One of the most interesting races that occur in Florida waters will begin as the sun rises from Fort Desoto Beach at the mouth of Tampa Bay in March 2018. The Everglades Challenge is a grueling 300-mile self-sustained and unsupported expedition race for small sail and paddle craft that follows the Florida coast south and through the salt waters of the Everglades National Park and on to Key Largo in the Florida Keys. They have a maximum of eight days to complete the race. Entrants include small sail craft such as pocket cruisers, small catamarans and sailing canoes along with paddle craft that include kayaks and stand up paddleboards.
Only an average of 40% of participant finish and they are required to carry everything they need for the journey with them. Finishing this race is difficult enough but one of the remarkable things about this race is many participants are in their 60’s and 70’s. The size of the craft is partially decided by the fact that they must be self launched from being high and dry on the Fort Desoto Beach and the participants are responsible for getting their boats in the water on their own. Their progress can be followed from required Spot tracer positioning uploaded to the Water Tribe site . If they make it to the finish line in Key Largo they will receive and alligator’s tooth as reward and are automatically eligible for enrollment in the Ultimate Race which is 1200 miles circumnavigating Florida (a topic for a whole other article to be published soon). If you can make it out to the beach on the Friday before the race this will give a great opportunity to check out the vessels and talk with participants. The start is at 7:00 am on Saturday. If you can’t make either, follow along on line. You can read about last years race here.