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GJW Direct 2020

North Gulf Challenge ocean race: Pendragon and XTC class winners on Corrected Time

by Talbot Wilson 29 Apr 03:22 BST April 22-30, 2021
Merlin' made history again, taking Line honors in the inaugural North Gulf Challenge, the new 319-mile ocean race from St. Petersburg Fl to Pensacola © Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing

For Mike Kayusa's Farr 40 'Pendragon' getting to the new wind outside of Tampa Bay proved to be the key to victory in the inaugural North Gulf Challenge ocean race. With the wind dying just outside of the Sunshine Bridge on Friday afternoon, the best choice was to head west, even a little southwest, sailing as fast as possible covering the shortest distance across the parking lot to reach the new wind.

The battle through that light air in the Spinnaker Class was between the 70-foot 'Merlin' and the 40-foot 'Pendragon'. The smaller boat made up its handicap time— then and there. She went on to finish first in the Spinnaker Class on a PHRF corrected time of 1d 12h 43m 59s, beating 'Merlin' by about two hours.

Chip Merlin's famous Bill Lee ULDB 'Merlin' did take line honors in Pensacola, setting a high bar for the next North Gulf Challenge. Hitting speeds in the high 20's and sailing steady 13's after the early light air, 'Merlin' surfed back toward the rhumb line and finished in the Florida sunshine, arriving at the Pensacola Sea Buoy at 4:09pm EDT— 3:09 CDT local time— Saturday.

Near the Sea Buoy, Pensacola YC Fleet Captain Andrew McMillan and his 'brave' crew were riding the waves in a 24-foot center console with several jugs of the yacht club's famous Bushwhackers, a tasty reward for 70-foot yacht's big crew of 11 guys and one lady to enjoy on their ride up the Pensacola Ship Channel and into Pensacola Bay.

'Merlin' had an elapsed time of 1d 05h 04m 50s. That corrected on handicap to 1d 14h 39m 02s. The former Transpac record-holder's average speed for the 319nm course was just over 11kts.

Even spending a few hours on Friday afternoon sneaking along at about 4kts to get to the new, strong southerly breeze further offshore, the new race's elapsed time set by 'Merlin' will be a tough course record to beat.

Mike Kayusa's Farr 40 'Pendragon' finished second overall and won the PHRF Spinnaker Class. The first-to-finish 'Merlin' came about two hours behind on handicap. 'Pendragon' crossed the finish line at 9:41pm EDT (8:41 CDT Local time) Saturday evening with an elapsed time of 1d 10h 36m 23s

Kayusa and his crew were spreading sails on the Pensacola Yacht Club lawn early Sunday morning. When asked how the race was for 'Pendragon' Mike said, "Wet!"

"It was like a fire hose. We were hitting 20 plus at times and doing steady 13's. It was a great race for 'Pendragon' but there is nothing dry on the boat at all."

In the Cruising Class, Thomas Glew's Beneteau Oceanis 461 'XTC' was first to finish and first cruiser with an elapsed time of 2d 04h 52m 48s and a corrected time of 1d 16h 44m 25s.

The last boat to finish was George Norwood's Island Packet 40 'Flagship' with a corrected time of 2d 17h 06m 57s.

Like 'XTC', Norwood and his crew faced a cold front, a wind shift from South to North and had a tough beat up to Pensacola. Even though they finished early Tuesday at 12:18:31AM, the Pensacola YC race team met them at the dock after they had come in from the Sea Buoy some five miles out two hours after their finish.

Norwood said that arriving at the club around 2:30AM he had hoped to see someone at the dock to catch his lines. But to his surprise, Pensacola Yacht Club's Commodore Tom Pace, Jr and fleet Captain Andrew MacMillan and some of the racers from St. Petersburg greeted the crew with a full-on welcoming party with cold champagne and Bushwhackers.

Commodore Pace hosted the North Gulf Challenge dinner Tuesday evening. Selga Sakss, St. Petersburg Yacht Club's offshore sailing chair, presented prizes for First to Finish and for three-deep corrected time finishers in each class.

After the ceremony Pace said, "Every bit of the comments about the new race and Pensacola Yacht Club were positive. Skippers and crews are already planning for the next race. It may be from Pensacola to St. Pete or it may be from St. Pete to Pensacola again. We will have a debrief and make our plans soon, so skippers and crews have plenty of time to get ready to race again"

2021 North Gulf Challenge Results:
Place, Sail - Yacht Name, Yacht Type, Owner/Skipper, City, State, Country -- Finish Date-Time, Elapsed, Corrected -- Class/Fleet>

North Gulf Challenge Spinnaker Course

PHRF Spinnaker (PHRF - 4 Boats)
1. USA 40037 - Pendragon, Farr 40, Mike Kayusa , Ft. Myers, FL, USA -- 24Apr21 09:41:23PM / 1:10:36:23 / 1:12:43:59 -- 1 / 1
2. USA 8955 - Merlin, Bill Lee Custom, Chip Merlin , St Petersburg, FL, USA -- 24Apr21 04:09:50PM / 1:05:04:50 / 1:14:39:02 -- 2 / 2
3. 53311 - Ruby, Morgan 36-5, Christopher Chow , Tampa, FL, USA -- 25Apr21 04:45:35PM / 2:05:40:35 / 1:21:42:05 -- 3 / 3
4. USA 7 - Silver Surfer, J 112e, Harvey Ford Tom Mistele , St. Petersburg, FL, USA -- 5/DNF

North Gulf Challenge Cruising Course

PHRF Cruising (PHRF - 5 Boats)
1. USA 38 - XTC declared chute, Beneteau Oceanis 461, Thomas Glew , St. Petersburg, FL, USA -- 25Apr21 04:02:48PM / 2:04:52:48 / 1:16:44:25 -- 1 / 1
2. IP Star - Flagship, Island Packet 40, George Norwood , Riverview, FL, USA -- 27Apr21 12:18:31AM / 3:13:08:31 / 2:17:06:57 -- 2 / 2
3. USA 1 - Blue Heron, Catalina 425, Russell Hoadley , Tampa, FL, USA -- 6/DNF
4. 60832 - Corsair, Little Harbor 63, Thomas Rose , Palmetto, FL, USA -- 6/DNS

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