We were a little slow off the beach but we learned a bit in the process and should be able to simply roll it off the beach with inflatable rollers next time. Once in the water, we flew through across the Tampa Bay crossing and headed South once in the Gulf outside of Anna Maria Island. We had a solid 15+kn NE wind and we were sailing SE at a steady 12-14kn with all sails up. The leeward ama would completely submerge without any drama at all and after a while we stopped sheeting out when it happened and the boat powered through it. Every now and then the leeward aka would go under which unsurprisingly acted like a brake and the boat slowed down considerably but without any sort of twisting or skewing of our course. It was impressive.
Eventually we wizened up and pulled in a reef and dropped the jib. Sailing with the reefed main and the full gennaker was the setup we were looking for and we maintained our solid 12kn with very little ama submarining from that point forward. We saw the Coast Guard helicopter fly over a couple of times and figured someone was in trouble but we didn't know the extent of the issues.
Our exit from the Gulf was at Stump Pass, which is near Englewood, FL. The pass is known for being shallow and the channel runs from the SW to the NE. Given the NE winds, tacking through the small channel with breakers on both sides seemed sketchy. We chose an alternate route along the North side of the channel where they have a natural "swash channel" along the beach. Basically, go through the breakers and there is a small channel right along the beach. We went through less than 2' of water and the new rudder with the gas struts worked perfect and allowed us to maintain steerage while the rudder drug along the sandy bottom. We hit several more times inside the ICW with no drama as well. To be fair, the rudder paint shows signs of abuse but this was expected and a fair exchange for shallow water control.
We entered the checkpoint at Cape Haze Marina in 5th place overall behind 4 big cats. They were an ARC 22, Prindle 18, and a Tornado. They may have won the race on speed but we were way safer, drier, and more comfortable. Those guys had their hands full with the cats and we were literally just sailing along. When we were met at the dock, that is when we learned the race was "on hold" from the CG. After about 3 hours of waiting, we were told the race was off.
From there, a friend of mine has a beach house a few miles South so we decided to crash there for the night and resume our trip to Key Largo in the morning. We got underway around 9am and saw the Prindle that beat us into the checkpoint and we followed along with them for most of the day until the winds turned into our face and the forecast showed it wasn't going to change any time soon. We saw them on the beach and went ashore to meet them. They had decided there was no point sailing into the wind for the next couple of days when there was no longer a reason. We agreed and both turned around and started sailing back North. We basically camped and beach bar hopped our way up the coast. It was a ton of fun and the Astus was more or less a beach cat for the next couple of days.
We had no problems getting the boat on and off the beach. We couldn't pull up as far as the Prindle but with a front and stern anchor we could keep the boat on shore right where we wanted it. Every time we came ashore people would come take photos and seflies, ask questions, etc. One lady even came up to me and literally said "This is the most beautiful boat I have ever seen... you have completely made my day". Pretty cool.
The day before the race when all the boats were on the beach, I heard people mention that they had seen Vincent's boat at the Miami boat show so, from that perspective, you definitely got some good coverage there. We also had quite a crowd on hand watching us muscle the boat up above the high water mark. Even the guy that runs the event, Chief, came by and said with some disbelief "Are you going to get that boat up on to the beach?". I assured him that I did not know. When my race mate and I lifted the bow and put the first roller under and heard several comment on how impressive it was that it was light enough for us to move.