Venue Guide: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Venue Guide: St. Petersburg, Fla.
St. Petersburg local and South Florida coach Allison Jolly shares some local knowledge for competitors at the 2013 College Sailing National Championships.
The University of South Florida and Eckerd College will welcome competitors to the 2013 College Sailing National Championships this May in St. Petersburg, Fla., home of sunny skies and white beaches. The Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove in St. Petersburg will serve as regatta headquarters; racing will take place just off of their beach.
The Weather: Late spring often produces dying easterlies in the morning. These are followed by periods of no wind until the mid to late afternoon seabreeze fills in, usually initially from the southwest, and slowly veering west as the afternoon advances. A few condominiums located directly west-southwest of the racing area can make the seabreeze more puffy and shifty than would be expected farther away from land.
With the long fetch across Tampa Bay, easterlies can drive a significant amount of wave action in the form of short, nasty chop. This results from the shallow waters of Tampa Bay, which average 12-feet deep. The westerly seabreeze will produce flat water relative to the seabreeze wind strength, which is generally somewhere between 8 and 11 knots.
Northerlies almost never occur, as they are a result of passing cold fronts which rarely make it this far south in May. Southerlies herald an approaching cold front so are not expected either. Of course all bets are off if a very early season tropical storm should develop and affect the area.
Competitors can expect to begin racing in the easterlies as early as practical in the morning, followed by an extended lunch break without breeze during the late morning and early afternoon. Racing will continue well past sunset once the westerly seabreeze arrives.
This is a graphic presentation taken from www.sailflow.com of wind data collected over the last 7 years from a location about 3 miles from the venue. Local sailors are familiar with the range of conditions portrayed; as PRO, I can corroborate this data with my personal observations, as I spent many years sailing from my house a mere 2 miles away:
The weather in May is quite mild, by Florida standards. Temperatures average 71 degrees at night and 87 degrees during the day. May is the second driest month of the year, averaging only 2.21 inches of rain.
The Tides: Tampa Bay has some tidal influence, and current flow can approach 2 knots. The racing area is tucked between the southernmost tip of St. Petersburg and the causeway to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, though, so the evenness of the water depths there should result in the same current being felt across the entire course. See simulation data for the area current flows below:
The Boats: Both USF and Eckerd have fleets of 20 Club Juniors, purchased in 2012 and 2009, respectively. For the women’s and coed events, A division and B division will each have their own fleets and will have staggered starts, increasing the opportunity to sail a maximum number of races.
Logistically, boats will be stored on the large grassy area adjacent to the hotel’s south side. They will be launched directly into the water from a ramp that runs down to the beach. Event organizers plan to have volunteers supervising the launching of the boats before the start of each day. Buoys moored in the shallow water will be used to tie the boats to during mid-day breaks.
Getting There: While Tampa International Airport (TPA) offers flights to and from almost every airport in the US, substantially cheaper flights can occasionally be found to or from the St. Petersburg / Clearwater airport (PIE) which is even closer, the Orlando airport (MCO) which is less than 2 hours away, or the Sarasota airport (SRQ) which is less than an hour away.
Attractions: Other area attractions include the Salvador Dali Museum, Ft. DeSoto Park, Sunken Gardens, Boyd Hill Nature Park, the Chihuly Art Collection, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of “Winter” the dolphin), Ybor City, and Busch Gardens, the world-famous theme park in Tampa.
We are eager to showcase our warm Florida weather, and May is one of the finest months to be in St. Petersburg. So pack your sunscreen and get ready for excellent racing.
-Allison Jolly, born and raised in St. Petersburg, is in her ninth season of coaching the women’s varsity sailing team at the University of South Florida. She’ll be the PRO for all three spring championships.