Day 18: Leading the pack

Monitor writer Warren "Sharkchow" Richey is in first place on the last leg of the 1,200-mile Ultimate Florida Challenge small-boat race. After eight hours of sleep, he left Cedar Key at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Winds were at 5 to 10 knots. His paddling buddy "Salty Frog," who came out from Orlando Tuesday for dinner, says Warren is in good shape.

That's 1,080 miles down, 120 to go. But those final 120 miles in the Gulf of Mexico may be tough, and first place is far from certain. Warren had pushed off from Fanning Springs, Fla., at 4:20 a.m. Tuesday, after three hours of sleep at the Suwannee Gables Motel, right on the river. Head winds down the Suwannee were difficult. The Gulf was even rougher: Winds were at 20 m.p.h., with a lot of chop and waves. "I figured, I'm going for it," Warren said. "Once I got out in it, I realized it was doable."

As of 9:30 Wednesday morning, "Manitoucruiser" had just left Cedar Key in his sailing canoe and planned to paddle and sail the final 120 miles without stopping. "Wizard," in a sailboat, had not yet reached Cedar, but may have been close. Any of the top three could win. The Gulf winds give "a tremendous advantage to sailors with big sails," Warren said. "Wizard and Manitou will fly to Tampa Bay."

For the latest on Richey's progress and the race see: www.csmonitor.com/floridarace and www.Watertribe.com

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