By DORAN CUSHING
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001
More than 155 Laser sailors from the United States, Canada, and Europe came to Clearwater Feb. 15-18 for four days of racing in the Gulf of Mexico.
It wasn't planned as an endurance event, but with building breezes out of the west propelling waves across the shallow gulf waters and with the race committee determined to give the sailors their money's worth, stamina and skill went hand in hand.
Brett Davis of Clearwater handled the light air conditions on the first day and the bigger breezes and waves on the closing days to wrap a six-point margin win Canadian Nathaniel Soffelsma after a dozen races.
Zach Railey of Clearwater outclassed a strong junior contingent to dominate the high school racers. He finished eighth, more than 60 points ahead of his nearest rival, Clay Johnson of Toms River, N.J.. The win for Railey qualified him for a spot at the ISAF Youth Word Championships at Crozon-Morgat, France, in July.
Brad Funk of Clearwater finished 18th in the 98-boat Laser Class.
The multiclass event included 46 boats in the Laser Radial Class with Charles Fulmer of Clearwater finishing second and Andrew Perry of Sarasota taking third. The Laser Radial used the same hull as the full rig Laser but with smaller sails, which allows younger and smaller sailors to handle the boats.
Competing against racers 50 years younger, Sunfish senior sailor Dick Tillman finished ninth and was top Grand Master racer.
The 14-team double-handed Laser 2 fleet was made up primarily of Canadian youths who were using this event as the qualifier for the Youth Worlds.
Trevor McEwen and Andrew Green of Bay of Quinte Yacht Club captured the class honors and a berth at the world championships. THE RACE TOWARD HOME: The Race of the Millennium -- five catamarans racing non-stop around the world -- was headed toward a record-setting conclusion in France in early March.
Club Med, which has led the fleet since mid-January, rounded Cape Horn and headed toward Europe on Feb. 11 after setting records for distance covered in a 24-hour period. Tuesday, the team was less than 2,000 miles from finish. Three weeks ago, while approaching Cape Horn from the Pacific under ideal conditions of flat seas and 30-knot winds, Club Med covered 655.2 nautical miles in a 24-hour period while posting an average speed of 27.3 knots.
The closest competitor, Innovative Explorer, trails Club Med by less than 700 miles but is running out of opportunities. The U.S.-based Team Adventure, skippered by Cam Lewis with Florida sailor Randy Smyth aboard, trails the leaders by more than 3,000 miles.
RULES CHANGE: The executive committee of U.S. Sailing approved a rules change to alleviate the conflict between the International Sailing Federation's club membership requirement, which took effect in January.
U.S. Sailing president Dave Rosekrans said, "This prescription effectively eliminates any incentive by sailors to file protests against competitors who may have non-members as crew."
OBITUARY: Sally Crawford Morgan, the wife of yacht designer and builder Charley Morgan, died of cancer Feb. 15. Mrs. Morgan joined the Morgan Yacht Co. as an assistant to its founding officers and later became the corporate secretary and director of marketing and public relations.
She later founded Charles Morgan Associates, a yacht sales and brokerage firm that has operated in St. Petersburg for 18 years.
ETC.: The Tampa Sailing Squadron youth sailing program will hold an open house Sunday at the club facility in Apollo Beach with demonstrations and exhibitions from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A fundraising all-you-can-eat pizza buffet will be available. For more information, call Kendall Morris at (813) 677-6347.
The Treasure Island Tennis & Yacht Club's 20th anniversary Michelob Cup will be held March 17 with racing in the Gulf of Mexico near John's Pass.
This is the next-to-last event in the West Florida PHRF Boat of the Year series, and the registration deadline is March 14. Entries received by March 3 save $21. For entry information, call (727) 595-8206 or (727) 367-4511.
Suncoast Raceweek is scheduled for April 6-8 on Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay. Entry applications have been mailed to racers and cruisers in the West Florida PHRF region with one error in the schedule.
While the PHRF spinnaker, non-spinnaker, and FOMA divisions will race all three days, the True Cruising class will race only during the weekend, skipping the Friday race date as shown in the notice of race.
For more information or entry applications, call Mike Dawson at (813) 949-4840 or George Pennington at (727) 595-8206.