Gator Challenge and Florida District Series #3 (2014-15) - Rudder Club, Jacksonville FL - Dec. 6-7, 2014
You don’t need to be a Rudder Club member very long to know that the weather can be anything at the Gator Bowl. Some years it is warm and dry; others it can be bitter cold and wet. Some days are light wind; others can be whitecaps and blustery. 2014 was no exception. Saturday, December 6 was pleasant temperature but was a light air struggle on the water. After a long postponement, we started in light easterly wind. A big shift to the left was followed by lighter and lighter wind. The race committee shortened the course at the leeward gate. Pretty soon, chase boats were towing the fleet back to the dock. The cold front came through as predicted early Sunday morning. We started in a 10-12 knot north-northwest wind, which built to 15 to 17 in the last races. Even in the early races, there was more chop than one expects for that wind, adding to the challenge.
John Kreidler (from Western Carolina Sailing Club) and Joe Brake dominated the weekend, with a 2nd in Saturday’s light air, followed by 4 1st places on Sunday. Second place went to Jim and Cheryl Signor (from Upper Keys Sailing Club), who finished three points ahead of Tom McNally (Lake Monroe). Mark Taylor (Davis Island) and Michelle Robinson took fourth, and Dave and Kim Thinel (Sarasota) took fifth.
Unique to the Gator Bowl, the Wallygator Trophy (literally a gator’s head mounted on a plaque) is awarded to the district with the best overall performance. With only 2 boats from up North, Wally Trophy gets to stay warm in Florida for another year. In a complete shock to District sailors, Cheryl Signor (crew on top Florida finishing boat for her husband Jim) declined the opportunity to put Wally on her mantelpiece over the holidays.
The Gator Challenge has a great food tradition. This year, Donna Mohr prepared chicken sauce picante (Saturday) and corn and shrimp bisque (Sunday), and Rob Smith served chicken and sausage gumbo.
Jon Hamilton, Captain, Fleet 131 (Rudder Club of Jacksonville, FL)