The Cape 2 Cape Crossing is a grueling 14mile + race from Cape Charles Virginia to Virginia Beach. Paddlers face brutal currents and open ocean conditions as they paddle across the mouth of the largest estuary in the United States.
Cape 2 Cape Crossing: Race recap by prone paddler, Alice Henley
“The true race does not even begin until the last few miles when the tide and current are really deceiving.” – Alice Henley
The 2017 Cape 2 Cape Crossing presented by Solace Sup was held Saturday September 23, 2017 with beautiful weather and fair conditions. The crossing begins at Sunset Beach in Cape Charles VA and crosses the Cheasapeake Bay at its mouth and finishes at First Landing State Park Beach in Virginia Beach, VA. It is a distance of over 14.5 miles of rough, open water crossing. Paddlers must complete the course in less than 4 hours.
Cape Charles to Virgina Beach: Cape 2 Cape Crossing not for the feint of heart
On Saturday, twenty-seven paddlers of divisions including OC1, prone, stand up paddle, and surfski embarked on the crossing from Cape Charles to Cape Henry/Virginia Beach First Landing with an approximate race distance of 14.5 miles, depending on the line taken. Originally, the crossing was set up to take place on either Saturday or Sunday for best conditions allowing for a downwind race.
“You essentially stop making progress. Land is just a mean trick. No landmark ever gets closer.”
Most racers ended up with more mileage than planned. I, myself, went over 16 miles. The true race does not even begin until the last few miles when the tide and current are really deceiving. I felt that I was still with the current, but perhaps the tide is what made it so tricky. Just to give readers an idea, I was averaging 11-12 minute miles for the first 12 miles of the race, slowed to 13-14 range, then the last two miles I averaged 26, and then nearly 40 min per mile! You essentially stop making progress. Land is just a mean trick. No landmark ever gets closer.
Eat a light breakfast: Cape 2 Cape Crossing 2017
This was truly a battle for me. Even after having completed the Graveyard Elite race in Carolina Cup, Key West numerous times, and even Molokai to Oahu this summer, the Cape 2 Cape Crossing takes the cake in brutality.
“The day produced a decent groundswell which fed my seasickness well.”
My biggest issue was seasickness. If you have ever been so unfortunate to experience such a thing during a paddle race, you know it will bring the strongest-willed person to their knees (or belly in my case-which is not how I like to prone)!
Cape 2 Cape Crossing: an extreme mental challenge
In addition, the Cape 2 Cape was extremely challenging mentally. I had anticipated being done in a certain amount of time based on distance and had estimated about how long that distance usually takes me. Around Mile-12, I started realizing I needed to ration my liquids, and that I was going to be in real trouble soon.
“The Cape 2 Cape Crossing takes the cake in brutality.”
This was technically challenging race to navigate, even if you were not consumed by nausea, physical fatigue, or other ailments. A true watermans’ race, the Cape 2 Cape Crossing requires expert skill in reading the water and currents. Even with my background in ocean rescue, I miscalculated some of my lines. I regret, now, not following my instincts. Due to my inexperience of the course, I found myself listening to others or trying to sight other racers. It was exceptionally challenging to sight from a prone board mid-channel within the swell.
Swells challenging for paddlers to find shortest lines to distant shore
The day produced a decent groundswell which fed my seasickness well. On occasion, I would sight what I thought was a stand up paddle racer, aim for them for a long time, only to realize what I saw was a piling.
“This is a technical, dynamic course with the flux of the Chesapeake Bay meeting the Atlantic Ocean.”
The back and forth was devastating to my line and cost me significant time and mileage. But, I know I am not the only one. Many of my fellow competitors ended up tracking too far east, fighting the tides, the current, and riding parallel for too long. This parallel line caused us all to experience a great deal of side chop and instability. Needless to say, this is a technical, dynamic course with the flux of the Chesapeake Bay meeting the Atlantic Ocean.
Final thoughts: Do your homework
To add to my struggles mid-race, I am sure I encountered at least one shark. I was told by some folks later that it was dolphin. But, the fisherman in the area confirmed it was definitely a shark.
Let’s just say after staring at water for 8-12 hours a day as an ocean rescue guard, I know a shark when I see one! I wish it had been dolphin! Mentally, at that point, I was truly struggling and feeling very alone. I wish to convey to any future prospective racers not to fear, but to be prepared for the course and wholly self-reliant.
Do your training. Do your own homework on the course. Know your landmarks. Bring more water than you think you need, and Godspeed!
By, Alice Henley
Standup Journal online contributor
Prone Racer and all around bad a*s woman.
24 of 27 racers finished
Top ski: Nate Humbertson
Top prone UL: Jonny Skolnick
Top Sup 12: Mary Howser
Top Sup 14: Bill Kraft
Top Sup UL: Brian Crist
Top female stock prone: Alice Henley
Top male stock prone: Josh Humbertson
Top OC1: Luke Rhodes