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Florida's shift in season brings change in sailing

Published May 30, 2007


It is the time of year when residents in most parts of the country put their boats back in the water after a long winter.

But in Florida, our sailing season is upside-down.

When the water temperature approaches 85 degrees, the sea breeze has no reason to blow except close to the beaches. The summer brings little wind except in the thunderstorms that often blow through in the afternoon.

Florida's ambient easterly wind because of the Bermuda High - and the stronger sea breeze on the east coast with its cooler, deep water - pushes the thunderstorms west, though not as regularly as years ago.

Cruising is still pleasant, especially in the morning. Tampa Bay has many delightful destinations for sailors. Most boats have an auxiliary engine at the ready for the noontime calm.

Racing goes on all summer in the evenings at area clubs.

Davis Island Yacht Club sails starting at 6:30 each Thursday. All types of sailboats from windsurfers to huge keelboats have a start in a jaunt around club buoys in the upper bay. A few core race committee members depend on volunteers throughout the period of daylight saving time. It is not unusual to have 50 boats enjoying the low-key racing. For information, go to

St. Petersburg Yacht Club keelboat racing takes place starting at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays, usually near the Municipal Pier. A course around nearby marks gets sailors back to the dock by dark. All that is needed is a West Florida PHRF handicap for your boat. If you don't know what that is, just ask the sailors on the race committee boat on station before the start. Details can be found at

St. Petersburg Sailing Association races keelboats off the Pier once a month. Their Web site is

COUPLE'S RACE: The annual SPSA Couple's Race was run in light, shifty air with more than a hint of smoke from the fires to the north.

Soon after the start of the race, the wind changed, making the course to the "J" range a broad reach at first, then a dead run. Only the final leg of the race was a beat to windward, although mostly on starboard tack.

Because all the boats had only two people aboard, there were no complaints about not having to tack often. Enough trouble was had for those boats with spinnakers, handling that sail with one couple aboard.

The Spinnaker class winner was Cakewalk with Josh Wilus and Beth Bonifant sailing, followed by Stephanie and Kai Cox on Free Range Lobster and Tack Tick, sailed by Mike Siedlecki and Angela Henderson.

Non Spinnaker leaders were Ranier and Jonie Blomberg on Back Off, followed by Ragg Doll, sailed by Adele and Steve West-Fisher, and Mary and Peter Wells on Sazerac.

"We are not divorcing, and Mary said she loved it, so we will be back, " Wells said.

KIDS RACING: Lauderdale Yacht Club hosted the second annual Florida State Optimist Team Racing Championship.

Fifteen teams competed in 133 races over two days. Team Puerto Rico defeated Clearwater's Team FOR-B 2 races to 1. Team FOR-B and FOR-A led until the finals.

Team FOR placed third in the XXI Trofeo Marco Rizzotti International Optimist Class Team Race in mid May in Venice, Italy. Team FOR sailors were Mary Hall, Michael Booker, Dodge Rees, Michael Popp and Michael Zonnenberg.

Twenty teams from five continents - including eight world teams and four national teams - competed. The LISOT team representing the United States won, with the Italian world team finishing second.

LASER MASTERS: Laser sailors from 35 to 70 years old raced at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., for the U.S. title. There were 68 boats from throughout the United States and Caribbean.

Dave Fagen, who grew up in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club sailing program, took time from being stationed in Norfolk to race to seventh place, second in his age group.

Tim Landt of Tierra Verde finished 12th overall in the hot fleet.

St. Petersburg sailor Dave Ellis placed third in the Grand Master age group.

[Last modified May 30, 2007, 07:02:43]

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