By DORAN CUSHING
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
It wasn't planned, but the 74-boat fleet of racers and cruisers at the 20th anniversary Michelob Cup got all it bargained for in a challenging and long day Saturday racing sailboats in the Gulf of Mexico.
When race leaders Merlin and Storyville sailed into a windless stretch near Pass-a-Grille, many of the trailing boats closed the gap, then passed the leaders. For all practical purposes, the race began again some three hours after the start with nonspinnaker and spinnaker boats -- multihullls and monohull -- drifting en masse near a sea buoy. Frank McCarthy's Melges 24 Gang of Four led the fleet briefly as the wind slowly filled in, and the boat ultimately took Spinnaker Division 2 honors.
"When the wind died, we positioned the boat upcurrent and drifted into the mark. We just hoped we wouldn't have to anchor when we got there," McCarthy said. "We passed about 15 boats at that mark."
Posting the best time for spinnaker class monohulls was Robert Dudinsky's J/22 Sa Cuisine, racing for the first time in a year.
"It was a brain-burner trying to keep boat speed up," Dudinsky said. "We went from first to last to first. Jay Myers' Mystic and I were back and forth all day."
Dudinsky captured Spinnaker Division 5 honors. Mystic finished second overall and in division.
First to finish overall was Jon Dowd's Sarasota-based Stiletto 27 Iguana, which also took honors in the eight-boat multihull division. Dowd's catamaran covered the 23-mile course in 5 hours, 36 minutes, including the midday lull during which he was able to take the lead.
"After the wind died, we were able to get the wind first ... that was the crucial part," Dowd said. "It favored the boats that had to catch up."
Topping nonspinnaker Division 1 was Grand Illusion with Susan Tibbits at the helm, edging Susan Davidson's Grrrrrby by seven seconds after almost six hours of racing.
Other division winners: Andy Cheney's Kelly in Spinnaker 3, Donald Fritz's Full Bore in Spinnaker 4, Dudinsky's Squirrel Chaser in nonspinnaker 2, Edward Tutun's Bonne Femme in True Cruising 1, Joe and Kathy Mansir's Dream Aloud in True Cruising 2 and Dick Ware's Moonraker in nonspinnaker 3, which posted the best overall nonspinnaker time.