Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta St. Pete: Slow-Motion Friday

It was a day of patience and perseverance for the 193-boat fleet on the opening day.

Pictures of sailboats racing on Tampa Bay with the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta.
With crews to leeward and eyes up the course to look for breeze, the J/88s glide off the starting line in the race's only day.©Paul Todd/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM

Iris Vogel, of New Rochelle, NY, skipper of the J/88 Deviation, won her recent midwinter championship and today on the waters off St. Petersburg, Vogel and her teammates continued their winning streak with a win in the only race of the day. Light winds proved challenging for the race committees and the regatta’s 193 teams racing in 13 different classes.

Vogel came away with the race win, but it wasn’t easy. “We were deep at the first weather mark, but just focused downwind going from puff to puff,” Vogel said. “The team did an excellent job coming back to win the race.”

Four of the six J/88s hail from New York and use the St. Petersburg NOOD for winter training. Vogel says the level of competition in the class is very high as a result. “We are an active travel fleet; not to mention every team is well sailed and it’s anyone’s win at each regatta,” Vogel said. “The racing is that close.”

As the City of St. Petersburg continues to grow into a major tourism destination, the regatta continues to attract more teams from around the country. The S2 7.9 class, with 13 teams, for example, represents eight different states, all arrived on trailers from as far as Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Jeff Mootz and Michael Doyle, of Wayzata, Minn., are long-time partners in Just One More and had a good start to the regatta, winning the first race just ahead of last year’s S2 7.9 fleet champion, John Spierling’s Rebel, from Shelby Township, Mich. “Maybe this is our year,” said Mootz, who has finished third and fourth overall in past St. Pete NOODS. “We hope so. We were able to just hold off Rebel. They had gotten ahead of us, but on that last downwind leg we were able to just get inside of him and jibe for the finish.”

Not all boats, classes and sailors are from out of town, however. Local sailors competing at the NOOD look forward to the out-of-town competition to improve their skills. The Lightning, a three-person dinghy, is one of the world’s most popular classes of sailboats, and many Florida-based teams are among the best, including 21-year-old skipper Tanner Probst, who won the Lightning Junior World Championship in Athens, Greece in 2018.

Probst, his crew Anna Palmer and Will Jeffers, are currently in third place in the 23-boat Lightning fleet behind Bill Faude’s Blue Light Special from Chicago, and John Bauman’s Raging Bull, of Boca Raton, Fla. Jeffers contacted Probst two weeks ago and offered him a chance to skipper the boat; an opportunity Probst couldn’t pass up. “It’s great to get back into the boat after not sailing it since last summer,” Probst said. “And even though it was light and shifty today, it was a fun day.”

The Probst family is well represented in the Lightning fleet with Tanner’s mother and father (Deb and Adam Probst) racing together on board Starck NOOD. His younger sister is crewing for David Starck on Team PatStrong. The young Probst said side bets have not yet been placed between the family on who would be the top finisher.

Saturday’s racing is scheduled for 10 a.m. start, with the forecast calling for moderate winds out of the Northeast.