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Winds help, then hinder racers

Winds propel one boat to a record in the Regata Del Sol al Sol from St. Petersburg to Mexico, then calm down.

By DORAN CUSHING

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


It was a feast or famine of wind for the 20-boat fleet of racers that set sail across the Gulf of Mexico on April 27 in the 33rd annual Regata Del Sol al Sol from St. Petersburg to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

Strong winds early propelled one boat to a course record while the slower boats struggled to finish in the light winds that followed.

Stephen Murray's New Orleans-based ultralight 70-footer Decision finished the 500-mile race before dawn Monday off the Yucatan Peninsula, covering the course in 45 hours, 15 minutes, 38 seconds. Despite breaking the record by about 12 hours, Decision slipped to third overall in the spinnaker division after corrected time rating handicaps were applied.

Another northern gulf boat, John Hawkins' 62-foot Slidell, La.-based ketch Apparition, took top honors, finishing in just under 52 hours. Thomas Stokes' much smaller Free Spirit finished second overall on corrected time in a 36-foot Pearson.

John Maxon's 36-foot Sara E from Madeira Beach took non-spinnaker honors after almost 84 hours at sea while posting the fourth-best overall corrected time. Finishing second in non-spinnaker was Bill Tait's 40-foot Sinisterre, which finished early Tuesday.

"We covered 165 miles each of the first two days, then were becalmed for nearly 12 hours," Tait said. "And it took three hours for the final two miles, rather frustrating."

During the first half the weather conditions provided a feast of strong easterly winds. Said Madden Randle of the first-to-finish Decision: "It was three or four hours of light stuff leaving the bay before the wind built. By the second day we had wind into the high 30s and we did quite a few sail changes. At one point for several hours we were carrying a pretty steady 20 knots of boat speed and tapped out at 26 knots and change."

Taking honors in the true cruising division was Maciej Rosochowicz's 46-foot Spray design Maciejka from St. Petersburg, followed by George Alexiou's Clearwater-based Anthie. Both boats finished Tuesday afternoon after more than 98 hours at sea.

Emerald Lady, Valhalla and Rejoyce abandoned the race because of the light winds and motored into Isla Mujeres. Peter Barton's Ooh La La of Treasure Island had equipment failure early in the race and returned to Tampa Bay. The stormy conditions also forced the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Marlin to abandon its escort duties and remain in Florida.

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