Great Racing Continues at the Lands' End St. Petersburg 2005 NOOD

The breeze stuck around for the second day of the 2005 St. Petersburg NOOD, and more than a few boats are close to putting the regatta away. John Bertrand and his team on Fusion M still lead the 47-boat Melges 24 class, now by 14 points.

It was another terrific Florida day at the Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD, with all classes getting in at least two races. The sky was crystal clear, the breeze stuck around longer than was forecast, and the party held at the St. Petersburg YC after racing was rocking. Since some classes have sailed seven races in the first two days of the regatta, some sailors seemed a tad sore and a little tired, but that didn't stop them from tossing back a few refreshing beverages at the NOOD party before heading home to rest up for the final day of racing. Chip Till, of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., is sailing in the 29-boat J/24 class, on John Collins' USA 5183, as a jib trimmer, and while they're in 24th place, he's having fun in the perennially popular boat. "I take heed of the motto of the J/24 class," he said. "It's the world's most popular keelboat." But he admits that the J/24 has its challenges. " It's a great boat to sail, but it's also a difficult boat to sail. There's lots of go-fast secrets and you've got to have the boat optimized, but good tactics never hurt." Topping the class is Peter Bream and his crew on Team Tarheel, based in Jacksonville, Fla., who have 14 points, and are 11 points ahead of second-place boat Preparation J, owned by local St. Pete sailor Robby Brown. Also racing on Circle B is the 47-boat strong Melges 24 class, which is being given a lesson in superior racing skill by the crew of Fusion M, owned by John Bertrand, of Annapolis. Bertrand hasn't scored anything lower than a second-place finish in the five races they've sailed so far. "We're doing great," said George Peet, of Newport, R.I., one of Bertrand's crew. "We've had solid starts and we've been good at getting off the line. We've also got really good boatspeed and we've been turning the corners well." On what is the most crowded race circle of the regatta, Fusion M's crew has managed to deal with the traffic. "We've been able to pick our way through the fleet, especially the J/105s," said Peet. "You've got to pick your lanes and stay away from the other classes." Peet and the rest of his team, who have all spent plenty of time racing Melges 24s, are particularly impressed with the crew of Tommy Bahama, who lie in third overall despite the fact that they'd never sailed aboard a Melges 24 before this regatta. Marty Kullman, helmsman on Tommy Bahama, and the rest of his crew are refugees from the Henderson 30 class, which couldn't muster enough entries to sail in the event. "Those guys are really fast upwind," said Peet. "They stayed with us most of the day; there are about ten boats in the front pack and they've been great picking their lanes and getting good starts." Peet admits that while they're 14 points ahead of the second-place boat, Doug Fisher's (another refugee from the Henderson 30 class) no-name entry, they're not about to rest on their laurels. "Tomorrow is going to be tough," said Peet. "We can't have a premature start, we've got to be pretty conservative. We'll just try to keep it in the top ten." At the other end of the spectrum is Matthew Dalton, of Apollo Beach, Fla., who's clinging to fifth place with his boat Ka-Ching, but is feeling OK about his scoreline. "We're staying out of last place and I'm happy with that," said Dalton. "I knew that I'd be struggling to stay out of last because I've had the boat two years and I've never raced against another Soverel 33 and I've never seen one sailing. They're pretty, no matter what angle you look at them from." Dalton is looking to tomorrow's forecast of lighter wind. "I like sailing in light air because things happen at a rate we can capture and make good decisions," he said. "It'll be good conditions for the Soverels." Tim Snow, of St. Petersburg, is on top of the 12-boat SR Max on Blind Chance, but not by much. Charlie Clifton, a long-time friendly rival of Snow's, sailing his SR Max Lucky Pony, is in second by one point. "We have to get out in front and protect our position," said Snow. "We also have to watch out for Charlie, he's a good guy and a great sailor, so I've got my work cut out for me." Demonstrating what a close-knit class he races in, afterv his interview, Snow was on his way back to the dock to tune his boat for the lighter conditions along with third-placed skipper Josh Wilus, another St. Pete local. "Josh and I are going to go tune our boats for the light air," said Snow. "This is my favorite class, there's a lot of camaraderie and we help each other." Sunday will be the final day of the Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD, and there'll be fewer races, especially since the forecast is for lighter conditions, with a possibility of a seabreeze in the afternoon. Once racing is over, the awards ceremony will be held at the St. Petersburg YC, which has done a great job of running the race circles, keeping the cocktails flowing, and feeding the hungry crews as they return from their racecourses at the end of each day.