The light winds gave the A Class Classic Catamarans an advantage over their foiling course mates, who did not have enough wind to take advantage of their foils. It will be a different story when the wind picks up, but today it was a standout performance for Bob Webbon, who had three first-place finishes.
"It was just disgusting, it was terrible today," Webbon says jokingly of the beautiful weather. "The boats that we sail are very good in the light stuff and it's typical that the foils are slower in these conditions. Because we're not really racing the foilers, I block them out and I am looking at all the other guys in the classic fleet on the course."
Webbon, who traveled from Seabrook, Texas, felt prepared today having recently returned from the world championship in Australia in November where he finished in fifth place.
"I put a lot of work into the boat and before I went to the worlds I spent a lot of time practicing, getting the boat together and getting in shape. Quite a few of the guys were there and we just got our boats back from the containers," he says.
"I don't know how I could improve for tomorrow," he says, "there will be a bit more breeze and it will be a lot tighter racing. I had a really nice sail up today so it kind of gave me a little edge. When the wind comes up it will be a different story."
The competition was not lost on Maddy Ploch sailing on the J/70 circle. The high school student jumped into the boat for the first time in over a year and a half. Despite shaking off rust today she and her crew - including her father as tactician - finished the day in third overall.
"You look over your shoulder for one second and you already lose two boat lengths looking at the guy next to you," Ploch says. "It’s really good competition here and I am actually really excited to come back again tomorrow and use some of the information I got today and apply it for every race that comes after."
Ploch's forte is offshore long-distance racing - she has a few thousand miles under her belt from racing to Bermuda twice and doing boat deliveries - but she is no stranger to NOOD regattas having competed in her first one when she was 12 years old.
"It's very different racing, you have to be in a different mindset," she says. "The start is one third of the race on a short course. It's always about boat speed, tactics and strategy - when to cut your losses and when to duck and bite the bullet. I was glad to have some light wind today to get my bearings straight and remember the feel of the boat, but I would appreciate having more breeze in the coming days to keep things exciting and have the regatta have all conditions."
A unique class at the events is the Flying Tiger class, who have traveled here as part of a clinic, with practice leading up to the racing. Reed Baldridge, a coach in the leading boat, Team Torch, says the sailors, led by skipper Bill Wagner have been sailing together for some time.
"It's been a really good transition for them to use their experience together in a new boat," Baldridge says. "They work really well together and have good communication and sail really well." During the beginning of the week during the clinic, the team had trouble with upwind speed and boat handing.
"Today was good off the start and we worked on speed," Baldridge explains. "Today was a tricky day tactically and I kept them in the middle of the course and in it all the time and they did all the work, which was great. We came away with a 2,3,3. The things to work on were staying calm around all of the marks and getting into the modes early and consistently."
"I let them learn a few things the hard way and helped them out a little bit with aspects of the racing," he says. The takeaway for this team was staying consistent in their fleet.
Another team that has come together for the Helly Hansen NOOD St. Petersburg is the Gen 5 crew in the Lightnings, who raced at the NOOD St. Petersburg two years ago.
"Sailing in the NOOD is our magic," says Steve Hayden who is joined by tactician David Hood and bow Amy Simonsen. "We teamed up at this event three years ago and were lucky to win This is the first time we have sailed together since then," he says. Their scheduled aligned and they are able to reunite this weekend.
"We were fortunate because we didn’t have the best starts today but we got out clean and found a lane," Hayden says. "We were in survival mode at times and fortunate to come out with the scores we did. It’s a good crowd and there are good teams here. This weekend we will try to minimize mistakes and stay out of sticky situations and keep the boat moving through the water. Keep the thing rolling."
FIRST DAY PRELIMINARY RESULTS (Top Three): For complete results (here)
A Cats Classics (One Design - 14 Boats)
1. USA 165, A Cat, Bob Webbon, Seabrook, TX, 1 -1 -1; 3
2. Black and Blue, A Cat, Ben Hall, Bokeelia, FL, 3 -3 -3; 9
3. Cowbell, A Cat, Woody Cope, Tampa, FL, 2 -7 -2; 11
A Class Foiling (One Design - 24 Boats)
1. USA 311, A Cat, Bruce Mahoney, La Porte, TX, 1 -1 -3; 5
2. Bas Clas, A Cat, Bob Hodges, Covington, LA, 6 -4 -2; 12
3. ShackAttack, A Cat, Ken Marshack, Key Largo, FL, 2 -8 -4; 14