At 1:48 p.m. Thursday, Monitor writer Warren "Sharkchow" Richey finished first in his class - and first overall - in the inaugural Ultimate Florida Challenge, a 1,200-mile small-boat race. Warren's 17-foot kayak reached Fort DeSoto Park, Fla., near Tampa Bay, 50 minutes ahead of a sailing canoe manned by Mark "Manitoucruiser" Przedwojewski of Irons, Mich. Warren didn't know Manitou was so close. "I kept looking around," he says, "and didn't see the other guys." Matt "Wizard" Layden of Stuart, Fla., finished third in a 12-foot sailboat he built himself.
Warren began his final push at 7:30 Wednesday morning - and paddled straight through, almost without stopping. During that 30-plus hour stretch, he got out of his kayak only once, to drag his boat across the sand near the Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant. When he arrived at Fort DeSoto Park, he went to the wrong pier. He called the race director to find out where he was supposed to go and was told, "If you get here first, you'll win." He did.
Warren completed the race in 19 days, 6 hours, and 48 minutes. As of Sunday morning, the four racers still on the course were on the inland portion. They have until April 2 to finish. Three other Ultimate racers have dropped out.
Warren will write about his adventure for the Monitor soon. We suspect he needs a little rest first. We also wonder if he remembers what he said before he started: "All I want to do is finish."