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2018 Florida Skiff Challenge is a Grueling Endurance Run

 

2018 Florida Skiff Challenge is a Grueling Endurance Run

Circumnavigating the Sunshine State, Benefits Captains for Clean Water

April 3, 2018; Pensacola, Florida: “Gentlemen, start your outboards!”

The 2018 Florida Skiff Challenge gets underway April 3 with a flare from this westernmost Panhandle city. Four teams will be competing in a difficult endurance race around the Florida coast and Key West in skiffs no longer than 18 feet. The goal? To see who can first cross the finish line at the famous Cabin Bluff Lodge near Cumberland Island, Georgia.

In addition to bragging rights, the teams are racing to raise funds for Captains for Clean Water, an advocacy group promoting awareness about the state’s deteriorating coastal water quality. The four teams represent Chittum Boatworks, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, Panga Marine and Yellowfin Yachts. The Challenge will conclude April 5 after more than 50 straight hours and a 1,600-mile trek.

Fuel capacity is limited to 23 gallons per skiff. Support vans will rendezvous with their respective teams enroute to provide more fuel, food and clothing. There will be a mandatory fuel stop at Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo. Team Hell’s Bay is the defending Challenge champion. The team consists of Capt. Chris Peterson, co-owner of the company, and his son, JC Peterson. Dan Hunt will serve as crew chief, joined by Steven Hobbs. The Petersons will be running a Biscayne 16 powered by a 70-hp Yamaha and outfitted with a Raymarine Axiom navigation system with weather forecast software.

“This is a true test of endurance and grit, even if conditions are good,” the senior Peterson says. “It’s long hours and long distances. We really have to knuckle down and push through to do this. The hardest part for me is just before daylight the second day. After that, the adrenalin kicks in and you start to feel the end. We’re not planning on doing anything different this time, unless the weather and sea conditions make it necessary.” The father/son teammates take turns driving the boat while the other tries to rest.

“Heath and Chase (Team Yellowfin, the inaugural FSC champions) are tough as nails,” Peterson adds. “They won’t give up and push to the very end. One slip-up and they’ll be ahead of us, so we can never let our guard down. It’s always a good challenge competing against them.”

Heath Daughtry and Chase Daniel will be piloting the team’s 17 Yellowfin Skiff, which tips the scales at 600 pounds. It will be propelled by a 70-hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard. Yellowfin’s support team includes Ty Nelson, owner of Florida Fishing Products and Guillermo Nazario, Yellowfin’s inshore rigging manager.

Hal T. Chittum and George A. Sawley, the main partners of Chittum Boatworks, will be competing for the first time in a carbon fiber Islamorada 18 skiff powered by a Honda 70-hp outboard. Chittum says they will have a range of 200-plus miles cruising at 4,500 rpm, if the weather is calm. The pair plans to run in open water and will meet up with their support crew, Kevin Michael Casey and Shane Thomas Casey, whenever they can navigate through the various inlets.

“The biggest reason for us to do this is to raise money for the water issues,” Chittum explains. “But George and I also thought it was cool. It’ll be a great showcase for what you can really do with a lightweight, shallow water skiff. Our plan is to go as fast as we can under the conditions and hope the weather cooperates.” Chittum says the Islamorada fully loaded will weigh 875 pounds and average 10 miles per gallon.

Panga Marine owner Tom Biller and Ryan Till will be the final competitors in this year’s field. They’ll be racing in an 18 Panga EVO model rigged with a 70-hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard. With the exception of the interior, the EVO is the same hull design and construction as those available to consumers.

“This is my third year and it’s a great challenge for me personally and for the equipment,” Biller says. “We have a lot to prove and we’re looking forward to doing that.

“We’ll be taking the same approach as previous years, but you can’t control the weather so we may be forced to make adjustments along the way,” he adds. “Towards the end, it going to get tough. Coffee only lasts so long. Ryan and I plan to switch driving each leg so the other can rest. We’re depending on our support crew to keep us hydrated and fed and we’ll try to stay dry.”

 

Challenge enthusiasts can follow the action on-line at www.saltwatersportsman.com/florida-skiff-challenge or on social media (FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter). Those wishing to sponsor a team can do so at captainsforcleanwater.org/2018-skiff-challenge or donations can be made directly to the group to support its mission to bring awareness and scientifically supported solutions to restore and protect marine ecosystems and a way of life for future generations.

 

In addition to the four competing skiff companies, 2018 FSC sponsors include Cabin Bluff Lodge, Raymarine, Yeti, Papa’s Pilar, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Justin Boots, Saved by Spot and Costa.

 

 

Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com

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