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Foilers and Floaters in St. Pete

The Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta series returns with the first event of the 2016 season in St. Petersburg, Florida.

February 11, 2016
St Petersburg NOOD 2015 A Cats
At last year’s Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta, the foiling A Class Cats were entertaining to watch as the devoted sailors navigated the waters off St. Petersburg. Paul Todd/Outside Images

The 2016 Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta gets underway with the first event of the season in St. Petersburg, Florida. The NOOD’s unusual variety of classes, including the Sonar, Melges 24, J/24, J/70, Lightning, S2 7.9 and two PHRF classes will race in Tampa Bay over three days.

The foiling and non-foiling, or ‘floating’ A Class Catamarans will sail alongside each other in the same class in an effort to continue developing together. While many A Class sailors are embracing the development portion of “development class” whole-heartedly, the rapidity of change required some innovation of its own in order to prevent the remainder of the class from becoming obsolete.

“We came to the conclusion that it wasn’t fair for the people in our class who had bought non-foiling boats, when all of the sudden these foilers start coming out, to tell them they have to change,” says A Class sailor Ron Roth. “If you buy a boat and then it becomes obsolete a year later, it’s no good. You can kill a class off like that. The goal is to keep everyone together in one class, so we’re doing the best of both worlds.”

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The average A Class sailor’s age, which in previous seasons Roth guesses hovered around 55, has been decreasing since the introduction of foils. However, the change in demographic hasn’t kept the old guard from using foils themselves. “Its kind of humbling, in a way,” says Roth of re-learning how to sail, but on foils. “It’s more for someone in their 20s or 30s, and here we are, doing this in our sixties…it’s a lot of fun, even if it’s a little crazy.”

Though foiling is fast and fun, many of the sailors are still working out the kinks and in light air the floaters (Roth’s name for the classic Cats) tend to top the fleet. “When the foiling boats are in heavy air, they perform their best and it’s a real advantage [to foil],” says Roth. “At certain wind speeds, the foilers could be a half a leg or a leg ahead of the other boats. When the boats aren’t going fast enough to fly, the foils are slower because they drag, and the floaters will win.”

Luckily for the floaters, the first days of the St. Pete NOOD shows a wind forecast in the low single digits. But, on Saturday and Sunday, the forecast ramps up and the action on the A Class course could look a bit different.

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Warrior sails the NOOD

Warrior sails the NOOD

Warrior emerged as the top finisher in its PHRF 1 division and overall winner at the 2015 St. Pete NOOD Regatta PAUL TODD/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM

Though one-design regattas are increasingly popular, the Tampa Bay area has a strong PHRF fleet, evidenced by the NOOD’s two PHRF classes this year. Sailing in the PHRF 1 Fleet is 2015 overall winner Grant Dumas on his Tripp 38 Warrior. The overall prize is awarded to the winner of the most competitive class, as determined by race organizers, and includes a berth at the season-end NOOD Regatta Championship in the British Virgin Islands. Dumas will again race with a partially imported crew from Virginia. “My boat has a sister ship in the Chesapeake, so this is our one opportunity a year to get together and race as a team,” says Dumas. “At the NOOD, you get to see friends who come down for this once a year, so it’s fun when the folks show up.”

Dumas likes to use the St. Pete NOOD as a “measuring stick” of his competitiveness among other boats in the PHRF fleet. “Usually the folks who put up the effort to drive all this way are high caliber people,” says Dumas of the competition. “It’s a nice opportunity to gauge yourself against some of the out of town guys.”

Plus, the extracurriculars at the NOOD provide the St. Petersburg YC with some lively nights. “It’s obviously a different vibe than our weekend warrior regattas with just our local people,” says Dumas. “It’s fun to get there and enjoy the parties and the Mt. Gay Rum and the Helly Hansen gear. Having the big groups of boats and the big parties is something we look forward to each season.”

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Also sailing in PHRF is the St. Petersburg YC youth sailing team, aboard Fareast 28R Eagle’s Eye. The team is coming off a great week of racing in Key West, at which they won the Sailing World Trophy. The new Quantum Key West Race Week trophy was awarded to the best-performing team from any class whose average crew age was less than 30 years old. “The kids proved that not only can they sail the boat, but also they can sail it competitively against some of the best adults around,” says Todd Fedyszyn, SPYC’s youth sailing director. “They’ve been sailing in their high school Laser and Opti regattas since Key West, and they’re chomping at the bit to get back out there on the big boat.”

Lightning fleet sails

Lightning fleet sails

The 2015 Lightning fleet at the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta in St. Petersburg. PAUL TODD/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM

The J/70 class is showing up in force, as they do at many NOODs, with 25 boats expected on the line. Geoff Becker is looking forward to the chance to stretch his legs before J/70 Midwinters at the St. Pete YC in two weeks. Becker won the St. Pete Lightning class in 2015, and typically serves as tactician for Tim Healy’s Helly Hansen, but this year will be skippering his own J/70, USA 25. “In the past year or so, J/70 teams have been steadily improving making for some of the best racing in any class,” says Becker. “The competition will be tight throughout the fleet…and, anytime I can sail somewhere warm, when there is snow on the ground back home, sign me up.”

For more information on the 2015 Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta series, click here. For more information on Helly Hansen, click here.

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