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Liquid Time and Liquid Sunshine

Sailing World's Herb McCormick joins the crew of Liquid Time for the North Sails Rally Race at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in St. Petersburg.

Ed (left) and Pemmy (right) Roarke work the Beneteau 40 down the course of the North Sails Rally Race at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series on St. Petersburg en route to a win in the Racer/Cruiser division. Herb McCormick

The play on the name of the Beneteau 40 jointly owned and sailed by friends Gail Heausler, and Pemmy and Ed Roarke, is a recurring question aired by one of the regular crew, with a team response shouted in unison:

“What time is it?” someone will innocently ask. The answer is always the same:

Liquid Time!”

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Today, in spirited action in the three-boat Racer/Cruiser division of the North Sails Rally race during the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series St. Petersburg, at the top of the leaderboard, it was indeed Liquid Time. In a tricky, fluctuating northerly breeze that opened in a gray 8 knots but built through the day to a glorious, ideal 14 knots, Liquid Time was ultimately joined in the winner’s circle by Dave Roberts’ Catalina 31, Legacy, in the Cruising class and Richard Svendsuns’ Caralunda 245, Honey Pie, in the Spinnaker class. Altogether, a fleet of 19 boats of all sizes and stripes in the three classes participated in the North Sails Rally distance race conducted in the waters of Tampa Bay.

The moniker Liquid Time is actually a bit of a double entendre: it’s also the name of a favorite Phish song of the crew (“The sea is so wide…the boat is so small,” go the opening lyrics). The tightly knit 9-person crew, many of them longtime Sunfish sailors, hail from nearby Davis Island, and had zero issues negotiating the 20.3 nautical-mile course of their local waters. Heausler, at the helm, showed a steady hand throughout; Ed Roarke handled the mainsheet, with his wife Pemmy on the reins of the spinnaker sheets. The crew work throughout was, well, liquid smooth.

A downwind start under an A2 kite—Heausler totally crushed it—in company with the spritely one-design L30 class got the proceedings underway in quick, fine fashion, and the first half of the race was a dedicated jibe-fest as the fleet proceeded down the bay around government marks in the shadow of nearby Tropicana Field and, in the distance, the distinctive Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It was soon very obvious, however, that the Racer/Cruiser class would be a dedicated match race between Liquid Time and their archrival, the Sarasota-based O’Day 40, Mother Ocean.

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North Sails Rally Race
Liquid Time makes its way down the reach during the North Sails Rally Race at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series St. Petersburg Paul Todd/Outside Images

And in the early going, it was all Mother Ocean.

But all that changed about two-thirds of the way through the contest, when the chutes were doused and the yachts hardened up on the breeze. Higher and faster than their competitors, Liquid Time opened up their first lead. One they would not relinquish.

With the skies clearing and the building northerly kicking up the whitecaps, what had started in rather dreary weather morphed into a spectacular sailing day. After crossing the finish line and rolling up the jib, the stopwatches were clicked on to await the arrival of Mother Ocean. But it was soon very clear that Liquid Time had saved their time. Game over.

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“We won that race in the second half,” said Ed Roarke, who then invoked another name, that of a recent Tampa Bay arrival who’s won over the populace. “It was a Tom Brady special.”

The tunes came on and the beers were cracked. Aboard Liquid Time it was…liquid time.

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