Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Overall Top 10 List for the 2014 Great Texas

Overall Top 10 List for the 2014 Great Texas. The Great Texas,, is a 300 mile beach catamaran race run up the Texas coast in four legs which concluded on Saturday. This article is a summary of the race written by Steve Piche, founder of the race and also the skipper of Team Great Texas 300. If you enjoy this article, please like us at so that you can follow us in the future. Here is the final summary list for this year:

1. The 8 Time Champion Works his way of a big hole: On leg 1 of the Great Texas, Team Quiksilver, Mike Beuerlein and Philippe Bettler, took a flyer after getting behind off the start. It worked big time. They beat the rest of the fleet in by 35 minutes. The seven time champ (now 8 time champ), John Tomko with his crew Ian Billings, did not panic. They clawed their way back by winning the next three legs by 15 minutes each day. In the end, 2 Wire Sailing, John and Ian, took home the big trophies for overall win, fleet win and total elapsed time. It was exciting and a nail biter but they manage to get themselves out of a big hole.
2. Flying up the Texas Coast: Leg 1 of the Great Texas was a 100 mile downwind flyer from South Padre Island to Mustang Island. We sailed in a building sea breeze. As always, this leg was fun, fun, fun. There is nothing like just blasting downwind doing 20 knots for hours on end. I stuck with the fleet and we battled all day. In the end, four of us finished within a minute of each other.
3. The Big Bang: The finish on leg 1 was too close for 2 Wire Sailing and TCDYC, Chris Green and Aaron McCulley. Thirty feet from the finish in six inches of water (the Great Texas starts and finishes on the beach), 2 Wire Sailing and TCDYC collided. 2 Wire Sailing got the worst of it - a big hole in their starboard hull. The eventual winners got beat by 35 minutes and now had a broken boat. It looked pretty bad for them but they rallied. They had a spare boat along - John Tomko is the local C2 dealer. Within a few hours, their boat was fixed and they were ready to come back from disaster. Team TCDYC was determined to be at fault and given a 30 minute penalty. They never recovered from the penalty and end up at the bottom of the fleet.
4. Man Over Board: Leg 2 of the Great Texas ended up being a big time downwinder that turned into a reach over another 100 miles from Mustang Island to Matagorda. The main fleet ran the rhumb line while a couple of boats tried the beach without success. John Tomko fought his way back to win the leg by 15 miles. Meanwhile, my crew got washed off the boat as we flew downwind in big waves 10 miles off-shore. We wear safety lines but his safety line connector line broke and we suddenly found ourselves in a bad situation - man overboard, 10 miles off-shore, big air, big wind, one person on board flying the kite. I was able to get the kite down and work my way back to my crew without flipping the boat. Team TCDYC saw the incident and stopped to render assistance if needed. They were granted redress for the time they stopped. We all watch out for each other as there is no one else out there to help us.
5. Every Point of Wind: Good sailors can make boats go on every point of wind and John Tomko proved that on leg 3 of the Great Texas, a 60 mile run from Matagorda to Surfside. Thunderstorms had moved through the area the night before and left us with a north wind. In the summer in Texas, we hardly ever see a north wind. The sea breeze comes out of the south east and it dominates all summer long. We started the leg in a light downwinder that turned to a light up winder. Then it happened, the wind gods said this north wind cannot last and they turned off the wind. The fleet bobbed around for 20 minutes until the wind turned on from the south east ever so slowly. John Tomko, looked and saw ripples near the beach. He inched his way to the beach, caught the express lane and was gone. He sailed away to another 15 minute win in a building sea breeze.
6. Is Four Minutes Enough? After three days of sailing, only four minutes separated the top two boats. Was it enough for Quiksilver to hold of 2 Wire Sailing? No. In light downwind breeze, 2 Wire once again showed they were masters of working the slight breeze on the beach. Within the first hour, they had built a good lead on the last leg which is a 40 mile run from Surfside to Galveston. As the sea breeze kicked in, the wind shifted more off-shore and the fleet sailed in to the finish on a beautiful double trap spin reach. Once again, 2 Wire was 15 minutes ahead while Quiksilver battle it out with a group of four boats for second. Quiksilver put up a good fight but John and Ian are simply amazing at distance racing.
7. Chums wins Open Class: We all sail for the big overall prize of best correct time. We also have trophies for within class performance. We had two fleets, F18 and Open. 2 Wire won F18 and Quiksilver took second. Hats off to Team Sailboat Shop, Mike Rohrer and Chris Holt who took home a third in F18 fleet. Finally, not to be forgotten, Team Chums, Lee Wicklund and David Cerdes, took home the top prize in the open class sailing on an I20. (They were the only boat in the open class this year as all the other sailors were on F18s.)
8. The Streak Continues: Ok, time to toot my own horn (which I am often unfairly accused of doing). My streak of consecutive Great Texas finishes remains intact. I have now managed to finish every leg of every Great Texas race - a feat no one else has managed. (John Tomko broke a mast in one race and had to retire. It worked out quite well for him because his son Dillon was born on the last day of the Great Texas that year.) We have had many close calls over the years. This year I lost my crew overboard. Other years I have had equipment problems including a few consecutive years where the rudders kept falling off. One way of another, I have managed to make it to the beach each year and keep the consecutive finishes streak going.
9. Great Texas Organization: The Great Texas is an association with elected officers. Our commodore, Terri Reuwsaat, does an amazing job of running the race. We have an awesome PRO, Billy Richnow, and great safety officer in Trey Garrison. Andrew Burnard does a great job with the web site, social media, and all other internet postings. Thanks to all the organizers.
10. See you in South Padre: The 2015 Great Texas will start at 10 am on the Wednesday before Father's Day. Please come sail, volunteer, or follow us up the beach. Everyone is invited to join us. There is no better way to see the beautiful Texas coast. You can find out more about the race at We will see you in South Padre next year!

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Scoring Big on Day 1 by Mike Beuerlein

This was a very special year for Team Quiksilver and not just because this marked the third year in a row that we publicly spanked the Monkey Business team. This was a year we very much surpassed our team expectations and, unexpectedly, presented somewhat of a challenge to Team Two Wire; so much so that we didn’t know what to make of ourselves after the first day. So, I’ll give you a breakdown of the first day so that, next year, you can show us what to do with the remainder of the race.

We expected this year would be more of a challenge than last. Eight very strong and capable teams were entered in this year’s Great Texas 300. We rightly figured that we could finish anywhere from 2nd to 8th even if we sailed our best. We did not expect to challenge Team Two Wire for first even though we had finished second, just 30 minutes behind them last year. Since we’d been soundly beaten by every one of the entrants at least once at series regattas this year, we were also careful to not overplay our hand (or our impressive amount of boat preparation) so that, in the event Team Quiksilver were to fall behind, no one would give a second thought to covering us.

Still, Philippe had carefully studied the weather reports that indicated the wind
would build closer to shore on the first leg. After the start and as the rest of
the fleet majestically and testosteronely charged ahead in the first few hours,
jockeying mightily for the lead, Team Quiksilver tried mightily to soak it low to
stick to the rhumb line. As the rest of the fleet eventually spit us out the back,
it became easier and easier to stick to our original game plan of staying low,
keeping the speed up and, regularly, taking our medicine. It was, admittedly,
godawful painful to take regular doses of medicine. It seemed like we gybed
back away from the fleet 8 to 10 times, taking negative VMG and grumbling all
the while, but knowing we were putting money in the bank. Early on, we could
see our next closest to shore boat, Team Sailboat Shop, and we could tell we
were making serious time on them by being closer in. The boats farther out,
we began to disregard, since we were making such visible time on the next
boat closer in. And, because Team Quiksilver sails with a silver spinnaker, from
a distance we knew we were nearly invisible. So, we could observe our
competition but they could not see us. The wind was steadier closer in, not
only could we handle the larger waves and wind but we also got into breeze
that was 15 degrees more favorable (and probably 15% stronger) than our
competitors, such that we eventually came to (secretly, in our heart of hearts!)
acknowledge the hope to be truly challenging for the lead as we neared the

However, any distance sailor knows that competitors appear out of all points of
the compass as you near the finish line so we were keenly on the lookout for
the fleet as we approached but, strangely, there was absolutely no one around.
We hit the finish uneventfully to some discrete amount of hoopla as everyone
scanned the horizon for the favorites sure to be close behind. We had a beer
and some watermelon thoughtfully provided by our crew. We dropped the
sails. We put the boat away. We showered off. We had another beer.

Wait, sails finally appear on the horizon! We were beginning to wonder if we had sailed a proper course although, with the Great Texas 300, there really is no such thing as an improper course. Sure enough, the rest of the fleet came charging in as a pack, jostling and ramming one another in their haste to get ashore. Shannon Galway and Jonathan Atwood, who had elbowed and fought their way to the lead
after six hours of furious jockeying, looked like they’d seen a ghost as Team Quiksilver helped them pull their boats onto the beach!

It was a scene to warm the heart of perennial middle of, to back of the pack, finishers.

Texas Dash 2014 Review by Andrew Burnard

40 miles as the crow flies…. a chance to sail with the big dogs….just a DASH up the Texas coast from Surfside to Galveston.   In it’s seventh year of running, 17 teams lined up for the 2014 Texas Dash.  This year we saw 16 of the 17 2013 teams return to the starting line.  Two of the 2014 Great Texas 300 teams, Teams Yo Baby! and Blackburn Marine, started off as Texas Dashers.

All but one safety checks were done by the skipper’s meeting on Saturday, June 14th.   Having GT sailors as pushers, the boats were all set to go.  Leaving at 9 AM, spinnaker boats were off the beach, followed five minutes later by non-spinnaker boats.  A one hour head start before the sailors sailing the last leg of the Great Texas 300. 

As both Dash and Great Texas teams arrived on East Beach in Galveston, they were treated to a hot-dog dinner, courtesy of Bolivar Yacht Club and Dash Team Hullflying.   A big thanks to Linda and Jim Kondziela of Texas City Dike Yacht Club, and Kathryn Cam and Allyson Biddy of Bolivar Yacht Club for helping prepare and then serving the hotdogs to the hungry sailors.  Awards were then held on the beach with sail bag awards donated by Mariner Sails. 

It was the year of the Hobie 16!  Team Team R3, Roy Shaw and Brad Shaw won the spinnaker class, and Team Anchor Leg, Mike & Janet Hardy, won the non-spinnaker class, each team on their Hobie 16.  Could the Texas Dash be the premium off-shore race for those 16s?  In the year of his passing, what a tribute to Hobie Alter!

All teams are required to have a GPS, life preservers, a whistle and a cell phone in a waterproof bag.  This equipment is necessary for the safety of the skipper and crew, and to ensure they can get in touch with someone on land.  Teams are also required to have a “what if” plan.  One team, new to the Dash this year, Team Gulf Caribs, put their technology to work for them.  When asked if she had been in contact with her team, the team manager said yes, not only had she talked with them, but she could see exactly where they were.  Using phone tracking, she showed us exactly where the team was and we were able to estimate their expected arrival time.  This goes to show you, safety equipment AND a “what-if” plan work! 

The Texas Dash is a one-day event with a lot of behind the scenes workings.  The race just couldn’t have come together without Dash Race Committee, Andrew Burnard, and Billy Richnow, the Dash PRO.  This was the first year the Dash had a logo, created by Great Texas Fleet member John Webster.   That logo made its way for the first time onto the awesome GT300 shirts, which were created by Willie’s Ts.  Thanks to Big Jim Denys, that logo also made its way onto two new Texas Dash banners.    A big thank you also to Ernest Langford and Kurt Peters of TCDYC for their help this year, and to the whole of TCDYC for the spaghetti dinner they do every Friday night before the Dash.  Lastly, a huge thanks to Sailwave.  Scoring is a lot easier and quicker thanks to them. 

Texas Distance Racing by Shannon Galway

I know every cat sailor has done this, you rig up, head off the beach and tack for an hour or so upwind so that you can sail for 20-30 minutes at Mach 6 with your hair on fire down wind.  Reaching is something all cat sailors just LOVE TO DO!  Now, imagine if you could go Mach 6 for several hundred miles straight?  Sounds interesting?  You might want to give distance racing a shot.  I won’t bore you with the details of horrible trap harness chaffing, the sore muscles, swollen tongue from salt water ingestion, rank smell, 10 finger blisters, or the potential for 300 tacks if the breeze doesn’t do what it always does.  I don’t want to distract you from the giant ear to ear grin you will have for days after the race.  The Great Texas 300 finished nearly 2 weeks ago and I am still smiling.  I can’t wait for the Ruff Rider Regatta.

Texas is the prime location to get your feet wet in the sport of distance racing.  We host the Great Texas 300 ( which is the big daddy of Gulf coast distance racing over 300 miles and four days.  The last day of the GT300 is The Dash, a 50 mile run up the coast over one day.  Later in the summer we have the Ruff Rider Regatta ( which is a two day distance event in South Padre Island.  The south Texas Gulf coast is an ideal location for catamaran distance racing.  We have plenty of open water, consistent breeze, warm temperatures, and almost no other boat traffic. 

It’s no small feat to participate in a major distance race.  It’s a daunting task at first, but it’s not impossible.  Here are five simple points to get you to the starting line.  You’re going to have to work to get across the finish line.

Distance Racing in 5 Simple steps

1.)    Boat Maintenance – You don’t need the fastest, newest, sleekest boat to participate and do well.  However, you do need to make sure the boat is in good order.  All fittings should be inspected for corrosion.  All standing rigging should be in good shape.  All running rigging should be free from chaffs or rubs.  All pins and shackles should be tight and free from bends or kinks.  All sails should be in good shape.  While rigging, you should tape (white electrical tape works perfect) every pin, ring ding, and shackle.  You’d be shocked what can wiggle loose after 40-50 miles of sailing. Don’t forget spare parts, stuff breaks.
2.)    Gear – A distance racer relies on a few essential pieces of gear.  You will need a good life jacket with pockets for snacks and gear.  At a minimum, you should have a strobe, mirror, whistle, compass, and multitool attached to the life jacket.  Some longer offshore races require you carry an EPIRB as well.  You should have at least 1 GPS on board (I carry 3, one on the mast, one on my wrist, and one tucked away as a backup).  You should also have a handheld VHF onboard.  Depending on the location, you should consider safety tethers to keep you attached to the boat.  I also carry a satellite phone, however in some parts of the country this won’t be necessary, but a cell phone in a water proof case is a great idea.  Laminated charts are a really good idea for any race even if your GPS has a charting function.  Don’t forget a good water proof flashlight.  I use an LED headlamp.
3.)    Plan – The planning for a distance race is nothing to forget!  You will need to line up a road crew if it’s a point to point race.  This person must be willing to give up their weekend driving your car and trailer to help you have fun.  This person needs a place to sleep and stuff to eat.  Take care of them, they are doing you the biggest favor of all.  You will probably need to arrive the day before the regatta so you have plenty of time to rig and prepare.  There’s more to do on the beach for a distance race than a typical buoy race or a day on the bay.
4.)    Prepare –Personal fitness is something to consider.  Long days on the water are physically taxing.  Remember, there’s a good chance you could be on the water for 8+ hours if the day’s course is long or the breeze shifts to an unfavorable direction.  Make sure you are drinking water and eating all day.  I eat apples slices, oranges, and granola bars.  Basically anything that tastes the same soaking wet will suffice.  Make sure you’ve opened up and tested any new gear you have.  The best is to actually sail with it a time or two before your distance race.  Try not to get too fancy with your equipment, the fancy stuff usually breaks, the tried and true is what you can depend on.  Make sure your trailer is in good order, especially if somebody other than you will be towing it.  Make sure you have boat towing insurance, if you break down and nobody is hurt they can tow you in.  If the Coast Guard has to come after you the boat stays and you may get a bill from Uncle Sam.
5.)    Sail! -- Sail your boat as much as you can in your local water.  Get used to it, get used to what can go wrong.  For your first distance race, chose a relatively short one over a weekend.  As you complete the shorter races you will build the confidence and experience to tackle the longer multi day races.  Talk to other distance racers, we love to get more people involved. 

Distance racing can get a little expensive with all the gear and time required.  But in the end it is totally worth it.  The feeling of crossing the finish line of a multiday race is hard to beat.  Give it a shot in one of our races the Great Texas 300, The Dash, or the Ruff Rider Regatta.