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Area sailors snare more hardware

Published August 23, 2006

Tampa Bay area sailors have won four major sailing events this month, reinforcing the area's reputation for producing high-quality competitors.

Mitch Hall of Seminole won the George O'Day trophy, given to the US Sailing men's single-handed champion. The event was sailed in Milwaukee in Lasers with top sailors from colleges, Olympic classes and all areas of the country. Hall represented high school sailing, the youngest category. He was near the leaders for most of the series and came on strong in the final races to win. Second, representing college sailing, was Chris Branning of Sarasota.

Hall will be a freshman at USF this fall and has been practicing with the sailing team all summer. USF coach Allison Jolly is delighted to have him on the team in a rebuilding year.

The US Sailing Three-person National Junior Championship, called the Sears Cup, was won by area sailors Fred Strammer and Zeke Horowitz and South Florida sailor Katrina Salk. The team closely followed the San Diego boat in points until the final race. The plan was to drive the San Diego team back in the pack in the last race to sixth or worse and then try to place fourth or better themselves. It worked to perfection, as they placed third to San Diego's seventh in the final race.

The event was sailed from the Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, using Ultimate 20 boats with an asymmetrical spinnaker.

Strammer, Horowitz and Hall have benefited from expert training by St. Petersburg coach Ian Lineberger and others at Team FOR (Florida Oceanic Racing), based at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center and Sarasota.

Another Team FOR alumni, Kyle Rogachenko, now living in Pennsylvania, has won the 172-boat Laser Radial World championship, sailed in California. His coach was Brett Davis, now of Naples, who sailed Lasers from the St. Petersburg Sailing Center.

Mark Mendelblatt, 33, of St. Petersburg and his towering crew, professional sailor Mark Strube from West Palm Beach, first sailed together in New Zealand on the Americas Cup boat One World in 2003.

At the European Olympic Star Championship on the Baltic Sea near Hamburg, Germany, this month, they opened the regatta with three straight wins over the 93-boat fleet from 26 countries.

Wind direction was unstable and generally light. So light, in fact, that the last three days of the regatta were spent on the beach waiting for wind.

"It feels great, excellent," Mendelblatt said. "It has been a good European tour for us. We were loose and had no expectations, and I think that allowed us to sail as well as we did. Not to mention a bit of well-timed luck."

Mark's parents, Kathy and St. Petersburg eye doctor Frank Mendelblatt, said their son has only phoned home twice to report regatta results in the years since leaving the nest: Kiel Race Week and the Europeans this year.

The Olympic venue for 2008 is in an area of China known for light and variable breezes in August, the time of the Games. The European title in light air bodes well for Mendelblatt's future in the Olympic Star class.

Elsewhere: Ed Baird, who hails from St. Petersburg, is a skipper on the defending America's Cup boat. He and his family are living in Spain while training with the team. But he took time to race in the St. Moritz Match Race in Europe. He finished second to an Italian sailor. Third was Mendelblatt.

Roger Cleworth of Lithia sailed to victory in the 2.4 Meter class at Chicago's Independence Cup for disabled sailors. The 2.4 is sailed by one sailor. The Paralympic Games, also in China in 2008, includes the 2.4 meter, along with the 3-person Sonar and 2-up SKUD. Cleworth is part of the USA Paralympic team.

The Pre-Olympic regatta in China is ongoing. Local participants include Caroline Young, Evan Brown and Ben Barger of Tampa; Paige and Zach Railey of St. Petersburg; Brad Funk and Robbie Daniel of Clearwater.

Racing continues through August.

[Last modified August 22, 2006, 10:35:34]

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