Under the influence.

Raid boats.

Sail and Oar.

The Everglades Challenge.

Nothing to do with alcohol…..rather that being under the influence relates to the influence that racing and competition has had and is having on my selection of my ‘sail and awe’ future-boat.

In previous posts iv’e often talked about the terrible influence that yacht racing rules such as the International Offshore Rule (IOR) , the Metre rule and so on, have had on the design of small boats.  The IOR was bad, in fact awful, but nothing like as bad as an earlier rule that heavily penalised beam and encouraged the building of ‘plank on edge’ designs….long but incredibly narrow and as a consequence deep and heavily ballasted…perhaps the worst designs ever to come off the design table.  One of those was so extreme, so wet and unseamanlike that it foundered on it’s first passage in moderately heavy weather.

Ok, so it helps if the keel stays on !

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On the other hand…..a big old IOR maxi got me around the world a couple of times and actual competition has often driven innovation , not only in design, but in all of the other ways that boats and their crews get from A to B a bit quicker than their opponent does. It’s not always strictly ‘racing’ either as a fast fishing Smack or Morecambe bay Prawner that could get it’s catch home fresh and first would always get the best price.

Racing and competition can spawn monstrosities like the J class but it can also act as a kind of filter and selector of boats that are actually quite good….at least good at something and for some of the time.  One of these filters or ‘selectors’ that seems to have brought together a lot of interesting boats and useful ideas is the Everglades Challenge over in the USA and a similar idea in Europe, although more ‘rally’ and less competitive have been the Raid boats.   Lets take a quick look at both because it’s one of the EC boats that really switched me on to the idea and reality of sail and oar for an adventure style boat.

The Raid concept and practice.

Iv’e never taken part in a ‘Raid’ style event so for this post iv’e lifted the concept straight from the the English Raid page thus …..

The idea of making coastal voyages in company, in open boats powered by sail and oar, was given currency by the French group Albacore, led by Charles-Henri le Moing during the 1990s, starting in Portugal and Scotland.  Called ‘Raids’ in French (e.g. google ‘raid velo’), the word has slipped into English and lost its usual associations of pillage and destruction – to those who participate at least.

The objective is to encourage recreational coastal voyaging in attractive locations using only sail and oar, to encourage the use of traditional boats which are well-suited to the objective, and the development of new boats which are able to carry on the sail-and-oar tradition.  A successful fleet will gather 20-40 boats of a wide range of designs and abilities, from a number of European countries, from 10 feet to 30 in length, largely gaff or lug-rigged, some better at sailing, some at rowing, but all capable of making progress at both.

Memorable raids have now been held in the Douro River in Portugal, the Great Glen of Scotland, the  Blekinge/Karlskrona archipelago of Sweden, Finland, the Venice lagoon and the canals and lakes of Holland (the Dorestad Raid), The Solent, the East Coast, the Norfolk Broads, Falmouth, Plymouth and the Clyde.  Much larger events at Morbihan, Douarnenez and Milford Haven have characteristics of raids, and involve entertainment and sponsorship on a scale the ordinary raider can only dream about.”

Boat : Skerry ‘Raid’ (Fyne boats kit and photograph)

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The Everglades Challenge.

So, i haven’t taken part in a ‘raid’ , nor am i likely to and neither have i taken part in the Everglades Challenge although it’s the latter one that is on my personal ‘to do’ list and is where the greater influence of what i am trying to do now comes from.

The EC , for those not familiar with it is a yearly event run by the Watertribe USA and is one of a series of similar long distance ‘challenge’ style events that they organise : the EC event runs on the west Florida coast from Tampa to Key Largo, a distance on average of around 300 miles depending on the route taken.

The idea/concept is that of an unsupported and expedition style race cum rally where the entrants have to be completely self reliant and independent on the course although they do have to stop at 2 check-in points along the course : there is also a choice of an inshore passage and a coastal one and a very wide choice of craft that are allowed….that’s where it gets interesting for this post.    The most basic rule in the EC, aside that of being competent and self-reliant is that the craft used has to be launched off a beach above the high tide mark and then sailed and/or paddled/rowed over the course by either a solo driver or driver and one crew.

I think you will see straight away that the concept goes hand in hand with my own one for an adventure boat : high competency and self-reliance, the ability to launch the boat easily off a slipway or beach, the ability to move silently under paddle, oar and sail and the ability to make a coastwise or river and estuary passage.  While earlier i said that the influence of racing is one main driver to innovation, and that is important to the crews that want to be front runners in the EC, that there are other important qualities that the event also demands : once again that the craft is best when it can be moved along in zero wind just with a pair of oars….and that there is a high regard for small craft seamanship.

The thing i like most about the Watertribe/Everglades Challenge concept and events is that they can be done in a wide variety of small craft : not just sailing dinghy’s, small multihulls and microcruisers but sea kayaks, canoes and experimental craft all get a look in.  The rules and requirements are the same for all but what it means is that you can come from one of several different disciplines and still take part….what that also demonstrates is that several different basic forms of small craft have been selected already by the participants and all of those forms have been shown to work : obviously some are better in some conditions and parts of the course and some at the opposite end.

In my case it was an older Everglades Challenge boat that turned me on to this whole concept of an adventure boat and here she is : one of John Welsford’s ‘Walkabout’ designs and still high on my own list of possible builds.

Welsford Walkabout….photographers unknown.

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My new Facebook multi-adventure group here : https://www.facebook.com/groups/1257497434599364

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