At the base of the municipal pier a few blocks from the St. Petersburg YC is a quiet swath of beach lined with palm trees. The SPA Beach is the setting for two new classes—A Cats and Contenders—at the 2014 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD. As the A Cat sailors roll into the beach, I catch up Ben Moon, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Bailey White, of Atlanta, Ga.
Moon explains the class’s first appearance at the NOOD and his predictions for the weekend. “We have a new guy in the class, Emmanuel Cerf, and he’s very involved in the St. Petersburg YC,” says Moon. “They were kind enough to invite us along. Our Midwinters are in two weeks at Davis Island YC, so it’s a good tune up for us.
“It’s a good group a couple of new guys, and then there’s class president Bailey White, myself, Bob Hodges … Hodges has been sailing well and putting a lot of time in. Bailey’s always pretty quick … We’ll be mixing it up tomorrow it’ll be good fun.”
White, who’s been the class president since August, shares some of the cool innovations that are happening in the A Cat fleet: “Everyone’s asking us if our boats can foil now because there are a couple of Team New Zealand guys that got their boats up in the air. There are a couple of guys who are able to do it a little bit. The class is definitely evolving and growing that way. Pretty much every boat you see here has lifting foils—you can see on Ben’s the way they’re curved—and you can see we’ve all got these winglets [on the rudders] too, so just like America’s Cup boats. The boat definitely lifts now. You can sail it even standing back here [on the stern quarter], and on such a narrow boat there’s no rooster tail at all, the stern is even lifting a little bit. And then the bows are up in the air when you’re going downwind. So it’s working, but we don’t really foil yet.”
White also points out where each boat in the eight-boat fleet is from. “This boat’s from Germany, this boat’s from Holland, that boat’s from Australia. They’re really international. And then that boat at the end is from Florida, and they’re made locally, which is kind of cool. It’s neat to have so many different makes.”
As White and Moon derig for the day, another A Cat sailor pops his trunk and pulls out a cooler. The other sailors gather round and say cheers. “This is such a good location here,” says Moon. “The beach is beautiful; the water’s clean. We’ll pack up here and then head over to the festivities at the club.”