Between catamaran sailboats flying by the St. Pete Pier and doublehanded teams taking off around Tampa Bay for the North Sails Doublehanded Distance Race, St. Petersburg delivered another stellar day of sailboat racing for all the teams competing in the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta St. Petersburg.
Former St. Petersburg YC commodore Harvey Ford and co-owner Tom Mistele took line honors on board their J/112e Silver Surfer for the North Sails Doublehanded Distance Race. “Just perfect conditions out there today,” says Ford. “Clear skies and 15 to 18 knots from northeast. Tom mostly drove the boat and I scurried around to fix and adjust things.”
For the doublehanded challenge, today’s 17.5-mile course sent teams around eight navigational marks in Tampa Bay, which included a lot of close reaching and one fetch leg. Silver Surfer decided against using a spinnaker because in these conditions, according to Ford, “Getting the kite up is easy; it’s when it has to come down is when it separates the men from the disasters.”
The other J/112e dopodomani, with owner Christopher Ziballo and crew Cliff Farrah, led the majority of the race. Ford said a key moment in the race was during leg six when Ziballo and Farrah chose to tack downwind with the jib, while Ford and Mistele headed straight downwind toward the mark, going “wing on wing” with the jib. That strategy proved effective and Ford said they made up a lot of ground.
He joked that that perhaps the competitors were distracted watching them catch up, because they unfortunately made a navigational mistake and sailed past the turn marker. “We made the turn, and once they realized their error it was too late. Truly, though, hats off to them for a great race.”
Ford and Mistele had not doublehanded the boat before a month ago, and he is now sold on the format. “As a boat owner it’s glorious to only have two people to worry about with advance planning and meals, etc.,” he says. “No disrespect to my regular crew, but it is nice just being able to show up and bring your sandwich and off we go. I loved this new format of racing and will certainly do it again.”
The A Class Catamarans are the largest class in the regatta and are divided between two subdivisions: Foilers (that use hydrofoil technology and can lift out of the water), and the Classics (which still have lifting technology but more so ‘skim’ over the water).
These supercharged single-sail, single-person boats are very light, all carbon, and extremely powerful, testing the individual’s athleticism and smarts. On Circle B, they had a range of conditions between 15 knots down to six or 7 knots at times, according to Ben Hall. Hall, who’s owned 34 A Cats in his career in addition to many of the class’s trophies, is currently leading the Classic fleet.
In addition to the changing wind strength, Hall said the course provided a lot of opportunities to capitalize, or be caught. Such as in today’s third race, Hall initially got shut out at the committee boat, which he ended up hitting. “And I also hit OH (Rodgers, currently in second place overall), so I had to end up doing a circle and a half to clear myself,” Hall says. “So I went out to the right side of the course and ended up winning the race.”
He said overall the racing was tight today. “Well, except for Ravi [Parent, who is leading the foiling division]; who was just ‘gone’. He’s mastered jumping on the foils earlier than anyone else, which of course adds at least five knots of boatspeed.”
For Parent, this is the first regatta he’s officially raced his new foiling A Cat, and he’s really pleased with the performance. In the six races sailed, he’s won all of them.
In the six-boat Melges 15 fleet a battle is shaping up between new owner Marlene Plumley, with Scott Steele driving on board Bubbles, and father-son team Diego and Zack Carvajal on their charter boat USA 102, tied at 14 points after eight races. Plumley is currently leading on tiebreaker after winning the last race of today.
This is Plumley’s first racing boat, and she is loving it. She teamed up with Steele rather “serendipitously” and as the two familiarize themselves with the boat and sailing together, “we’ve improved every race,” Plumley says. “Racing has also gotten really tight; today only boat lengths separated the teams.”
It’s the Carvajal’s first time sailing together in a regatta, and according to Diego, his son Zack is “definitely the driver in the boat; I’m just along for the ride.” Zack, 17, races on his high school sailing team in South Carolina, sailing the 420s.
“There was some adrenaline this morning; getting out there it was a washing machine out there with big waves and blowing, the wind gusts probably in the 20-plus range,” Diego says. “But going upwind is Zack’s specialty and he really did well even in all that chop. We hit that windward mark in first quite a few times. It’s his first time sailing an asymmetric spinnaker so our downwinds weren’t quite as forgiving.”
In PHRF 1, Michael Siedlecki’s Tack Tick, a Martin 243 overtook the lead from Wasabi, a Farr 395, with three first-place finishes; and in PHRF 2 the J/105 Breezing Bayou owned by Michael Stephen and the J/29 Family Circus, owned by Robert Wetmore, are tied at 11 points, with Breezing Bayou leading on tiebreaker.
Racing concludes tomorrow and the overall winner will be selected to represent St. Petersburg at the Helly Hansen NOOD Caribbean Championship.