The Melges 15 fleet of two-person dinghies has more than doubled in size since its 2021 debut in the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Chicago’s Mike Schroff and crew Emily Shanley-Roberts won the last race of the day to establish a 1-point lead over Tampa local Rob Britts and his crew Meredith McIntosh.
“It’s definitely a tough fleet,” says crew Shanley-Roberts. “This is our third event together, and I feel like we’re working well. Today’s key was really to stay in phase. However, when the fleet behind you splits, it’s always hard to decide which way to cover. It felt like the left side of the course was working out really well, so we really tried to capitalize on those, especially on the first beat.
For tomorrow, we’re just going to focus on getting good starts and then sail our own race. It never seems to work out if you focus too much on one person. If you cover one, you lose the fleet.”
Also competing on the busy Course A are the Lightnings. Past overall regatta winner David Starck moved up in the fleet today to first place, something he attributes to dusting the cobwebs off. “My family and I actually haven’t sailed since last fall,” he says. “We’ve been focused on other sports – skiing, hockey and such.”
By family, he refers to his brother Tom (crew on Starck’s Team PatStrong); wife Jody Starck, who drives her own Lightning and is just 2 points behind David; and his daughter Sabrina, racing with skipper Tanner Probst.
“With the other fleets racing on our course, we spent a lot of time looking at the boats ahead of us upwind and watching the favored gates, deciding how best to manage the chaos,” Starck says. ”But this is really good preparation as we look toward the Lightning World Championship in May, and then the Pan American Games after that.”
The North Sails Rally Race started just off the eastern end of St. Petersburg’s New Pier, much to the delight of curious onlookers out for morning walks and coffee. More than 25 boats across three divisions including racers, racer-cruiser, cruising boats, and the L30 one-design keelboats sailed a 15- to 20-mile navigational course around Tampa Bay.
Winning the Spinnaker division was Richard Svedsen’s Honey Pie with his new Caruluna 245. “We are still learning how to sail it, and what a way to begin with this result,” he says. “It’s also our first time participating in the Sailing World regatta. For a February day in Florida, who could ask for more? The course took us to different marks around Tampa Bay, and factoring in the wind and current challenged us all, but what a great way to spend the day.”
Gail Haueser’s Liquid Time, a Beneteau 40 claimed the Racer-Cruiser win, and Dave Roberts’ Legacy, a Catalina 310, earned the Cruiser division title.
Alongside the North Sails Rally Race was the new L30 fleet, tagged as a speedy sportboat with cruising comforts. Six L30s are taking part in this weekend’s regatta, doing a mix of fleet racing on Friday and Sunday, and today’s distance race.
Dave Ullman and son Charlie are racing one of the new L30s, designed by Olympic medalist and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Rodion Luka. In Ullman’s second day on board, which they won today’s distance race, he’s sold. “It’s going to be a good one-design boat,” the multi-world champion and Sailing Hall of Famer says. “It hits the right balance between being fun to sail, yet there is a lot to tweak and adjust to make it a challenge.”
Over seven races, George Braddon and his Bogus team out of Victor, NY, lead the J/24 fleet. In his fourth season with the boat, Braddon is benefitting from J/24 and North Sails guru Mike Ingham on board to help provide some sail tuning and coaching for the team as they look ahead to next weekend’s J/24 Midwinter Championship across the bay.
“We’ve learned a ton sailing with Mike,” Braddon says. “He’s really helped us to optimize how we are tuning the sails. The boat felt fast today; we’re in a good gear to get up and down the course.”
Sunday is the final day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in St. Petersburg, when an overall winner from the 214 boats competing will earn a place at the Regatta Series Championship in the British Virgin Islands in October.