Youth sailors flock to Orange Bowl

Published January 10, 2007

Year's end has long seen a migration of young sailors to Miami's Biscayne Bay. The Orange Bowl Junior Regatta is now the largest sailing event in the country, surpassed in number of boats only by the Citrus Sailfest of the late 1980s.

The newest sailors compete in Optimist Dinghies in their own group, designated as Green Fleet. It is supposed to be only for those who just learned to sail. The winner from Miami sailed in Green Fleet last year, so the rules were a bit lax. St. Petersburg Yacht Club's new sailor, Zach Lynch, was among the 69 Green Fleeters. Also competing was Davis Island Yacht Club sailor Marcus Darcy.

The Optimist Dinghy fleet, including kids up to age 15, had 183 boats. From SPYC sailing were Georgia Hardage, Rachel Hardage, Kathryn Booker and Drew King; from Clearwater's Team FOR, Mike Zonnenberg, Michael Popp, Dodge Rees, Michael Booker, Teal Strammer and Frank Cash; from Davis Island Yacht Club, Cameron Purton, Kevin Holmberg, Courtney Lehan, Rebekah Schiff and Samantha Purton; from Clearwater Yacht Club, Esteban Forrer.

The Laser's smallest sail is the 4.7, for those who have grown out of the Optimist Dinghy but are still lightweights. Caroline Wallace from SPYC along with Clearwater Yacht Club's Sara and Jennifer Burke sailed in the 27-boat fleet.

The 420 is the only boat in the regatta that takes two people. SPYC sent Andrew Jones, who sailed with Margaret Spears, Jamie Curran and crew Kelley Simpson and Mallory Willet along with Becca Holly.

The Laser Radial class had 127 boats. The popularity of this mid-sized sail and rig soared when it became the women's single-handed Olympic boat. In this youth regatta, boys and girls sailed the Radial Rig together in one fleet. Davis Island Yacht Club's Ian Heausler placed 11th and Sam Blouin 14th; Mateo Vargas from St. Petersburg Yacht Club was 15th while teammate John Wallace was 16th. Emily Billing of Clearwater Yacht Club placed 18th.

Also competing in the Radial fleet was SPYC sailor Matthew Minkoff and Clearwater Yacht Club's Stephen Lue, Justin and Cullen Ahearn.

The Olympic Laser, with 38 boats, had tough competition at the top of the fleet. It came down to the last race. Kyle Rogachenko, who trained with Team FOR before moving with his parents to Pennsylvania, Zack Marks of St. Petersburg Yacht Club and Fred Strammer, who comes up from Nokomis to train with Team FOR in Clearwater, each had a chance at the honors.

Strammer led all the way and finished with a big margin over the next boat. But there was no welcoming signal at his finish. He had jumped the starting gun. So had Rogachenko, who still kept enough points for the win. Marks was second and Strammer third overall.

MORE AHEAD: The Southeast Team Racing event will be at SPYC Jan. 20-21 and the popular Valentine's Day Regatta on Feb. 10-11. Sailing lessons are available from St. Petersburg Sailing Center 727-896-8101, e-mail coaches@spyc.org Clearwater Community Sailing Center 727 517-7776 http://clearwatercommunitysailing.org; or Davis Island Yacht Club, 813-251-1158, diyc.org.