By Bill Wagner
Months of planning and preparation were close to culminating with a great week of sailing as Catharine Evans began driving to Key West last week.
The Annapolis resident spent considerable time and effort getting ready to race her J/70 at Quantum Key West 2014 and had successfully trailered the boat from Maryland to Florida. Evans took a side trip to Tampa to compete in a warm-up regatta hosted by Davis Island Yacht Club.
En route from Tampa to Key West, Evans stopped in Naples to visit a friend and stayed overnight. She was in for quite a shock the next morning.
Returning to the parking lot where she had left the boat and trailer, Evans discovered the J/70 had been thoroughly burglarized. Thieves had cut the lock that protected the 23-foot sport-boat and had pretty much stripped it bare.
“It was absolutely devastating. I was in tears,” Evans said. “I’m not a weepy type of person, but I just could not believe this had happened. It was like some sort of nightmare.”
Among the items taken were the engine, three spinnakers, the running and standing rigging, tools, a dehumidifier and the Navitech. About all that was left was the mast, boom and rudder. “I was completely wiped out. I just sat there thinking that everything I had done to get ready for Key West was now wasted,” she said.
While waiting for Naples police to process the crime scene by lifting fingerprints and such, Evans called her agent with Nationwide Insurance. Former North Sails professional Matt Beck now works with the Boudreau Agency that specializes in marine insurance.
Beck reassured Evans that Nationwide would cover the loss and encouraged her to not give up on doing the regatta. Beck then helped Evans put the pieces back together by calling the companies that would be needed to replace the gear and equipment that was stolen.
“I was ready to just drive back to Annapolis, but Matt convinced me that I could still pull this off,” she said.
Remarkably, Evans was able to rebuild due largely to the kindness and generosity of people associated with the J/70 class. Ned Jones of J/Boats provided new rigging while Allan Terhune of North Sails brought some new spinnakers with him to Key West. Atlantic Rigging replaced the tools while Annapolis Performance Sailing provided new instruments and equipment.
Arriving at Truman Annex in Key West, Evans then had to deal with the monumental task of re-rigging the boat and otherwise getting it prepared for racing. Other J/70 sailors on site, who had heard of their classmate’s plight, pitched in and helped set up the boat.
“The fact that I am here in Key West and able to sail three days after having my boat totally ripped off is just amazing,” Evans said. “I am just so thankful to everyone who came together and helped me go sailing. This gives me a new appreciation for the people in the J/70 class.”
A truly terrible story had a happy ending on Sunday when Evans launched Mojito, hoisted the sails and went out on the water to practice along with crew members Ian Gordon and Shane Zwingleberg.
“They could steal all her stuff, but they couldn’t steal her spirit,” Gordon said when asked about Evans’ determination to still compete at Quantum Key West 2014.