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St. Petersburg NOOD To Offer ORC

The Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta St. Petersburg opens registration with news of an ORC handicapped fleet and the launch of Mixed-Plus.

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Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta St. Petersburg
ORC racing will be used for the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta St. Petersburg’s handicap fleets of spinnaker boats. Paul Todd/Outside Images

Organizers of the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta Series announced this week their Notice of Race and opening of registration for the 2022 edition of the St. Petersburg NOOD with news of the addition of ORC racing for the first time and the introduction of Mixed-Plus trophies.

The National Offshore One-Design Regattas was created by Sailing World Magazine more than 30 years ago to provide an organized series for the larger one-design keelboat classes prevalent then. Since its inception, however, the series has continued to adapt to the changing landscape of racing in the United States. While most of the five NOOD venues (St. Petersburg, San Diego, Annapolis, Chicago and Marblehead) remain predominately one-design class racing, handicap fleets have been included in some fashion across all events, especially St. Petersburg, which enjoys a vibrant and highly competitive handicap scene on Tampa Bay. For 2022, the local spinnaker fleet has switched from PHRF to ORC racing for the entirety of its 2021-’22 Suncoast Boat of the Year series, which includes the NOOD.

“PHRF has been good for the local fleet, but it does have its pitfalls,” says St. Petersburg YC’s George Pennington. “Some people are ready for a change that might be better and that’s where the ORC is coming from. We’re trying to welcome it with open arms and get competitors to come onboard.”

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Also new for the St. Petersburg NOOD is the awarding of Mixed-Plus trophies, an initiative kickstarted by J/70 world champion and professional sailor Willem van Waay, of San Diego. The concept, says Van Waay, is to encourage J/70 owners to include top-level female sailors into their teams.

“In the J/70 class especially, the main trimmer/tactician spot is taken by the guy pros and those guys have always been giving the opportunities that women haven’t been given,” say Van Waay. “Because of this, these guys have learned a lot of the tricks and they’re now the stars and making great money. Clearly, we need to get our talented women into a keelboat or sportboat class that they can compete in, because at any J/70 or Melges 24 event you’ll see six or seven women on the scene, but there’s a hundred guys.”

The best way to force change, he says, is for there to be a class where there are unlimited pros, but “you have to have two men and two women and the owner has to drive. Then, all of a sudden, an owner who buys a boat has to find two women—not the lightest women, but the best women.”

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“I’ve had so many women come up to me that want to do it, and I think it will be popular,” Van Waay adds. “Those [owners] who do this will get the top women, the right pros and be ready. They will beat the all-dude teams that just want to sail that way, and that’s what we want to happen. We want the women to do well and win. I think with that there will be some obvious results for potential change for women to get more opportunities.”

To be eligible for the J/70 class’s Mixed-Plus trophy, the crew composition may only have two adult (over age 21) males and only one adult male may be categorized as World Sailing Group 3 (professional). The Mixed-Plus division will be scored as a sub-division of the whole fleet using the competitor’s actual scores. To further promote the Mixed-Plus concept across other St. Petersburg NOOD classes, organizers will also award top teams with 50-percent or more female crew from classes with 12 more boats.

The regatta’s hosts from the St. Petersburg YC report racing activity on Tampa Bay has returned to pre-Covid levels and they expect a higher-than-normal turnout given the reliable winds of years past and the blossoming downtown nightlife scene mere blocks from the clubhouse. The regatta’s dates of February 18 to 20 provide an ideal opportunity for winter training and racing in Western Florida’s most vibrant sailing venue, and with the return of many traditional NOOD classes, including Lightnings, Melges 15s and 24s, A Class Catamarans, S2 7.9s and more—as well as the ever-popular Sailing World nightly Happy Hours at host St. Petersburg YC—the NOOD Regatta series will kick off in the new season.

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