Do you skirt along the outside of the kelp, or try to stay inside?
It seems to me that a paddle vessel would have the advantage going thru kelp?
My first race was offshore near Dana Point and one of my first mistakes was to take the short cut through the kelp area. The problem: you can't see far enough to plot an effective strategy; I got got boxed in and lost about 1/4 mile against the pack before recovering outside the kelp zone; it could have been worse.
On the Bay 2 Bay race I run the short (less than 5 mile) version. Since it is run entirely inside the bay, the only kelp is loose and random -- you just dodge it. You can still pick up loose stuff though (especially sea grass), so sometimes it's worthwhile to pull the Drive briefly to clear it.
Also can you tell me the first and last elapse times are for a Hobie?
Your speed depends on several factors -- tide, wind and water conditions and what boat model you're in. In the Adventures and Oasis tandems we're typically running 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 MPH at this distance, so the race lasts somewhere between 40 minutes and 1 hour after all factors are added up. Some folks take their time and just do it for fun -- they might spend 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hour start to finish.
What training do you do for this? I just want to finish the first time I try.
Practice at or near the course length if possible to learn what to expect and how to best pace yourself.
Whether your goal is to win or just finish, it's a lot of fun. You gain experience that improves your general boating skills, and you're in great company!