The Rumor is True, Storck Wins St. Pete NOOD

Exclusive Report from Day 3 of the Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta.

Sunday Montage

Stuart Streuli

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - After nearly three hours of floating on a flat calm Tampa Bay, the race committee of the 2006 Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD acknowledged the omnipotence of the wind gods and abandoned racing, ending the regatta. While the weather was largely uncooperative during the three-day event, racers and organizers were thankful for the beautiful seabreeze that filled in Saturday afternoon and allowed for two to five races for the 18 divisions. With no racing today, the only real drama-aside from the always important race for the hoist-was which class champion would be crowned the overall winner of the 2006 Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD. Sailing World's George Brengle answered that question at the opening of the awards ceremony, announcing that John Storck Jr. and his team on their J/80 Rumor was the first overall champion of the nine-event 2006 NOOD circuit. The overall champ receives an invitation-and complimentary Sunsail 39-foot charter boat-to participate in the 2006 Lands' End NOOD Caribbean Regatta, which will take place in the British Virgin Islands in November. "We have a very good crew," said Storck Jr. "We've sailed together for a long time." John Storck Jr. brings the experience while the next generation, including son Eric, nephew Bobby, daughter Kaity, and family friend Leigh Kempton provide the youthful enthusiasm. It proved an unbeatable combination in the 11-boat class as they won all three races and finished with a 6-point lead over second. "When we first got out there [on Saturday] we did some sailing to figure out where to go," said Storck Jr. "In the first race we wanted to go right, but as the day went on the breeze backed and we went left in the next races. The current also let up as the day went on so there was less foul current on the left side of the course." Storck Jr. added that his team's experience with the 26-foot keelboat proved invaluable, especially when it came to setting up the double-spreader rig. "It's amazing how [rig tune] seems to be more critical in light air," he said. "If you have the lower and intermediate [diagonal shrouds] too tight you just don't go." The victory came on the heels of a second-place finish in Acura Key West Race Week a month ago. Last year, Storck Jr. said, they didn't do the St. Pete NOOD after Key West, but decided to tow the boat home to Western Long Island Sound. In Virginia, during the brutal snowstorm that hit the weekend after Key West, the boat flipped over and sustained heavy damage. Storck Jr had it rebuilt last year and was happy to see it hasn't lost a step. "The rule now," he added, "is we do the St. Pete NOOD to keep us off the road going north in January." Another Northeast team that produced an impressive victory was Phil Lotz' crew on Indefatigable, which won the J/105 division by 10 points. In the first race of the regatta, Lotz was the only one of 15 skippers to deduce a pin-end bias to the starting line. Starting well to leeward of the pack, he was able to tack after just a minute of sailing, and cross the fleet. He never trailed in that race or the regatta. A second and another first clinched the win. "We had pretty good boatspeed in that air," said Lotz, who bases his boat in Newport, R.I. in the summer. "We tried to stay fairly clean and we thought we played whatever shifts were out there." Like other sailors on the two northern circles, Lotz felt the left side paid the biggest dividends upwind. "We thought maybe there was less current," he said, "and we saw occasional pressure lefties. We managed to stay to the left of the fleet most of the time." Before returning to Newport for the summer Lotz and his crew plan on sailing at Acura Miami Race Week, Charleston Race Week, and the Lands' End Annapolis NOOD. The battle for first in the Melges 24 class couldn't have been any tighter. Both Eric Nerlinger and Bob Dockery finished Saturday's three races with a second, a third, and a fourth. Without any racing today, Nerlinger won the regatta because he finished third in the third race to Dockery's fourth. It's the biggest win of Nerlinger's 18-month career in the Melges and he credited his crew of Blair Rosas, Laura Muma, Rychee Vitor, and Bill Hardesty with the win. "Our crew work was excellent," said Nerlinger. "We kept the boat flat at all times and had very slow tacks. We stayed clear of everyone and our boatspeed was excellent." Hardesty, a top pro sailor and coach, was a vital addition to the crew. "He's an awesome coach and he knows every position," said Nerlinger, from Chicago. "Bringing in a top-notch sailor makes everyone work harder, everyone was giving more." The next Lands' End NOOD Regatta of the season takes place in four weeks in San Diego. Then the summer tour starts in Annapolis in early May and includes Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, and Marblehead.