Not a Moment Too Soon

Exclusive report from the 2006 Lands' End St. Pete NOOD

Saturday Montage
Stuart Streuli

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Just getting out on the water today was a victory for sailors and organizers at the 2006 Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta. After waiting a day and a half for wind, a delightful 6- to 10-knot seabreeze filled in just before noon and the 18 divisions were whipped through two to five races before heading for the docks.In addition to the wind, Raul Lopez had two other reasons to celebrate, success on the race course-he has a 3-point lead in the Corsair 24 class-and domestic harmony. When asked about the secret to his finishes, he said: "Racing with my wife and daughter and I only yelled once. I thought I didn't yell at all, but my wife said I yelled once. We were all over the place. We had some good starts and some bad starts where we had to climb back. It was really tight racing."Lopez is a first-time NOOD participant, and despite having to wait around for the breeze he was ecstatic with the event. "I can't say enough good things."Another first time NOOD participant is the speedy Melges 32. The latest creation from the Wisconsin-based boatbuilders drew six boats to the St. Pete NOOD. They were rewarded with five tight races. Mike Carroll's local New Wave team-who've honed their skills on a Henderson 30 and a Melges 24-lead the pack with 12 points. But three boats are tied on points for second with 15 and fifth is just another three points back. "It was pretty shifty," said New Wave helmsman Martin Kullman. "But it was pretty rhythmical. Staying in the breeze was a little more important and that led to the left side being favored."Kullman, Carroll, and company did circles not long after the first start and couldn't climb higher than fourth. They finished strongly in the next three races-and second and then two firsts-but dropped back to fourth in the final race of the day. "All the boats are going the same speed and it all comes down to the sailing," said Kullman, who was the top Corinthian skipper at the 2005 Corum Melges 24 Worlds in December. "The boat is a lot like the 24, you've taken the boat element out of it and it all about who's smarter."Speaking of the 32s little brother, consistency was the key in the regatta's biggest fleet. Neither Eric Nerlinger nor Bob Dockery won a race, but with a fourth, third, and second, they are tied for the lead in the 32-boat class. The boats currently sitting fourth, fifth, and sixth, won the three races. But each also absorbed a double digit finish.After a second in the Olsen 30 Nationals last week, Gary Gochal's team on Slice knew they had their North Brunswick, N.J.-based boat moving well. When the top boat from the nationals split for home, they became the favorite at the NOOD. They lived up to their billing winning all four races and they have a 8-point lead over second heading into the final day of the regatta. "It's all about clean air and going in the right direction," said Slice's main trimmer Bruce Bertucci, "and not having other boats force you to tack." While two of the wins were comfortable, two involved comebacks on the final leg. Notable performances among the other classes included a sweep of all three races by John Storck Jr.'s J/80 and Brad Boston's Ultimate 20 Honour and Phil Lotz' first-second-first scoreline in the 15-boat J/105 fleet, which had staked him to a 10-point lead.In the J/24s there's a three way tie, on points, for first. Juan Mauri, Daniel Borrer, and Mark Toso each have 6 points after two races while Steve Wood has seven. Collectively, the four boats hail from Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.Racing will conclude tomorrow in the first Lands' End NOOD of the 2006 sailing season.