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12 April 2005, 02:50 pm
Success in St. Petersburg
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Disabled Midwinter's Regatta 2005
St. Petersburg, Fl. USA

An unusual schedule of events brought lots of horsepower to the Disabled Midwinter's Regatta in St. Petersburg, Fl. USA. Three classes of sailboats were accompanied by fleet of Grand Prix race cars along the waters of Tampa Bay.
Once a year St. Petersburg plays host to the street racing event and this year the bay front was alive with racing both on and off the water from 1-3 April.

The Disabled Midwinter's Regatta is an open event hosted by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The Sailing Centre is located on the west shore of Tampa Bay and is well protected by a large breakwater, making for an ideal place to sail boats. The centre has four hoists and two sets of floating docks which add convenience for disabled sailors. The regatta is held each year in late March and early April and includes Martin 16's, 2.4mR's and Sonar Classes. Over 40 competitors attended this year's regatta.

The excitement started early Friday morning as the competitors arrived at the docks to rig and race. Their brethren on the streets had also arrived early to begin practice for their racing and where challenging the sailors to a contest of loudness. On the docks sailors often had to yell communications to be heard by their teammates. Bright orange and green earplugs armored the sailors against the noisy attacks from the street racers.

Once the sailors left the docks the roar from the streets diminished. Principle Race Officer, Bob JOHNSON, set the race course well out into Tampa Bay to escape the boat traffic which had arrived to view the nationally televised Grand Prix event. Friday's conditions were great for racing. The winds were out of the South and started soft but ended strong around 15 knots. The courses were stretched to about 0.8 miles.

The Martins and the 2.4's sailed two weather legs and finished the second time up. Sonar's sailed three weather legs, also finishing to weather. The race committee did and excellent job managing three classes on the same course.

With the fetch of the bay and strong winds there were some exciting downwind moments for some of the teams. Gustaf FRESK from Stockholm, Sweden found broaching three or four times in rapid secession not very fast. The 2.4 class exploded with fun as they parted wave after wave surfing their way towards the leeward marks. The Sonar's found great speed in these conditions and found themselves passing through the other two fleets on their second downwind legs.

Saturday was a well used day off to make repairs and tune boats. The weather was a little more demanding and races were cancelled for the day. This gave sailors an opportunity to visit the streets and see was all the noise was about.

Sunday, the wind had moved to the northeast and still had the fetch of the bay to use the 15 knot breeze to add excitement to the day's races. The current was running quickly across the starting line and some of the racers felt the wrath of the Z Flag at mismanaged starts.

At the end of the day, Colin PARK (USA) had claimed the number one spot for the 2.4mR class. The team skippered by Ricky DOERR (USA) was at the top of the Sonar fleet, and FRESK and Ian PINNEL (GBR) held the top positions for fleets D and A respectively, in the Martin 16 Classes.

This was also the IFDS International Two Person Championship for the Martin 16 and the award for the first place team went to FRESK.

Linda MERKLE recognized Karen MITCHELL and Shelly GAUTIER to receive the annual Milam/Gruson Award, given to recognize excellent performance by female skippers and crews. This was Karen's second year in a row to receive this award. (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from the Regatta:© Char Doyle
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