Skiff Challenge 2020

(a note from Captains for Clean Waters – March, 28, 2020)

POSTPONED INDEFINITELY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

THE 2020 FLORIDA SKIFF CHALLENGE

With the increasing concerns surrounding COVID-19/Coronavirus, the 2020 Florida Skiff Challenge (originally scheduled for April 2, 2020) has been postponed indefinitely until further notice.


Cleaning up Florida’s Coastline, one mile at a time.

Take a look at most of the world’s most iconic and grueling endurance races such as the Tour de France, The Iditarod, or the Baja 1000 and their origin stories usually involve a simple idea that simply snowballed into the world-renowned events that they are today. These events embody the very spirit of athleticism and stamina in a way that captivates audiences, and as a result, have developed cultlike followings. The Skiff Challenge while only in its 5th year as an annual event, has all the ingredients for an epic annual competition

The idea: Teams of two captains set out from the Florida/Alabama line in an all-out, nonstop race around the entire coast of Florida to Fernandina beach near the Florida/Georgia state line. The dates are set, the weather conditions are up in the air, and the some of the best skiff builders in the country get to show what their boats can really do. To make things more interesting, the contestants receive only bragging rights. The real winner is the state of Florida and its much-needed aid in the fight against poor water quality and suffering fisheries.

“For skiff builders, its a simple problem: If you don’t have clean water, and the fishing is terrible, nobody needs a recreational fishing boat. Beyond that, all of us who enter the Skiff Challenge are passionate fisherman and we deeply care about our water quality.”

So, we reached out to our friends at Hell’s Bay Boatworks and spoke to their captain and owner, Chris Peterson about what it really takes to run the Skiff Challenge and what’s at stake for Florida.

How did the Skiff Challenge first start? 

The Skiff Challenge started when Heath from Yellowfin just took off from Pensacola and tried to run it with him and his co-captain chase Daniels, they made it as far as Miami before they quit, beat up and hypothermia setting in. The next year Heath approached me over too many Tequilas and suggested we run it as a Challenge. The idea was to showcase that us skiff manufacturers were willing to put our butts in a boat and put it—and ourselves—to the ultimate test. It was supposed to be a challenge to finish and not a race.

That first year Panga Marine joined in, but only made it as far as Apalachicola. But anything with men, engines and gasoline will usually go beyond the challenge itself, and it soon became a race to see who could finish first, if you finished at all. Last year there were 4 teams in the Skiff Challenge, and it was the first time that every team actually finished, that will show you how demanding it is, on the boat and the men.

Courtesy of Captains for Clean Waters. Photo by Gary Gillett

Could you talk a little bit about Captains for Cleanwater’s involvement and your shared goals?

Over the years, the social media following has become viral, and we decided to collect some money like a walk-a-thon for a conservation charity. So several years ago we let C4CW became the beneficiary.   Since C4CW is concerned with all the waters of Florida and their mission is to educate the public about the issue, we decided to let them run the whole thing, and now they run it and use it as a platform to get their message out. Last year we reached over 3 million people in the 4 days of the Skiff Challenge. Our shared goal is to spread the word that we need to clean up florida’s water. For skiff builders, its a simple problem: If you don’t have clean water, and the fishing is terrible, nobody needs a recreational fishing boat. Beyond that, all of us who enter the Skiff Challenge are passionate fisherman and we deeply care about our water quality.

Courtesy of Captains for Clean Waters

Having been at the helm yourself for each Skiff Challenge since its inception, how grueling is the 1,300 mile journey and what has been the craziest moment in Skiff Challenge history in your opinion?

This will be my 5th Skiff Challenge at the helm and I’ve done so since the beginningif you don’t count Yellowfin’s first lone attempt. Craziest moment? There have been numerous crazy moments, from hallucinating and seeing gremlins on jet skis running with us in the Intercoastal near Daytona, taking the engine off in the water to replace the jack plate, or the huge storms we have endured several different years, or just the moment you step off the beach into a 16 foot skiff at the FloraBama line in a torrential lightning storm to run non stop to Jacksonville.

Which skiff model will you run this year, and what, if anything, do you do to prepare for a run like this?

We have always run the HB Biscayne model every year and will this year too. Our skiffs have always been our standard build we offer, same laminates, and a standard hull design that is not modified. We do add things such as lights and we’ve made a custom side console so we can lie down in the boat when it is your co-captains turn at the helm—but trust me, you can’t sleep. You are awake the whole time.

Our prep is planning. Planning the route and the choice of pit stops are critical. We plan with our pit crew and discuss issues from past years. Not for the Skiff Challenge per se, but I do go to spin class at the YMCA at 5am 3 days a week, I think it helps with the endurance that you must go through.

How can people get involved?

Typically, C4CW would have “watch” parties at both the sendoff at the FloraBama line and at the landing site in Fernandina, but we have just received word from C4CW that there will be no parties this year due to Coronavirus, but the Skiff Challenge will go on. Stay at home and watch it on your phone, tablet or computer or stream it on your TV.


Learn more about the Skiff Challenge and Captains for Clean Water at captainsforcleanwater.org/skiff-challenge and consider making a donation to help restore Florida’s fisheries. You can also follow the events of the Skiff Challenge on Facebook and Instagram.