It is an annual rite of spring for local boaters. Just as they have for the previous 57 years, hundreds of sailors will ply the waters of Mobile Bay this weekend for the Dauphin Island Race.
Best known as the largest one-day point-to-point regatta in the United States, the competition will also be remembered for the tragic storm that struck the fleet last year. Several hours after approximately 125 boats started under nonthreatening skies, a severe thunderstorm swept in from the west.
Hurricane-force winds produced 8-foot swells, sinking several vessels and tossing many competitors into the water. Including a fisherman who was caught in the storm, six people lost their lives that day.
Because the weather last year caught everyone by surprise, the 2016 race committee has decided to add more safety standards than ever before. One of the most interesting is a free smartphone application called “RaceQs.”
“With every boat having this app, it will allow the race committee to track the fleet as they progress down the bay,” Josh Murray, race chairman, said. “Each individual boat will have a tracker on it. Should there be any problems, we will have their last known location.”
Murray, who is also the rear commodore for the hosting Mobile Yacht Club, said tracking devices have become standard for long-distance events like the Pensacola to Isla Mujeras race. While those devices relied on satellite coordination, the RaceQs application utilizes cell towers.
“There is no additional cost to the sailors,” Murray said. “And a great part about it is that we can show the playback of the race course on a TV that night. It should prove to be an asset for all sailors to move the sport forward.”
Another new requirement this year is that a crew list be provided for each boat. Contact information for all competitors will now be available to the race committee.
Murray said sailors are being given the link to the National Weather Service website. Should an alert be issued, the crews would know at the same time as the race committee. Murray said that, as in the past, all warnings would also be issued over VHF radio.
“We plan to honor the sailors who we lost last year, but we have to move forward,” Murray said. “Our mission is to do what we can to ensure this race is as safe as possible.”
Activities begin Friday night with a dinner and a skippers’ meeting. Monsignor Warren Wall will provide a prayer in remembrance of those who died.
Murray said he expects at least 100 boats to enter the 17-mile race, which begins at the top of Mobile Bay, rounds the Middle Bay Lighthouse and then heads to Dauphin Island. Division 1 is set to begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m., while Divisions 2 and 3 will follow 15 minutes later.
The welcoming party on Dauphin Island will begin at 3 p.m., with the trophy presentation slated for 7:30 p.m. Return races on Sunday conclude the weekend action at 10 a.m. For more details, visit www.58thDauphinIslandRace.com.
Students to help fund heart tests
The exploits of the nonprofit Heart For Athletes group have been heralded in this column before. The group has two main goals: identify athletes, ages 13 to 18, who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest; and make sure people are aware of the signs of SCA and receive instructions on how to respond.
Amy Cockrell helped to begin the program after her son, Sam, suffered a SCA at the age of 16, when the competitive triathlete was struck while swimming in a pool. Dr. Aaron Morgan, a family medicine resident at the University of South Alabama, was present and quickly analyzed the situation.
Heart For Athletes began offering the free electrocardiogram and echocardiogram tests in 2014. The next screenings will take place in Mobile on Tuesday, April 26, 1-5 p.m. at the Alabama School of Math and Science, and Thursday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at LeFlore High School.
But while there is no cost to the young athletes, money is still required to conduct the tests. It costs about $15 for each student. That is where a group of physician assistant students at USA come in.
“Every year, the PA program puts on a fundraising event,” said Angela Martinsen, a student in the Class of 2017. “We discussed a lot of local organizations, but we were really struck by what HFA does in Mobile and Baldwin counties.”
Dr. Lynn Batten, director of the pediatric cardiology unit at USA, spoke to their class about sudden cardiac arrest and all were touched by the HFA story.
The For Heart’s Sake silent auction and benefit will be Thursday, May 5, 5-8 p.m. at Red or White Wine & Gourmet Center at 1104 Dauphin St. in Mobile. The $25 ticket includes music, two beverages and appetizers. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.squareup.com/store/USA-PA-17.
“We will have a lot of great auction items,” Martinsen said. “C.J. Mosley [NFL player from Theodore] has signed a football for us, and we have a weekend in a Gulf Shores condo. It will be great and all proceeds will benefit the program.
“Our main goal is to help athletes and to educate the community on symptoms. Amy’s group has identified three students with heart problems who could have gone undetected without these screenings. There are a lot of other athletes out there not getting tested, so we are happy to do what we can to help through this fundraiser.”
Rodeo coming to Mobile
The Southeastern Rodeo Association Black Rodeo will take place Saturday, April 23, at the Mobile Civic Center. The doors open at 6 p.m., with the action getting underway at 7:30.
Professional cowboys will compete for $7,250 in categories such as bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, calf roping, team roping and barrel racing. There are also events for cowgirls (barrel racing, steer undecorating), as well as juniors (barrel racing).
The association is committed to upholding the contributions of African-American cowboys in taming the Wild West. Tickets can be purchased at the Civic Center box office (251-208-7381) or through www.ticketmaster.com (800-745-3000). For more information on the event, visit www.serodeo.com.