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Good Times in St. Pete

For the youngest team competing at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD, it's all gravy.

February 19, 2011
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Sailing World

StPeteDayOne368

As a late-afternoon sea breeze funneled up Tampa Bay, Noah Blacker’s young team aboard the J/24 Rush found its groove at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD. See more photos. Tim Wilkes

Noah Blacker has a catch phrase. Or, at least, he had one on Day 1 of the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD.

“Good times,” says the teenage skipper of the J/24 Rush. “For us, it’s all about having a good time and racing against some really good sailors.”

Blacker and crew—Addison Hackstaff, Alexandria Church, Martin Hood, Hayden Grant, Liam McCarthy—are products of the St. Petersburg YC’s junior-sailing program. “We all sail Lasers and 420s for our high schools,” says Blacker. “We sail against each other a lot, but when we sail together, it’s just all fun. We have the music going—good times.

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“It’s funny,” continues Blacker. “Our coach gets mad at us because we’d all rather go to a J/24 regatta. I mean, we love sailing Lasers, but they’re so solitary. When we get to sail together, it’s more fun. There’s jokes going around, and we all kind of play off each other.”

Two years ago, Blacker convinced his father, Michael—who’s sailing this weekend on the J/24 Hot Wheels—to trade in the family’s 30-foot racer-cruiser for the 24-foot one-design. “At first, we just wanted to throw a crew together and see what we could do,” says the younger Blacker. “This year, we wanted to be a bit more competitive. As dinghy sailors, we practice a lot, and [compared to keelboat sailors] we probably get out on the water on a more consistent basis. We wanted to show that dinghy sailors can be competitive in keelboats.”

In two races on Friday afternoon, this team of dinghy sailors showed some respectable keelboat chops, posting a 14-4 in a 20-boat fleet that includes such hotshot skippers as former national and North American champion Mike Ingham. “The first race was rough,” says Blacker. “We don’t start in the J/24 too often, and they don’t start like a Laser, by any means. We got shut out, and had a second-row start.

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“The second race, everything went well for us,” he continues. “We came off the start, knew our plan, and when it came down to it, the stars aligned and we had the ability to execute. We got to go where we wanted to and tack on our own shifts. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t hold on to the lead we had going around the first windward mark, but none of us holds it against each other for making the wrong call. Hey, we’re just trying to have a good time.”

Ingham’s _Fawn Liebowitz team leads the division with a 3-1 scoreline. For complete results, click here.
_

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