Stoked In St. Pete
New fleets and top sailors will head to the first event of the 2014 Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta series.
J/70 at 2013 St. Pete NOOD Regatta
J/70 racing at the 2013 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta.
The 2014 Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta series kicks off in sunny St. Petersburg, Fla., next weekend, Feb. 14 to 17. With 12 fleets on the board, we checked in with representatives from the Contenders, Ensigns, and J/70s to preview the action.
New to the NOOD this year is the Contender, a speedy 16-foot singlehanded dinghy with a trapeze. Eleven were signed up as of Feb. 7, with five making the haul from Toronto. “We have a solid group from the Toronto fleet, and they have some of the best sailors,” says local Contender sailor Ethan Bixby, who works at North Sails’ Gulf Coast Loft in St. Pete. “Their main issue is getting out of the snowdrifts at the beginning of their trip!”
Bixby notes that others will come in from Georgia, Ohio, New Hampshire, and California. “Gil Wooley is one of the two Californian sailors. Gil is about 76 years old and still has a blast sailing the boat,” says Bixby. “I would guess he has sailed about 20 world championships in the class, and has owned and sailed Contenders for 42 years. I hope I can be as fit and agile as he is when I’m that age!”
The Ensign fleet will also be making its St. Pete debut, with some noteworthy entries in the 10-boat class for their Midwinter Championship. Of the five local boats, Hull No. 952 is owned by the 501c3 nonprofit Sailability, an international disabled sailing program. Zeke Durica, of Dunedin (Fla.) YC says, “Freedom will be sailed by volunteers and coaches along with a wounded veteran of one of the Middle East conflicts.” Al Humphers will skipper Freedom.
Durica will be a sailor to watch in the fleet, having won the 2010 ECA Nationals with wife/foredeck crew Elizabeth Brincklow. Both are Ensign Hall of Fame inductees.
Another notable sailor in the Ensigns is Linda Petrat, of Sarasota, Fla., who sailed her Ensign Summer Wind from Maine to Sarasota, the longest documented distance sailed in an Ensign. “She is sailing her boat from Sarasota to St. Pete (a walk in the park) to watch the fun,” says Durica.
The J/70 fleet, now in its second year at St. Pete, boasts the most entries—27 as of Feb. 7. The NOOD is a world championship qualifier for the fleet; competitors will duke it out for two open spots for the worlds in Newport, R.I., in September 2014.
For Todd Fedyszyn, St. Petersburg YC’s youth sailing director and head coach, this year’s event will be a change of pace. Having previously raced J/24s at the NOOD, a parent of one of his team member’s offered to loan him a J/70 for the weekend. “It’ll be our first regatta,” says Fedyszyn, “so hopefully we can be competitive with the top of the pack if all goes well.”
The top of the pack, says Fedyszyn, includes many who are participating in the Quantum J/70 Winter Series at Davis Island YC. “Jud Smith was really fast last month at the first Winter Series regatta,” notes Fedyszyn. “He was almost unbeatable. I think Marty Cullman will also be one of the top guys. People will always keep their eye on Heather Gregg-Earl and Joe Bardeuheier. Patrick Wilson had a good first Winter Series event as well. Mark Ploch is another pro who’s been spending a lot of time on the boat and should be in the front of pack. There are four or five who are going to jump out, who seem to have an extra gear.” Defending St. Pete NOOD J/70 champion Joel Ronning, on Catapult, will be also be back.
Other fleets racing include the J/24, Sonar, S27.9, Melges 24, VX One, A Cats, Hobie 33, and PHRF. Click here for a scratch sheet. You’ll find photos and updates throughout the event on the NOOD website and Facebook page.
A few of our favorite photos from last year's event by Photoboat.com: