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Tampa-based boat wins in Key West Division 4


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001

KEY WEST -- After four days of unusually calm winds, the famous Key West breeze showed up Friday to close the largest Key West Race Week ever. Gordon Schiff's Tampa-based Mumm36 The Wall took advantage of 15-knot winds to win the closing race and lock up first place in PHRF Division4.

"Our goal today was to stay out of everybody's way," said O.H. Rodgers of Tampa, who was at the helm of the 6-year-old boat. "The best way to do that was to stay in front of everyone."

Boat owner Schiff said he was pleased with his team's steady performance as it finished no lower than third in each of the eight races except Thursday morning (seventh).

"We had one bad race but it raised our concentration and we dialed back in," Schiff said. "We sailed our best tactical race (Friday)."

The crew went on to win the second race Thursday and Friday's race to take the division by six points.

In the 37-boat, one-design Farr40 Class, the international crew of George Andreadis' Greek-based Atalanti XI, including St. Petersburg's Ethan Bixby, went to dinner Thursday thinking they had a narrow lead.

They later discovered that Pegasus led by six points, having been reinstated after appealing a disqualification. In the seconds before the start of the final race Friday, Atalanti XI had to spin away from the starting line and restart slightly behind the leaders.

Finding clear air and better speed, Atalanti XI rounded the first mark with the lead, which it never relinquished. When Pegasus dropped to ninth, the class belonged to Andreadis for the second straight year.

"We just knew we had to win," Bixby said about the final race. "We had to take care of our own business and not worry about Pegasus. The start was a split-second decision you have to make and thankfully we made the right one. This win is huge; it's an important regatta and to come back and win was good."

Jeff Gale's Bahamas-based B32 Abbey Normal, with Sarasota's Doug Fisher calling tactics, closed out with a second-place finish to win the PHRF Division6 by one point. The team never finished lower than second but took a 40 percent scoring penalty in the fourth race for a right-of-way infraction with another boat.

In one of the most unusual circumstances at this or any other regatta, Michael Carroll's Clearwater-based Henderson30 team aboard New Wave swapped boats with the leader in the PHRF Division3.

Tiburon, a modified Melges30 from New Orleans, had won six of seven races with New Wave trailing it in all but one. After a protest by Carroll contesting Tiburon's racing rating, both owners agreed to trade boats for the final race.

St. Petersburg's Marty Kullman helmed the Melges30 to a five-minute win over New Wave, which was fourth for the day and second overall.

Other bay area boats competing included Frank McCarthy's Gang of Four, 34th in the 59-boat Melges24 fleet; Jack Vines' Antrim27 Rasta Dog, seventh in PHRF6; Jack Cavalier's C & C40 Creola, third in PHRF8; Richard Gress' O'Day40 Mother Ocean, seventh in PHRF8; Joe Blouin's Storyville, 18th in 1D35; and Allen Thomas' J/120 Solar Express, ninth in PHRF5.

In the event's 14th year, 327 boats from 15 countries competed in 18 divisions. Many of the boats will be at the Southern Ocean Racing Conference Feb. 28 to March4 in Miami.

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