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15 February 2004, 12:45 pm
Final Report
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Sonar World Championship
St. Petersburg YC

The weatherman almost had it right on Thursday. Predicted was 10-15 knots from the southwest. When we convened at the Sailing Centre for the final day we had that alright. Problem was we also had pea soup fog!
But despite that the fleet was itching to go racing and some had already hoisted sails and ventured out when the RC put up a shore side postponement. But it cleared sufficiently to take it down within minutes, and the fleet was soon on their way to the battlefield.

Here was the scenario: of the seven races scheduled, only four had been completed due to light winds. While we had enough to call it a regatta, we needed two more to allow a discard, thus the RC posted an amendment to the SI's scheduling two races instead of the original one. But the deadline to start a sequence remained at 1230 hours.

Standing in first with a comfortable lead of 5 points over John ROBERTSON, the Paralympic representatve from Great Britain, was the USA Paralympic representative; John ROSS-DUGGAN. Third was Peter GALLOWAY one point behind Robertson with Steve SHEPSTONE one point behind Galloway.

So while the fleet sailed out to the starting area in minimal visibility, the supremely efficient RC was preparing to start the sequence on time. But combine an ebbing current with a feisty fleet and the first of three General Recalls occur.

But then the fog rolled back in, and this time with a vengance, so the fleet reached back and forth within sight of the RC boat for almost 2 hours. Time was ticking away. The 1230 deadline approaches. John ROSS-DUGGAN was hoping the fog wont lift...

But like Moses parting the Red Sea, at 1210 the fog lifted enough to see the shore! The RC set up for one last attempt at a start.

But under the "Z" flag they succeed, albeit with a few victims, one of whom was John ROBERTSON. With only one race possible, it would exact a penalty that he could not possibly recover from.

The fleet split right and left equally with Peter GALLOWAY, Steve SHEPSTONE and John ROSS-DUGGAN (JRD) headed right. When they came together, Shepstone rounded first with Galloway virtually overlapped. Sweeney/Crane/Schultz (SCS) and Ed Sherman were a few lengths back.

At the leeward mark Galloway and Shepstone are still right at each other, but the positions remain unchanged. If Steve wins the race and Peter is second, then they would tie for first and Galloway would win the tiebreaker, assuming JRD didn't manage a miracle comeback. Steve realised he needs a boat between them, so he decides to take action.

With Steve and Peter splitting left, SCS and Sherman split right. Peter would later explain that by splitting, he hoped that they would both gain sufficiently over SCS and Sherman, so that Steve could not prevent him from finishing second, or Steve would be crossed by SCS and Sherman, thus preventing a boat from getting between them. Either outcome would give the title to Peter.

As the fog rolled in once again, hearts were in mouths as for a while the finish line was invisible.

It lifted enough to reveal the finish less than a quarter mile away from the leaders. Steve jumps on Peter hard with some serious team race moves while keeping a watchful eye on SCS and Sherman closing fast. It would be close. Peter does all he can to break the close cover, but aggresive sail ragging by Steve is taking it's toll. They all cross within a few boat lengths of the finish. Shepstone, Sherman, SCS, Galloway in that order.

In a virtual photo finish and nail biter right to the end, it could not have been dramatized any better. He is the new World Champion. But in the final analysis, it could easily have been Peter or John ROSS-DUGGAN. All sailed superbly. All were deserving of the crown. But there can only be one World Champion.

So congratulations to Steve SHEPSTONE amd his crew, Melissa SHEPSTONE, Tom KINNEY and Mike LOEB: Sonar World Champions.

Full results are available on the Sonar Class Website at the address below.
Event Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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