Join spectators and adventure racers Sunday, Nov. 4, at the Sanibel Causeway to watch the departure of racers in the first-ever Coast to Coast Expedition Challenge, which will snake from Sanibel through the Everglades to end Nov. 11 in Miami. The race starts at the 2012 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival site.
The Paddle House, Race South Florida, Miami Rowing Club and the Volunteer Wilderness Alliance have joined to make possible this event. Miami-based Paddle House is pleased to announce the Coast to Coast Expedition Challenge, a 240-mile self-sustained human-powered race featuring small non-motorized sailboats and paddlecraft. The route commemorates Juan Ponce de Leon's discovery of Florida. Featuring historical, scenic and environmentally diverse eco-systems, the race will cover the route traversed by Ponce de Leon's fleet in 1513.
The start of the race happens during the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival's closing afternoon on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Racers will launch their boats from the Sanibel Causeway as they follow the historic route toward Cape Sable entering the Everglades at Ponce de Leon Bay before crossing Whitewater Bay and heading to Florida Bay.
Mandatory check-in stops are at Chokoloskee and Flamingo. Here, paddlers have the advantage. Shallow waters and narrow passages present a special challenge to sailboats allowing paddlers an equalizing advantage on a common course. Facing challenges similar to those the fleet encountered, competitors will travel across Florida Bay to the upper keys before rejoining Ponce de Leon's route past Santa Marta (now known as Key Biscayne) and their finish at Race South Florida's Warrior's Challenge, a paddlesport race presented by The Paddle House and Race South Florida at the Miami Rowing Club on Virginia Key.
The challenge must be completed in seven-days. Outside assistance is limited in scope. This is a self-sustained expedition challenge. Required checkpoint stops along the route and limited support. Competitors will be tracked, and spectators can follow their favorite racers via SPOT integrated tracking maps.
In 2013, the race will be offered together with an expedition. The Viva Florida Expedition will be led by local guides offering local flavor and historical perspective. Participants are encouraged to complete the entire route but may join and leave at various segments throughout the route. The entire route will be covered in two-weeks and will be supported.
"The race and companion events the Calusa Blueway festival and Race South Florida's Warrior's Challenge will showcase Florida's paddling and sailing opportunities from coast to coast," said organizer Esther Alonso-Luft, owner of The Paddle House, which will have a tent display at the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival's Causeway Island site Nov. 2-4. "Let the explorer inside you out for a modern-day adventure. Join us on the water or follow us from your computer or smartphone as we celebrate the discovery of Florida and the indomitable human spirit."
Racers will depart at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, from Sanibel Causeway Island A, 19950 Causeway Island Road, Sanibel, FL 33957. Entry fee is $250 for first person; $100 for second in same boat. Racers are responsible for all equipment and supplies; pre-registration online at www.raceslf.com and click on "registration."
Racers must arrange for their own transportation to the start line. Vehicles may not be left on Causeway Island A overnight. The park and the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival are part of Lee County Parks & Recreation at 533-7275. More race details can be had at www.raceslf.com or Esther Alonso-Luft at (786) 307-3816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Paddle House, a proud sponsor of the 2011 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival and a return vendor for 2012, is located at 2753 S.W. 27th Ave., Miami, FL 33133 or online at www.thepaddlehouse.com.
Note: The Coast to Coast Expedition Challenge is separate from the other race event during the 2012 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, which is called the CaluSUP Family Fun Race. That race is a relay-style event to be held at noon Sunday, Nov. 4, along Sanibel Causeway Island A. It's designed for newcomers to paddlers, families, children and recreational paddlers. For details, go to www.calusabluewaypaddlingfestival.com and click on "activities" and "SUP/kayak/canoe races."
People looking for a pre-festival race can join in the Imperial River Challenge in Bonita Springs on Oct. 27, as part of the annual RiverFest event. Go to www.cityofbonitasprings.org or 949-6262.