A Slip-pery Slope

Gas prices affect sailors, too. SW's Dave Reed explains how Acura Miami Race Week is one of the first places where sailors will feel it. From the August 14th eNewsletter.

Melges24s

Tim Wilkes

As racing sailors, we often damn the powerboats that churn the waters of our racecourses, throwing at us wakes from all directions. On many light-air occasions we've wished "Rodney" and his gas-guzzling condo would just stay in his slip for the weekend. And with the price of gasoline today, it seems Rodney and his buddies are doing just that-- sitting tethered to their shore power hookups, parked in thousands of lucrative waterfront slips.We should be careful what we ask for.A problem that recently surfaced in Miami indicates how the infrastructure that supports our sport is changing for the worse. In South Florida and elsewhere there's an unquenchable demand for year-round dockage. And when Rodney doesn't vacate his slip, there's nothing left for the transient-- the cruiser or the regatta racer passing through for a regatta. Put yourself in the shoes of any marina operator with escalating insurance bills to pay (think hurricanes): a transient slip doesn't make money when it's empty, and if there's a guy who wants to put his boat in that slip full-time, of course you're going to go for the guaranteed income.The slip dilemma in Miami has become so exacerbated that Premiere Racing, organizers of Acura Miami Race Week (formerly SORC), nearly pulled the plug on the staple midwinter regatta. Citing a dockage shortage, and thus the inability to host the 147-boat fleet of 2005, Premiere's Peter Craig and his supporters at Acura have been forced to take a different tack, transforming what was formerly a multi-venue regatta sailed on Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to a single-racetrack grand-prix event. Farr 40s, big-boats (racing IRC), and possibly Mumm 30s, will now make up the fleet of the Acura Miami Grand Prix.While this is likely a disappointment for certain one-design classes that made Race Week a stop on their respective midwinter circuits, it's not entirely surprising. The event has forever had a grand-prix feel to it. The big boats always held the spotlight while the smaller boats played on the side stage. With separate venues and boats scattered to wherever there was room, the cohesiveness of its sister event, Acura Key West Race Week, was missing in Miami. Concentrating on the grand-prix classes for 2007 to keep the ship from sinking makes perfect sense. Last week Craig said this was a short-term solution to the logistical problems he faces in Miami, but it wasn't necessarily permanent. The writing is on the wall, however: once we surrender the slips, it'll take a miracle to get them back.Race Week's loss of the PHRF and Biscayne Bay one-design fleets, however, is a golden opportunity for regatta organizers elsewhere. The Lands' End St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta in February (which Sailing World owns and operates) is an excellent winter circuit alternative-- logistically and financially-- as is Charleston Race Week in April. To prevent Miami Race Week's misfits from falling through the cracks, sailors, class officers, and regatta organizers must rally now to fill the gap. Failing to do so will have larger implications for the South Florida winter racing scene, including our beloved Key West.