The 2017 Catalina Classic was tough.
Pat Shaughnessy and Nick Franco arrived on Catalina Island the day before the race to light winds and sunny skies. Both paddlers were coming off a successful Molokai crossing and were in top shape both mentally and physically. Everything was lining up just right. Their escort boats showed up early with no problems and some of the most reliable captains and crews around. Their 18’6” UL Flatwater boards were ready for the next morning and after the usual tinkering and an early dinner, they retired to their campsite with 4am alarms set.
The boys were awoken sometime in the middle of the night by their drunk neighbors returning from the bar so they were up in plenty of time before the start. As they gathered along with all of the other paddlers at the starting line, they noticed a thick fog bank and a stronger than expected wind. Conditions were not as expected.
Two Harbors Cove was packed full of moored weekender boats and as the 10 second countdown finished over the mega phone, 103 paddlers sprinted off the beach and threaded their way out through the moorings and out into the channel. Pat and Nick got out to a great start. Pat led Team Shearwater in 4th place while Nick was close behind in 6th. The conditions deteriorated quickly the further the paddlers got away from the island. After about 5 miles they were greeted with a Westerly side wind and a head on current which made the paddling slow significantly. For the remaining 27 miles, the boys fought as best they could through some really tough conditions and managed some very respectable finishes. Pat Shaughnessy finished 10th overall in a time of 6:37:20 (his massive improvement over the past 3 years is remarkable; 2015-43rd, 2016-17th, 2017-10th). Nick Franco finished 12th just behind his teammate in a time of 6:39:33. Manhattan Beach never looked so good.
Of the 103 paddlers, 88 finished. The times were slower than previous years, but everyone was so stoked to have finished and so ready for the pizza and burritos that were waiting on the beach alongside the many friends and family who showed up in support.
Congratulations to Max First (Bark) who won the Catalina Classic for the 3rd year in a row and to all the other paddlers who made it across the channel. Huge thank you’s go out to Nicholai Lidow and his mom Janet and 2nd mom Estela for letting us stay in their beautiful home. Thank you to the Francos, Brad and Laurie Johnson and Lans Crawford of the Pocket Knife, Don Souther and his wife and Jo Ambrosi of the No Way, Matt Smart, Keoni Watson, Marc Rocheleau and all of the people who helped to put on such an amazing event. We’ll see you next year Catalina!