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Disabled sailing event draws top competitors
By DAVE ELLIS, Sailing
Published December 12, 2007
The Americas Regatta was originally the brainchild of Gene Hinkle a decade ago to raise the level of disabled sailing by including able-bodied sailors in the event.
Today, the Paralympic level of racing is high indeed
St. Petersburg Yacht Club's race officer Bob Johnson and his team hosted all three of the Paralympic classes that will compete in the 2008 Beijing Games. There was a nice breeze on the first day of racing, Nov. 29, but it diminished to a drifter the last race, Dec. 2.
Most of the top Paralympic sailors were competing. The skill level has reached parity with all sailors in each class, so more teams are comprised totally of persons who qualify for the Paralympics. Those who sailed with their regular crew had the advantage over those who filled in with a local able bodied crew due to the teamwork involved at this level of racing.
The 23-foot sonar with three crew members included four of the teams that competed in the Olympic Trials in Newport, R.I. Rick Doerr won those trials after a contested protest relegated Coral Gables resident Paul Callahan to second place.
This regatta saw these two boats close on points until the final race, in which Doerr placed first and Callahan took last in very light air. Doerr had his Olympic crew, while Callahan used a fill-in crew for the front of the boat.
Surprising all of them was Albert Foster of Wayzata, Minn., and his crew, who won the class. He has benefited from extensive coaching over the summer.
The diminutive 2.4 meters saw the nine boats dominated by Stellan Berlin of Sweden. These boats sailed the same windward-leeward course configuration, but with the windward buoy set shorter than the other two classes.
The SKUD 18 class had only two boats, both from Victoria, British Columbia. Nick Scandone of California won the U.S. trials so convincingly that the few boats of this type in the country have stopped traveling. It remains to be seen whether this boat will be an Olympic class beyond 2008.
David Cook, previously a sonar competitor, won the class at this event.
Longtime volunteer Linda Merkle from Atlanta presented St. Petersburg sailor Jen French with the Gruson-Milam trophy as the top female skipper. The trophy is named for Kerry Gruson, a reporter for UPI who was severely injured by a Vietnam vet whom she was interviewing, and for Merkle's mother, who also supported disabled sailing.
For complete results, head to www.spyc.org.
ST. PETERSBURG SAILING ASSOCIATION: The monthly race was held Saturday in wind that died as the day progressed. Only one of the two scheduled races could be held, and none of the cruising class managed to finish in the dying breeze.
Doug Scott and crew sailing Mystere, an Olson 30, won the spinnaker 1 class, David Barber on Amanda, a Morgan 24, won the spinnaker 2, and Larry McCabe on Pied Piper, a Merit 25, won the non spinnaker.
GREEN BENCH REGATTA: The J/24 continues its resurgence on Tampa Bay for an event jokingly named after St. Petersburg's former defining fixture. Brian and Kat Malone along with Jeff DuVal won three of the five races to lead the 10 boats in light air.
HIGH SCHOOL RACING: Youth sailing among high schools is one of the fastest-growing aspects of sailing. Florida schools have a South Points series during the school year.
South Points No. 2, held at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center, was won by Tampa's Plant junior varsity sailors Ian Heasler, Claire Abberger, Sam Rubin, Mackie Spencer and Andrew Larenzen. Fourteen high school teams came from as far away as Miami.
OPTIMIST DINGHY RACING: St. Petersburg Yacht Club junior sailor Kathryn Booker, 14, is the only area optimist dinghy sailor to qualify for overseas events this spring. She qualified with her good result at the Atlantic Coast Optimist Championship at Norfolk, Va. She will be attending an Easter regatta in Holland.
ED BAIRD FETE: Named world sailor of the year by the International Sailing Federation for helming the winning America's Cup yacht, Ed Baird will be honored at the St. Petersburg City Hall on Jan. 13 at 2:30 p.m.