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Annual expo enjoys smooth sailing

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

Sail Expo St.Pete was a rousing success for exhibitors and the sport.

Attendance increased 2 percent from last year, space sales were up 9 percent and the number of exhibitors climbed by 20 percent to 182.

The weather was comfortable for participants, albeit with mostly light air for those sailing boats.

Discover Sail had 10 craft 26-46 feet giving free rides. Yacht brokers, charter companies and a sailing school supplied the boats and captains.

It was a record year for rides, with some of the vessels traveling on and off the dock non-stop the entire show.

Catalina Yachts, including local dealer Ed Massey, won the Best of Show award for in-the-water displays. The yellow uniform shirts made it easy for potential clients to pick out the sales folk from the old salt looking at boats.

Some real bargains could be found, such as the $20 new wet suits draped over a bench at the Tackle Shack display.

COLLEGE: Genoa Griffin, a member of the women's and coed teams at USF, was third in rankings released Nov.18.

She was topped only by sailors from Yale and Old Dominion.

Third-year coach Stephanie Doyle, a product of the St.Petersburg Sailing Center program, called Griffin "a leader on and off the water" and "an excellent role model."

"You can always count on her doing the right thing, even if it means losing a race," Doyle said.

When team members missed a buoy in a regatta last year, Doyle and Griffin reported the breach to judges even though the squad would be disqualified.

Griffin is a senior business major from Tampa.

USF sails out of the St.Petersburg campus in Bayboro Harbor. The women's team is ranked eighth among about 200 squads nationwide.

SNIPE STATES: On the same weekend as Sail Expo, the Snipes competed in the Florida States.

Saturday brought shifty conditions.

"About as shifty as I've seen on the bay," said John Jennings, who has been sailing about 50 years.

"If you think it is difficult sailing in these conditions, try setting up and managing the course as a race official with 60-90 degree shifts," he said.

Augie Diaz and crew John Kehoe mastered the shifts, winning three of the five races and placing second and third in the others. Diaz is on a roll in the Snipe class and other divisions, capturing victories in a number of events.

St.Petersburg's Colin and Karen Park finished third. Trudy Bixby figured out the conditions well enough to take fifth in the 27-boat event.

Jennings sailed Ethan Bixby's vessel, and Bixby manned the North Sails booth at the boat show.

For results, go online to

THANKSGIVING DAY REGATTA: The annual event at Davis Island has been a fixture for small boat sailors.

In the late 1950s and early '60s, the regatta always seemed to be a gear-buster.

"It's a Davis Island day," came to mean really windy. Of late, lighter air has been the norm.

As many as 71 Optimist dinghies, including 47 new Green Fleet sailors, enjoyed the competition and club.

St.Petersburg's Matthew Hood won in the Green fleet.

The combined red, white and blue fleets had Robert Vann finishing as the leader. Samuel Blouin and Taylor Vann were third and fourth, respectively. All three are from the Davis Island team.

Jan Wallace of St.Petersburg placed sixth.

Eighty-one dinghies sailed farther out on the bay, a similar number that was in the regatta 40 years ago.

Many of the classes are the same today. The big difference perhaps is the coalescing into one-design divisions.

The Portsmouth Handicap class was a big one years ago, with boats from Moths to Suicides to Luders 16s racing together. This season saw only two vessels in the division, with Patrick Crump's Fireball winning.

The venerable Sunfish, with 22 competitors, arguably was the best class, other than the Opti. Ed Adams, J. Liebel and Pete Merrifield are top sailors in any division.

It is a tribute to the local Sunfish fleet that it can attract the best talent.

For results, go online to

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