Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta Kicks off 2007 Season in St. Petersburg

Over 200 teams expected to compete; Defending overall champion returns to competition

St. Pete NOOD Preview

Stuart Streuli

While most of the country is preparing for a winter storm this week, over 1,500 sailors are headed to Florida for the Sperry Top-Sider National Offshore One Design (N.O.O.D.) Regatta, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Scheduled for February 16 to 18 at host St. Petersburg YC, the regatta's organizers are preparing for 200 teams spread across 19 one-design classes (see entry list here). Daily racing will take place on Tampa Bay under the guidance of Principal Race Officer (PRO) Peter "Luigi" Reggio, who also is known as the PRO for the America's Cup. The 2006 defending overall champion, John Storck (Huntington, N.Y.), will return to J/80 class competition with his Rumor. The largest class is the Melges 24 with 40 boats set to compete. "As usual the class is deep in talent this year," said Reid Collins (Flowery Branch, Ga.), the U.S. Melges Class Southeast Governor and skipper of Desperate Measures. "From the South, I'd have to say Bob Dockery (Longboat Key, Fla.) on Barracuda could be one to watch, while our class president, Scott Gregory (Marietta, Ga.), with pro sailor Scott Nixon as tactician is another. Steve Jones (Silver Point, Tenn.) on Sick Puppy came close to winning the regatta last year, so he may be one as well. If I opened this up to outside the South, I definitely would have to add Argyle Campbell (Newport Beach, Calif.) on Rock 'N Roll and John Pollard (Torquay, U.K.) on Excellent, both of whom regularly compete at the very top of the class." The regatta doubles as the first of seven scheduled for the southeast circuit. The J/109 class will be an interesting fleet to keep track of with five of the seven boats coming straight from Key West Race Week. Three of those boats--Steve Tedeschi's (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Tastes Like Chicken, Steve Rhyne's (Seabrook, Texas) Mojo and Jon Halbert's (League City, Texas) Vitesse--finished in the top three, separated by only two points after nine races. "We will have their hands full trying to repeat our performance in Key West by staying in front of the two Texas boats," said Tedeschi. "John Halbert is the defending J/109 North American champion and Steve Rhyne is the 2006 Key West champion. Additional competition will come from two competitors: Jose Suarez-Hoyo's (Tampa, Fla.) Mariah, who will have the local knowledge to his advantage, and Adrian Begley (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.) on Mad Dogs and Englishmen, who could easily get back the speed he exhibited as winner of the Larchmont NOOD this past fall and find himself back on top." Five of the six entries in the Tripp 26 class are returning from 2006, including class champion McMillan/Melville (Pensacola, Fla.) on Joe Cool. "The Tripp 26 class is highly competitive with any boat capable of taking the lead," said Dennis Hannick (King George, Va.), the Tripp 26 class coordinator and skipper of Radio Flyer. This will also double as the class's midwinter championship. In the relatively young Viper 640 class, the top two boats to watch are between Kay Van Valkenburgh (Lynn, Mass.) on Qirq and Justin Scott (Greenwich, Conn.) on Tusker Groovin. "The rest of the Viper fleet is from the southeast and are all newcomers to the class having bought their boats in the last 6 months," said Scott. "The class is seeing a resurgence as this is the first time the Vipers have come back to the St Petersburg NOOD since 1999." In the young Melges 32 class, class standouts include Jeff Ecklund (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) on STAR and Marty Kullman/Mike Carroll (St. Petersburg, Fla.) on New Wave. Other noteworthy competitors are Doug Kessler (Marietta, Ga.) on Liberty, Tad Fairbank (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) on Fast Forward, Caleb Everett (San Francisco, Calif.) on Stewball, Doug Croker (Eaton, Md.) on Canvasback and George Gamble (Pensacola, Fla.) with a double assault, Evil Woman and Wicked Woman. One class that has returned every year in St. Petersburg is the S2 7.9 class. "Even though there are only 10 boats registered, four or five of them could win," said Mike Elliot (Linden, Mich.), class coordinator and skipper of Instigator. Among those boats is Frequent Flyer, the boat owned and skippered by current national class champion Spike Boston (Point Edward, Ontario, Canada). "They are very tough to beat," said Elliot. "However, Grrr (Thomas Line, Richmond, Mich.) is very fast and could be up there in the standings. Also, don't count out Itch (Paul Latour, Nashville, Tenn.), which has won before." The 2007 Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regattas will sail into nine cities in 2007, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston; New York, San Diego, St. Petersburg, Florida, Annapolis, Maryland, and Toronto.