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Race conditions take wind out of sails

By DORAN CUSHING

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000


It made no difference whether you were one of the 96 sailors competing in the Rolex International Sailing Federation Women's World Match Racing Championship or a local club racer in events on Tampa Bay.

The wind conditions over the past two weeks have stymied race committees and racers.

The international women's championship saw too much wind on the designated practice day, Nov. 24, and too little wind to leave the dock the next day. The event never saw nine knots of wind during the next six days. Most weekdays left the armada of racers, on-the-water umpires, coaches, media and committee volunteers drifting for 3-4 hours as the morning breeze faded and everyone waited for the late afternoon wind.

Some days, it showed up. Other days, it didn't, including the finale when the winners had to be determined from quarterfinal points rather than head-to-head sailing.

More than 65 regional competitors in the Davis Island Yacht Club's traditional Thanksgiving weekend small boat regatta and the organizers managed to squeeze in a few races in most fleets late Saturday after the brunt of a violent windstorm passed over Hillsborough Bay.

Day 2 had to be canceled as rain drenched the area and drained any chances of wind on the water.

Georgia's James Liebl scored two wins in two races to lead the Sunfish Class. Zach Railey of St. Petersburg matched the performance in the Laser Class. Scott Liebel of Sarasota won two of three races in the Vanguard 15s.

Other class winners included Larry Willis in multihulls, Lin Robson in Portsmouth, Dave Kaighin in Thistles, Bobby Noonan in Laser Radials and Bill Mauk in the 12-boat Lightning Class, which managed four races in the frustrating conditions.

One weekend later, the weather pattern had changed little. Early mornings produced light breezes that dissolved as the sun warmed the land.

The St. Petersburg Yacht Club's Fall Bay Race attracted 51 PHRF boats for a planned distance competition around Tampa Bay. But it took most of the fleet more than two hours to complete the abbreviated 3.7-mile course after almost four hours of waiting.

The bay was better suited for water skiing than sailing. Mike Carroll's experienced team aboard the Henderson 30 New Wave was first to finish and won Spinnaker C honors with a 32-second margin over Bob McCarthy's Melges 24 Gang of Four.

It took the 30-foot ultralight Henderson sport boat one hour and 53 minutes to make the turning mark near Apollo Beach and return to the finish line in the middle of the bay -- a distance less than four miles.

Division winners included Frank Venezio's J/92 Mischief in Spinnaker A, Grover Cleveland's Morgan 25 Odyssey in Spinnaker B and Richard Neal's Soverel 26 Back Off in Non-spinnaker A, which edged Grand Illusion by 29 seconds on corrected time.

Dick Ware's Cal 25 Moonraker topped Non-spinnaker B, and Bob Cahill's Santana 30 Mouette edged Patsy by 30 seconds in the 11-boat True Cruising division.

Venezio's win signaled his return to racing. He suffered a brain aneurysm on the docks as he prepared for a Sept. 9 event.

"Frank passed out on the docks before a SPSA race," Michief's Mary Beth Singh said. "We all thought it was from the heat.

"Not three months later, he steers Mischief to first in class in the Fall Bay Race after two months in the hospital," she said. The Clearwater Yacht Club's Clearwater Championships youth regatta fared slightly better Dec. 2-3 with the fleets completing 5-7 races.

Taking honors in the 15-boat Optimist Green Fleet was Daniel Jones of Clearwater. Kristopher Woods of Naples was two points back after seven races.

Clearwater's Mitch Hall won four of five races to capture overall honors in the Optimist White, Red and Blue fleets. He had a two-point margin over Fredrik Skoglund of St. Petersburg.

Skoglund won the closing race after four second-place finishes.

Hillary Noble of Naples finished a distant third in the 19-boat class. Paige Railey of Clearwater edged her closest competitor, Jeffrey Cruise of Naples, in the 10-boat Laser Radial Class despite four wins by club teammate Charles Fulmer.

Fulmer didn't compete in the opening two events of the six-race series.

NATIONAL NOMINEES: Regional builders Catalina, Hunter and Manta have been nominated for boat of the year honors in the industry's annual competition for newly launched designs.

The Catalina 390, which is built in Largo, is one of two Catalina models considered for the awards.

Built in Alachua, Hunter Marine Corporation's Helsen Signature 470, the HC 50 and Hunter 320 were nominated.

In the growing catamaran market, the Manta 42 -- built by Manta Enterprises of Clearwater -- will be considered in the multihull cruising category.

The winners will be posted 9 p.m. Thursday on the Internet at boats.com.

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