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Racing on the wind

The Melges 24 class utilizes huge spinnaker sails. This is one of the most popular classes at the NOOD series stop on Tampa Bay.

Published February 13, 2004

A racing series that takes top sailors around the country starts its season today on Tampa Bay.

The 2004 Sailing World National Offshore One Design Regatta series, better known as the NOOD, has been a favorite among smaller keelboat sailing classes for 17 years. In a search for warm weather and the promise of good breezes in February, the nine-regatta series begins at St. Petersburg Yacht Club and includes stops in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York, Annapolis and Toronto.

Racers come from around the world, with roughly half from Florida and half from outside the state. Last year teams from 21 states, Canada, Ireland and Germany competed at the St. Petersburg NOOD regatta. This year there are more than 180 entrants, a record for the local event that started in 1998.

The NOOD series' popularity comes largely from its format. Rather than boats starting together regardless of type, and handicaps applied attempting to produce a winner, this regatta gives each class, with six or more registered, its own start. Boats must be roughly between 20 and 35 feet in length and be capable of sailing in at least nearshore, if not offshore, conditions.

Boats range from the Ultimate 20 sport boat, with 15 boats preregistered, to the Henderson 30 and the Tarten 10.

The Melges 24 was the largest class last year and is set to be again. Local racers include St. Petersburg's John Jennings, a multiclass champ. Scot and Steve Liebel of Sarasota won the hotly contested class last year, finishing out of the top three in only one race.

The venerable J-24 again has a large number of entrants, many coming from the bay area. The competition is close, with most of the racers familiar with class members' style and speed.

The Hobie 33, Tarten 10 and Ultimate 20 are using the NOOD regatta for their Midwinter Championships, and the Wavelength 24 class calls this its National Championship.

Michael Carroll of Tampa has dominated the Henderson 30 sport-boat class the past couple years. Last year Carroll swept the NOOD season in the Henderson 30 class, also winning in Annapolis, Maryland and Larchmont.

Josh Wilus of St. Petersburg took the SR-Max class in 2003 with a nearly perfect record, with one second place among his wins in the six races. These 21-footers are the most dinghy-like among the classes. A lifting keel with enough weight to self-right the boats qualifies the class for inclusion.

The Corsair 28-R trimarans are potentially the fastest. Interesting situations occur when a trimaran over 14 feet wide converges on a turning mark at twice the speed of a fleet of Sonars. The sailboat racing rules are published to address potential collision threats, but different classes going around a course sometimes stress the rules.

[Last modified February 13, 2004, 01:45:34]

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