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Indiana sailor earns victory as weather changes on bay

By DORAN CUSHING

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Bruce King said he has been sailing Thistles "about 30 years." Given that he's 33 and a third-generation Thistle racer, the Indiana-based engineer has a lifetime of experience in the three-person, 17-foot classic open dinghies. King put that experience to good use at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. After taking the early lead in the Thistle Midwinters East regatta, he held on through changing weather conditions to win the six-race series. Along with crew Mark Makielski and Erin Gaskill, King won the opening race Wednesday after two days of postponements caused by strong winds that churned up Tampa Bay. But with a comfortable points lead going into Friday's closing race, King and crew made the final results closer than expected.

"We were sailing conservatively but kind of got stuck in the middle of the pack after the start," King said after finishing 18th in the final race. "We had to start counting boats in front of us. It was a little dicey."

King's closest competitor, Chris Murphy of Chatham, N.J., won the final race and narrowed King's winning margin to eight points as the five-day, six-race series ended. A practice day and the opening two race days were lost to the weather, and the remaining three race days brought a mix of wind conditions. Three races were sailed Wednesday with breezes in the midteens. After a morning delay waiting for wind Thursday, two races were sailed in less than 8 knots of wind. The final race was run in optimal conditions -- wind around 10 knots and flat water, but a strong incoming tide made tactics more important at the markers. "Our boat speed was really good," King said. "When it was windy, we could be conservative upwind and try to attack downwind."

Chris Klotz of St. Petersburg was the top local finisher in the 67-boat fleet, made up primarily of teams from Northeast and Midwest states. The fleet was the largest in two decades.

Klotz, with crew Antoinette Falk and Mark Ryan, won the second race and finished 12th for the week. They race Thistle hull No. 1, built in 1945.

"We made the big mistakes ... not good," Klotz said. "We didn't do well on the starts and were on the wrong side of the shifts."

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