Should be pretty cool to follow along. From http://www.floridaskiffchallenge.com . . .
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
2016 Florida Skiff Challenge Slated for Late March
Additional teams will participate in this year’s event
Sarasota, Florida: It’s a bold concept: run a small open skiff from the Florida Panhandle down along the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Key West before heading north up the East Coast and then back across the state through the Okeechobee Waterway, eventually winding up in Sarasota. It’s been attempted once before (unsuccessfully, in 2015) but the Florida Skiff Challenge is once again a go this year, with a scheduled “rain or shine” start date of March 24, 2016. “This is a very unique event,” says organizer Heath Daughtry of Yellowfin Yachts. “It’s a gentleman’s race for bragging rights only. We’re not competing against each other but rather against the elements—the seas, the weather—to see who can even finish the entire 1,200 miles.”
The event is open to Florida skiff manufacturers only, not the general public. The boats must be open fishing skiffs 18 feet or less in length, carrying a maximum of 22 gallons of fuel and powered by an outboard motor of 70 horsepower or less. The boats will travel along the coastline and may use any electronic navigational aids the teams feel will help them make the trip safely, including radar and night vision devices. They may stop as often as necessary for fuel, food and rest but if the boats are removed from the water, their challenge is over. “The weather is the real unknown, especially in late March,” Daughtry reports. “Last year we had a cold front that swept over us and when you’re navigating open water in pitch darkness with the winds and seas, it’s a lot more difficult than most would think. It’s definitely an adventure, especially considering that we’re going from Gulf Breeze in the Panhandle all the way around Key West and back up the East Coast.” Most teams will use a two-person crew in the skiff and another two-person team in a support vehicle back ashore.
This year’s contest will also benefit the Coastal Conservation Association’s habitat restoration efforts in Florida. “This is really a competition to see who can raise the most money for CCA,” says Daughtry. “Each team is soliciting sponsors and donations so we’re hoping to raise $10 per mile—that would mean that each team is raising $12,000 to go directly toward CCA’s habitat restoration programs. Florida’s waters and our gamefish are the real winners here.” The donations will be presented to CCA in April during the conservation organization’s annual fundraiser in Orlando.
Three teams have already signed up for this year’s Challenge. Heath Daughtry Chase Daniel from Yellowfin Yachts in Sarasota will return to the Challenge this year in a 17-foot Yellowfin skiff. Todd Fuller and Chris Peterson from Hell’s Bay Boatworks in Titusville, Florida will also be on the water along with Tom Biller from the Sarasota-based Panga Marine. He will be running a standard Panga 18-foot EVO skiff powered by a 70hp outboard. “It’s going to be a pretty grueling test of endurance but as a lifelong boater, all you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best, especially when it comes to the weather,” he reports. “I like the conservation aspect as well—we sell boats because of what Florida has to offer, and we need to be good stewards of those resources.”
Todd Fuller from Hell’s Bay echoed those statements, saying that his team is very excited to not only test themselves and their equipment but also to assist in the conservation efforts along the way. “We’ve been a huge supporter of CCA for many years and feel that it’s an excellent recipient of the funds we’re able to raise as our conservation partner in this event,” he says. Fuller and Hell’s Bay Boatworks owner Chris Peterson will be joining the challenge in a 16-foot Hell’s Bay Biscayne, equipped with the latest in electronics from Raymarine. “If you don’t prepare then you fail,” Fuller states. “We’re going to be ready with a plan A, B and C and also be ready for the unexpected. It will be grueling but I’m sure we’ll have some fun along the way.”
This year, spectators will be able to track each team’s progress via a live link on the website and also through social media. For more information, visit www.floridaskiffchallenge.com