After an onshore delay due to fog, the first day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series St. Petersburg kicked off with two beautiful afternoon races for the 214 teams competing in the largest turnout yet in the regatta’s 34-year history.
In the regatta’s largest combined one-design fleet (of which there are foiling and classics), Bailey White leads the A-Class Catamaran foiling division. The sailors who race these high-tech, single-person multihulls are known for frequently upgrading equipment and constantly testing new technologies, and White is no different.
Today was his first day on his new catamaran, having just taken possession of it this morning. “I didn’t even grab breakfast this morning, I was so excited to get to the boat,” he says.
This morning’s fog-related postponement worked in his favor as it allowed for additional rigging time to set up the new-to-him boat. He reports that in just 8- to 10-knots of breeze, he saw up to 24 knots boatspeed while foiling downwind. “It’s amazing how little wind you need to fly,” he says.
In its inaugural use at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series St. Petersburg, the ORC system is performing well for the Tampa Bay competitors. The St. Petersburg regatta race managers now use the ORC Triple Number scoring scheme, allowing them to tailor ratings for dissimilar boats to match their performance in three levels of wind speed: low, medium and high.
Today’s racing in the low wind-speed range produced close results in corrected time: for example, in Race 2 of the ORC Class A results the top-six teams in the race were separated in corrected time by less than 2 minutes in a race of over 45 minutes in length, with some places separated by only 1 second in corrected time.
In ORC A, the J/111 owned by Bill and Jackie Baxter currently leads the fleet, and Jeff Samson, owner of the Nelson Marek 30 Peacemaker, currently leads the ORC B division. “I think sailing under ORC is great,” says Samson, of Michigan, who is returning to race in St. Pete for the first time in 15 years. “I am traditionally a rating rules guy so I’m used to measurement rules and am a big fan. It seems to be a more accurate representation of the boats.”
In the second largest division at 31 boats, Charlie Thompson’s Brutus III, skippered by Sam Carter, leads the J/70 division. “Unfortunately, Charlie had to remain in Britain at the last moment, so we are doing our best to represent him,” says Carter.
“A super tricky day with the thermal layer, and contradictory sea breezes and warmer air near the land, but Ben Saxton and Chris Grube did fantastic work keeping us in the front row. It’s great to have a larger fleet that is quite compressed and hectic at times,” he says.
It’s their first time in St. Petersburg and it hasn’t taken long for the Brits to understand why so many sailors and visitors consider St. Pete a “must” on their regatta calendars. “What a fantastic city,” Carter says. “We are loving all the restaurants and downtown, not to mention this weather. It’s been good fun already.”
In the J/88 division, William Purdy’s Whirlwind is tied on points with the recent J/88 Midwinters champion, Exile. In his fourth season with the boat, he thoroughly enjoys the tight racing in the fleet.
“All these teams sail these boats so well and today was no exception,” Purdy says. ”In every race today, we practically overlapped at the finish,” he says. He admits they were lucky to win the last race as it was anyone’s race at any moment. “We went from last place, to winning it by a hair. That’s what one design racing is all about; it comes down to boat handling and any snafu has an impact. That’s why we keep doing it .”
Tomorrow’s racing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. for the North Sails Rally Race. Spectators can watch the sailboats parade by the end of the St. Petersburg Pier before they set sail to race 10-20 miles around Tampa Bay.