A Building Breeze Keeps NOOD Fleet on its Toes


Stuart Streuli

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla--There is never a good time to wrap the anchor line of a windward mark around your foils. However, John Pollard, of Torquay, England, may have potentially found the worst time in the second Melges 24 race at the Sailing World St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta Presented by Mount Gay Rum. The fleet was beating into a rapidly building southerly breeze, which had increased from 6 knots at the start to the mid-teens by the time the first boats approached the windward mark. The fleet was tightly packed, but Pollard's Xcellent and Gary Schwarting's Obsession had a slim advantage, with Pollard holding the inside position as they rounded the mark. Both boats hoisted their spinnakers, which filled immediately. However, Pollard had a small problem, he was dragging the yellow tetrahedron along for the ride. Schwarting's team was forced to sail high to avoid a collision with Xcellent, and the rest of the fleet followed, with many boats having difficulty holding the beam reach in the breeze. Miraculously there were no major collisions. Even more amazing was that Pollard's team, which watched the majority of the fleet sail by as it untangled itself from the anchor line and did a penalty turn, rebounded for a fifth-place finish. The threat of lightning and severe wind squalls cut short the day for both circles today, but not before each class was able to get in a pair of races. The breeze started out at 5 knots from the southeast, but veered just past 180 degrees and built during the second race, giving all 200 boats in the regatta a chance to stretch their legs. "We saw the big breeze coming from the right and we tacked over to get to it more quickly," said Cliff Vaughan, who owns the Hobie 33 Holy Toledo. Vaughan had a first in Friday's only race and a second in the first race today. With the wind building he was in position to score another win, but he and his crew had a little trouble on the downwind leg "We switched down to a No. 3 jib from our No. 1," said Vaughan. "We had a little problem with our jibes downwind. One of our crew members got hit in the face." Though the injured crew member would later head to the hospital for X-rays, Holy Toledo was able to finish the race in third, which kept them in first place for the regatta, two points ahead of Scott Maust's Thunderbolt, who is in turn two points ahead of Steven Attard's Viva Las Vegas. All three boats are from the Great Lakes area, some of the 40-odd teams from that district that have hit the road to find a little mid-winter relief at the St. Pete NOOD. The trip wasn't quite as long for James Howard of Duluth, Ga., but it's long enough that he can be considered an out of towner. Howard, sailing in the 27-boat J/24 class had a first and a fourth in today's two races on the south circle. He's two points in front of Christopher Zaleski's Twins, which hails from Norwalk, Conn. In fact, the top six boats in the class are all from outside of Florida and the top local boat is Thomas Turton's Ragged Edge in 11th. Other strong performers on the south circle were the Boston/Bremer crew on the S2 7.9 Frequent Flyer, which won both races, Robert McGrath's Ultimate 20 Pinocchio, which had a first and a second, and the Kellen/Braxton team on Road Tripp, which won both races in the six-boat Tripp 26 class. In the 12-boat Tartan 10 class, three boats are tied for first with three points. Jeffrey Sampson's Deadly Viper Assassin is currently ahead courtesy of a tiebreaker, with Maverick and Liquor Box also in there with four-point totals. One of the fastest boats on the water at the St. Pete NOOD is the Henderson 30 and while there are only five boats in the class, the racing couldn't have been much tighter in the first race today. "In the last 100 yards we picked off three boats and went from fourth or fifth to second," said Clark Higgs, a crewmember of Mike Carroll's New Wave. "We've got two boats that are new to the class. We're tickled to death that those two boats were in there." The racing wasn't quite as close in the second race as some of the teams struggled to keep up in the fresher breeze. "In the second race, we were really happy to see the wind pick up on the first leg," said Higgs. "We went right, saw the wind coming in, and managed to hold on for the win." Racing in the St. Petersburg NOOD will wrap up tomorrow.