Tiebreaker decides regatta

Published March 4, 2006

Greg Fisher of Annapolis won the annual Thistle class Midwinter regatta Friday. The event, which began Feb. 25, has been a fixture at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club for 50 years, drawing sailors nationwide.

"We tried real hard to mess things up in the last race," Fisher said. "We got an awful start and then were forced to go the wrong way on the first leg of the course."

Fisher, with crew Jeff Eiber and Sarah Paisley, needed to pass one boat nearing the end of the race. They squeaked by Eric Gesner to finish ninth in that heat and tie for the regatta honors. With five firsts in eight races they won the tiebreaker over Scott Griffin of South Carolina and crew Paul Abdullah and Nicole Finefrock.

Greg Griffin of Jacksonville, with crew Mark Reddaway and Dave DeCamp, were third. Robby Brown of St. Petersburg, with Karl Bradley and Pam Mercer, were fourth. Gesner, with crew Judy Gesner and Joe Kaukeinen, finished fifth among the 50 competing boats.

For the first three races the fleet was divided in half randomly by computer. A trapezoid race course allowed two starts. Each fleet was scored separately. The configuration proved difficult to manage in the fickle breeze of Tampa Bay.

"Sometimes the wind would change on one side of the trapezoid and not the other," race chairwoman Carole Bardes said. "It was a challenge to get it right."

For the remainder of the event, the fleet sailed together on conventional race courses.

The 17-foot Thistle is a popular open dinghy with a powerful mainsail, jib and spinnaker. It is one of the standard boats by which other sailboat's speed is judged for handicap purposes.

Chris Klotz of St. Petersburg sails the original Thistle No.1, originally owned by his dad. He competed in two of the races to show that the half-century-old molded wood craft can still sail fast.