old dogs, John Webster and Steve Foxall.  Despite a combined age of 130, they are still out there taking on the Great Texas.  This is a very tough race and it takes a lot of strength, endurance and skill to get your boat up the Texas coast.  Although they only competed in two legs (the first and last), the Great Texas fleet recognized their spirit and attitude toward participation in the race by giving them a special trophy at the awards banquet.  John Webster is rumored to have slept with his trophy!
7.       Like us on Facebook!  2012 was also the year that the Great Texas jumped big time into Social Media.  No longer was our web site and email list the only way to find out about the race.  We embraced all forms of social media (Facebook,  Live Steaming, You Tube, Blogging, etc) .  Most important to this shift was our use of Facebook , which was constantly updated throughout the race with the latest information.  We put a Facebook plug-in on our web site,, so that those that did not use Facebook could follow the posts.  Switching to a social media strategy was a big task and we want to thank Andrew Burnard who put in countless hours setting up all the social media outlets in a unified manner. 
8.       Size of the Fleet:  Over the years, we have found that the number of boats participating in the race in any give year is highly correlated with the difficulty of the previous year.  Tough conditions one year typically lead to less participation the next year.  Last year, the conditions were brutal and only 4 of 16 boats finished all legs.  As a result, the number of boats participating this year, 10, was the lowest in the history of the event.  However, the beautiful conditions this year bodes well for next year and we expect to see greater participation especially with the winners already declaring that they will be back to defend their title and hope to bring other Florida teams with them.  We also already have commitments from former two time Worrell 1000 winner, Brain Lambert.   Finally, Mike Krantz plans to bring the F20-C out for another shot at the elapsed time record.  So, we expect to see a big fleet at the GT next year. 
9.       A Well Oiled Machine:  The officers of the Great Texas fleet have become a well oiled machine that is capable of putting on an outstanding event.  There are so many pieces to this machine and it is marvelous to watch in action.  There are more people running the machine on shore than sailors out on the race course.  Special recognition needs to be given to our commodore, Terri Reuwsaat, who has driven this machine to great success the past few years.  There is not room here to thank all the members of the machine but they are all critical to the success of the event!
The 11th Annual Great Texas:  Mark your calendars right now - you need to be in South Padre at 10 am on the Wednesday prior to Father’s Day for the start of the 2013 Great Texas Catamaran Race!  If you want to sail the event, you need to get a hold of us as soon as possible so that we can help you get ready for the event.  We highly recommend that you read the rules in detail and also go sail every local regatta possible.  It is only by racing the local regattas that you become competent to compete at the highest level demanded by the GT.  For non-sailors, we need your participation too.  We need team managers, race officials, media help, and anything other special skill you can donate to the race.  Again, contact us at the Great Texas (see for contact info) if you want to be part of the ride and we’ll see you in South Padre for the 11th Annual Great Texas Catamaran Race.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Last Leg Top 10 List

Ten years of sailing the Great Texas and I officially declare yesterday’s leg the craziest ever!  So, we have lots to cover in this top 10 list.  Enjoy!
1.        Pressure Outside:  So how did John Casey pull off the big win yesterday?  After we got out on the course, we had pretty good wind for a spin reaching at first but it only lasted about 10 minutes.  When it died down, JC saw Lee Wicklund running good speed a little further out.  He also saw a cell up in front and offshore.  He decided to head out and get in the pressure with Lee and head for the cell.  John was closer to the shore and ahead but got trapped on-shore with the light wind and could not match JC’s move.  JC, Lee and Mike Rohrer got hooked up in the pressure outside and rode it to a big lead as everyone else dogged it in light wind. 
2.       Team Sailboat Shop gets the Monkey and the Frog:  John Casey was not the only bigger winner yesterday, Mike Rohrer also scored big moving from 5th place to 3rd.  He got hooked up outside in the pressure and made up an 8 minute deficit on Monkey Business and 12 minute deficit on Quiksilver to take the third.  Mike Rohrer is a great sailor (former winner of the GT) and had not taken home a trophy in a couple of years.  Two years ago, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to miss the race recovering from surgery.  Last year, he was forced out of leg 2 with a back problem.  So, it was good to see a healthy Mike Rohrer back in his winning ways!  Not bad for a cancer survivor!
3.       Sleeping with their Trophy:  Last night, the Great Texas fleet awarded John Webster and Steve Foxall a special trophy for their participation in the race over the years.   They are the oldest people sailing the race at 65 and 64 respectively.  They survived the first leg this year and part of the last leg this year.  They always have a great attitude although they are not in the trophy hunt.  For that reason, the fleet recognized their efforts with one of beautiful trophies put together by Dennis Banks.  John Webster liked the trophy so much that he slept with it last night!
4.       Heading for that Storm!  The wind was maddening light yesterday morning and we were desperate to find any wind to push us back up to the leaders in the race.  As we headed past San Luis Pass, we could see a big old storm coming towards us.  Instead of running from it, we dropped the spin and jib reach towards the heart of it to get the wind.  And boy, did we get the wind.  We got about 5 minutes of good 30 knot winds and put the hammer down.  It was raining hard – big cold drops.  As we popped out the other side of the storm, we set the chute and double trapped.  The next thing we knew, we had caught back up with most of the fleet (except JC, Lee and Mike.)   However, on the backside of storms, you often find something else, but more on that later.
5.       Classic Texas Dinner:  Wow, what a great dinner last night, brisket and shrimp!  We tried out a new venue, Boudroux’s on the Bay, and new caterer and it all worked out great!  I love shrimp and everyone got as much as they wanted.  Thanks to Kate Catlow, our Beach Captain, for making all of the arrangements.
6.       Live Coverage Gone Wild!  Did you check out our Facebook page yesterday?  Jeremy got in the Rib and followed the race from the water reporting blow by blow on the battle for first place.  He also posted pictures of the race from the water.  We ran five and a half hours of live streaming on the race.  We have been getting great feedback from everyone on the coverage.  John Casey got to the beach and started to make calls to friends and family to let them know that he had won and everyone told him that they already knew because they had been watching the coverage live all day!  The power of the internet.  We really, really hope to have Jeremy, John Williams and Jorge Trevino all back next year!  Fantastic job and so much fun for everyone.
7.       Dashers!  Yesterday, we opened the final leg up to everyone.  We had 16 boats that decided to join us for the final leg.  We started them at 9 so that the big dogs could try to hunt them down.  However, when the Dashers got going yesterday, they had good wind and got a big jump prior to the GT start at 10.  They got pretty far out and the big dogs had a hard time chasing down the dashers.  Dennis Banks, on an ARC 22, beat everyone to the finish line beating the first GT boats by a lot.  It was all good fun to see so many boats out on the race course!
8.       Safety:  As the storm was coming to get the fleet, we saw a coast guard helicopter fly overhead checking out the boats.  When I saw this, I knew we had achieved a new level of safety in this event and had no one else to thank but our safety officer, Trey Garrison.  Trey has been working with the Coast Guard up and down the coast making sure that they are aware of the race.  He also has a representative from the coast guard come to the opening ceremonies.  On Wednesday, the Coast Guard had a jet in the skies and was quickly on scene after Team Dallas flipped near a rig and the operators of the rig reported the incident to the coast guard.  Team Dallas righted the boat easily and let the coast guard know that everything was fine.   Trey also makes sure that everyone has the proper equipment to make this challenging race as safe as possible.
9.       The Other Side of the Storm:  Do you know what you often find on the other side of a storm?  The bubble of no air.  After we caught back up with the fleet, we made a tactical decision to split away from Team Quicksilver.  They surprisingly let us split – they had mixed up the boats and thought Tomko was us and they went chasing after him.  They headed to the beach.  We tried to ride the backside of the storm of everything we could get.  We also wanted to try to get outside for the potential east wind that had been forecasted.   As the storm pulled away, we hit the bubble and got caught.  Not air at all.  We watched as Team Quicksilver sailed away in frustration.  We spent an hour going no where – absolutely no where.  We were 20 miles from the finish wondering if we would ever make.  When the wind finally did fill in, it was light and on the nose and we had to tack up the beach.  It took us hours to go just a couple of miles.  Finally, about 3 o’clock, the wind filled in and we were able to make it to the finish, get the boat put away, take a shower and just barely make it in time for dinner.
10.   Thanks to our Commodore!  The Great Texas fleet is an association that runs the race.  Anyone can join.  Once a member, you gain voting rights and can participate in officer elections (or run for officer positions).  Terri Reuwsaat has been elected Commodore for the past two years and has done an excellent job organizing and running the event.  A lot of work goes into this event and we thank her and all the officers for their dedication.
11.   Point 11?  Yes, a bonus point given that it is the final leg.  I will have a final over top 10 list out in a few days.  But that is not what point 11 is about.  It is about you.  Yes, you.  We want to see you at the race next year!  This is the formal invitation to get in your car and get to the beach next year and join us.  We need sailors, team managers, officers, media, race committee, cooks, etc.  Look at your special talent and consider donating it to the race next year!   See, you, yes you, in South Padre!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Top Ten List for Day 3

Top Ten List by Steve Piche
Here is a top ten list for leg 3 of the Great Texas (Matagorda to Surfside):
1.        Throwing Rocks:  John Tomko and John Casey were so close to each other throughout leg 3 of the Great Texas that “they could have thrown a rock at each other”.   The big dogs got banged around in the surf at the start but once out of the break they showed exceptional speed as they mowed down the rest of the fleet and then fought it out for first to finish.  Casey won in the end but only by a few seconds.  Now that is sailboat racing!
2.       TCDYC keeps us well fed!  Thanks to all of the people at Texas City Dike Yacht Club who put together tonight’s festivities at Colin Casey’s place.  Lots of good food and drink was shared by everyone!
3.       The Frog Gets the Monkey:  OK, OK, it was not the best day for team Monkey Business.  After playing in the surf for way too long as the Frog (Team Quicksilver) sailed away, Monkey Business got in gear only to find a rogue way that resulted in a now well documented pitch pole.  (See photos on Facebook).  By the time the Monkey had the boat back up and going, the Frog was over the horizon.  The Frog went from four minutes behind for third to four minutes ahead.  Tomorrow is another day and we all hope that the Monkey gets the Frog!
4.       Rib on the Course:  Today as we sailed around Bryan point on our way to the Freeport Jetties, we were followed by Jeremy and Karl on a Rib.  Over 250 miles of sail, they were the first boat that we had seen out on the gulf.  That’s right, it is a totally empty playground when we are out sailing the GT.  No other fishermen, sailors, ships or anything.   The gulf is left to us for this grand adventure!  We look forward to see the pictures that Jeremy got from on the water yesterday.
5.       Fighting the Surf:  Although the surf was relatively small for Matagorda beach especially compared to last year when we had evil mountains stacked up on the beach, it was still very difficult to get off the beach due to the lighter winds at the start.  Tomko, Casey and I all got hit by a bad set of waves right off the start that prevented us from getting out.  Casey got pushed down the beach and decided to try to duck Tomko’s stern.  With no rudder, his boat spun out in the middle of the duck and rounded up into the back of Tomko.  His bow hit the stern of Tomko’s boat and put a hole in the boat.  Eventually, we were able to punch through the surf.  Tomko duct taped up the hole and sailed away.  Casey was left with a broken cross bar and ended up sailing the entire leg with one rudder.   
6.       Back in the Fight:  After his dramatic flip in the surf followed by a demasting, Bo and George Kersey of Team Salva Vida, were back on the race course.  They bought a new mast and sail from John Tomko who is the AHPC rep in this area.  John worked with them yesterday to get the boat back together and they made the starting and more importantly made it through the surf without an incident.
7.       Andrew the Great:  Behind the scenes, there is one person who really keeps all our internet web sites , scoring, and social media up and running for the Great Texas and that is Andrew Burnard.  Andrew and Melissa, the master of T-shirts and many other items, were able to make it down for the Surfside party last night and it was great to see them.   I personally can’t thank Andrew enough for what he does for this fleet.  Thanks buddy! 
8.       Rudders, who needs two of them?  The Great Texas always does a good job of teaching a few teams how to sail with one rudder.  On leg 2, it was Yo Baby’s turn to learn how to sail with one rudder.  Yesterday, Cirrus R and Yost Auto got an opportunity.  (I have sailed way too many miles of this race over the years with one rudder and I am trying my hardest to avoid doing it again.)  Team Chums also broke a rudder in the surf but they decided to pass on sailing with one rudder and fixed it on the beach before heading out.   
9.       Goin’ Insane:  Yesterday, the wind lightened up for a couple of hours in the middle of the course.  After blasting along for two days, the wind decided to lay low for a couple of hours and test the patience of the best sailors.  Since the wind had been good the past few days, the seas were pretty sloppy making for some pretty challenging sailing when the wind lightened.  I set my sails to get all my telltales flowing a best as possible and then sailed off the telltales on my jib.  It was hard, hard work.  When you are going slow, you think that you are the only person being cursed with light wind.  You just have to patient and not go insane and those crazy conditions.
10.   Round Table Broadcast:  Many of the skippers gathered at Colin’s house last night for a round table broadcast on the race and a variety of other topics.  We had a great time discussing the race and giving each other a hard time.  You can find the broadcast on our facebook page.  Again, thanks to Jeremy, Jorge, John and Karl for all their great work on the broadcasts and other media – it has been a big success and we have been getting a lot of positive feedback.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Top Ten Summary for Leg 2

Whew, what a day!  I am limited to only 10 points so they should be good!  Here ya go……
1.        How did Tomko do that?  Playing in his own backyard, Tomko put six minutes on Casey in what can only be described as a classic Great Texas day.  How did he pull it off?  The answer – trapping.  In crazy jib reaching conditions John jumped on the trap off the beach and never got off again until he hit the beach in Matagorda.  One hundred miles of working the boat from the wire set him six minutes ahead of Casey today.  You really have to understand how difficult it is to drive the boat in these reachy conditions and he did it without a chicken line on.  He danced and pranced up and down the hull all day showing that he was the king of the Monster leg.  Great job John and Ian.
2.       Working that crew hard.  The crew is a big part of these races.  While the skippers get the headlines (Tomko and Casey), their crews do the hard grunt work (Dalton and Ian).  You can only go fast if you got a great crew.  I want to thank my crew, Juke Ball, for being one tough trapping, main sheet working machine today.  Juke spent most of the day double chicken lined in with a foot in the footstrap working the main.  What working the main in the footstrap?  Yes, you heard that right.  He worked the main and I worked the traveler.  To do this, he works the main sheet behind me.  It was great fun and got us here in 5 hours and 40 minutes to take our second third.  Not bad for 100 miles.
3.       Matagorda Beach mean Gumbo:  Thanks to Team Quicksilver for once again supplying Gumbo for everyone in the beach at Matagorda.  There is nothing like having a couple of big bowls of gumbo after a great day of sailing.  Thanks to Mike Beuerlein for putting this together for everyone!
4.       Remembering Mike Worrell:  We always need to take a moment to thanks the person that showed us the way in long distance racing.  Mike Worrell once sailed from Virginia Beach to Miami on a bar room bet.  He liked it so much that he started the Worrell 1000, the premier long distance off-shore race from Miami to Virginia Beach, which ran annually on and off for about 20 years.  I had the opportunity to sail the last two races in 2001 and 2002.  I enjoyed the race so much that we decided to start our own race in Texas.  Mike was always so very supportive.  Mike passed away of cancer about 2 years ago but we always know that he is looking down and smiling as we sail the Great Texas!
5.       Team Salva Vida’s Bad Break:  Team Salva Vida flipped in the surf this morning and broke their mast.  It was a bad break for this father/son team from Austin.  However, these guys are tough and they already have replacement parts.  They plan to be back on the starting line tomorrow to carry on with everyone else up the coast!
6.       Find me with Spot:  I am carrying a small six ounce satellite transceiver in my life jacket which allows us to send our location approximately once every ten minutes.  It appears to be working pretty well, however, it may miss a few beats if I get a little to hunched over blocking the line of sight to the satellite.  I can also update Facebook with our location by hitting a button on the device.  However, it has been blowing so hard that I have not been able to hit that button more than once in the race – my hands have been full – we are racing!
7.       Monkey Business vs Quicksilver:  There is a big fight for first but there is also a big fight going on for third.   Only 5 minutes separates Team Monkey Business and Quicksilver over 200 miles.  Today, the two teams drag raced each other never getting less than half a mile apart.  It is tight and it is driving both the teams to work hard for that third place position.  So far, the Monkey is getting the Frog (Philippe who is driving on team Quicksilver is French).
8.       So why Monkey Business:  Where did we come up with the name Monkey Business?  It is from our love of being double trapping reach with the spinnaker up.  We call it doing the monkey and we got about 30 miles of it in today.  To do the monkey, Juke jumps out and double chicken lines in.  I snug up close to him with no chicken line.  I work the traveler and he works the spin.  When done right, the boats hits 20 knots easily.  When done wrong, you get some pretty good stuffs – we had one stuff where both rudder came a foot out of the water – by having Juke chicken lined in we never fly forward and maintain control through some of the bigger stuffs.  It is all great fun and how we became known as Team Monkey Business.
9.       Team Managers:  My team manager, Aaron McCulley, just came walking in the door with a smile on his face and a beer in his hand.  We all owe our team managers a big thank you.  They do the dirty work – how do you think all our stuff gets from one place to another – thanks to our team managers.  We love what they do and how they take care of us.
10.   Come Join Us Next Year:  We want to invite everyone to come join us on the Great Texas.  As you can see, this event takes a lot of people beyond the skippers and crews.  We have race committee, beach people, media, and team volunteers that all keep this event fun.   Everyone is invited to come join us starting on the Wednesday before Father’s day in South Padre!

Leg 1 Summary: Top Ten List

Back by popular demand is the top ten list summary for the day.  So here we go….
1.     1.   Big Dogs Rule and Little Dogs Drool:  The Big Dogs, John Casey and John Tomko, ruled the roost yesterday as they battled for the top spot leaving the Little Dogs (everyone else) to battle it out for the other spots.  How did they do it?  Here’s how.  Casey left the beach and soaked it very low downwind.  This forced Tomko to match his move.  The rest of the fleet started to head higher.  I saw an opportunity and decided to put on accelerator and head bit higher and hope for a shift later in the day.  This strategy also allowed me to cover the rest of the fleet (and guarantee the third spot).  The shift never happened and the deep low strategy paid off for the Big Dogs.  They opened a window of opportunity for the Little Dogs and we tried it but in the end we were left drooling at their finish times.
2.     2.  Running Across the Finish!  Besides sailing, I am also a runner.  Today, I needed my running skills to finish the race!  As we came into the finish at Mustang Island, the surf had gotten pretty big.  One of those big boy waves gave the boat a big kick and the next thing I know I was swimming.  The boat sailed away with Juke trying to save it but with it wildly out of control.  He almost made it to the finish before the boat went over.  He got close enough to drag the boat over the finish line.  However, we were not done.  I had to finish so I started to swim hard.  Lucky for me, the Bay Watch Babes, Stephanie Smith and Robbin Baker, came running out for the rescue.  As they neared, I found my footing and sprinted across the finish line. It was a classic “Showtime” finish!
3.       3. Media Gone Wild:  How about a shout out to boys running the media for the event.  Thanks to Jeremy Leonard, John Williams and Jorge Trevino for making everything work with the live streaming and updates to Facebook!  Keep it coming boys. 
4.       4. Roasting in the Parking Lot Pays Off:  This race is a lot about the work you put in before the event starts.  On Monday, we went for a sail and when we got back in, we had a bit too much water in the hulls so on Tuesday we did a leak check in the parking lot at the Tiki’s.  The check revealed that a screw for an eye strap had pierced into the dagger board well.  John Tomko was very helpful in fixing this problem.  When we got that fixed, we found another problem with a missing washer on a foot strap.  We ended up fixing this at 3 pm in the afternoon in the Tiki parking lot where it was probably hitting about 120 degrees.  It was painfully hot and a miserable job but it paid off – no water in the hull.
5.      5.  Driving with the Brakes On:  It was a classic wind day yesterday.  It started at around 10 and built to about 20 with good wave action.   As the wind built later in the afternoon, the boat started to really take off down the backside of the waves.  If you let the boat get going too fast, when you hit the bottom of the trough, you really dug in and the boat slowed way down.  So, it became a game of chicken – get the boat going fast but not too fast and by god head down as you went down the backsides of the waves.  I got greedy a few times and we had some pretty good stuffs.  It was great fun!
6.       6. The Old Dogs:  I have lots of respect for Team Dallas being out on the race course once again in some pretty tough conditions.  John Webster is 65 and Steve Foxall is 63.  They may have come in last but they were out there and finished!  At their age, just making it is a great accomplishment!
7.       7. C2 Rules:  I am sailing a new C2 this year and I am really impressed with the speed of the boat.  The C2 took 3 of the 4 top positions and probably would have had 4 of the top 5 if Bo Kersey had not flipped his boat (a few times) near the finish.  We battled it hard all day with Philippe and Beuerlein of Quicksilver also on the C2.  And of course, Tomko drove the C2 to first place in the first leg.
8.       8. Baby of the Beach:  My crew, Juke Ball, became a new father last fall and his little baby boy, Lux, is joining us on the race with his mother Jonna Rose Ball.  The little boy is having a great time.  What kid can’t have fun at the beach with all that sand to try eating!
9.      9.  Thanks to the Sponsors:  We are a bit down on the number of boats this year so we really needed the support of the sponsors.  A really big thanks to Zhik and for coming in as Silver sponsors at the last minute.  It is the sponsorship money that allows us to bring the race to you live.
10. The Monster:  I call leg 2 the Monster.  After sailing 100 miles on leg 1, you turn around and have to sail another 100 mile leg.  However, this leg is often more reachy and really tests your sailing abilities.  Also, it is along desert coast line so there is no safe harbor if a problem happens.  We take on the Monster today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

South Padre to Mustang Island!!!

When you're a kid, you just can't wait for Christmas morning. It's all you think about.  You can't wait to rip open those presents and get to your new toys.  As you get older, the magic of Christmas morning disappears.

However, if you are a Great Texas sailor, you find a replacement for the Christmas morning and that morning is this morning!

You have been looking forward to this morning with the greatest of anticipation.  You have spent countless hours (and money) preparing for this moment and it is finally here.  You get to sail the best long distance leg on the face of the plant, South Padre to Mustang Island!!!

To top it off this year, the weather looks absolutely great for a fun run into Mustang Island, 100 miles due north of South Padre.  The wind is currently out of the south at around 10 with light surf.  It is suppose to build up to 20 knots and shift to the east south east by finish time.  It is going to be a downwinder off the south followed by a crazy double trapping reach into Mustang Island.

The trick today will be when to quit gybing and commit to going straight line.  This will be a critical decision with big time gains for those that get it right.

Tomko and Casey, the big dogs, are ready to go.  The little dogs, the rest of us, will be nipping at their heals hopefully.

I estimate first boat hitting the beach between 4-5 pm central.  Could be earlier or later depending on how the winds build.

I will have a Spot on board so you can follow my tracks.  Go to and look for Spot to follow us!

Also, follow us on facebook at!