By Dave Ellis, Principal Race Officer
Once again, keel boats twenty years or older gathered on Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront for a celebration of sailing. Forty-five sailing craft gathered. But we did not do much actual sailing. With a four-hour time limit for the race course of about seven miles, only four boats finished. One boat was observed subtly rocking the boat in the drifter to make the finish. But the race officials made sure to be snacking instead of officially observing, as this is designed to be strictly a fun event.
With proceeds dedicated to Meals on Wheels, which had its start fifty years ago right here in St. Petersburg, it is all about the giving. Including the many sponsored gifts and auction items, over $16,000 was donated. For the sixth year in a row Steve Honour on Shady Lady was the boat collecting the most. With the help of his Boca Ciega Yacht Club cohorts they alone donated $2391.
Racing started in promising conditions, the five divisions heading north with the tidal current on a close starboard reach. However, by the second hour the wind had died. Drifting ensued, with much radio and vocal bantering among this fun group. Storms were brewing in the Gulf with the Coast Guard broadcasting on VHF channel 16 that all craft should proceed immediately to shore due to severe thunderstorms. Happily, the time limit for racing had expired by that time, so all complied willingly.
The food and drink at St. Petersburg Yacht Club that evening lived up to its billing. The many sponsors and those donating items were recognized and the fewer than normal prizes awarded.
Warrior, a Tripp 38 sailed by Grant Dumas, spent nearly an hour within an arrow shot of the finish line. He still finished over an hour ahead of the next boat, Tony Barrett’s Soveral 26 Back Off. Finally, the J-24 Shockwave sailed by 19-year-old Seth Rosenthal placed third in Spinnaker. Also finishing within the four hours was Red Sky, a Nightwind 35 sailed by Charles Mixson from Sarasota Sailing Squadron.
Dick Ware’s venerable Cal 25 Moonraker was perhaps a hundred feet from the line when time ran out. But it was still a few minutes before he actually crossed. Ware bought Moonraker new 51 years ago.
Each year random awards are given for no apparent reason. The youngest skipper was Ethan, aged 11, on S.O.R.C. a Frers 30 crewed by middle schoolers. The oldest skipper was Dick Ware at 85, still this year followed closely by Joe French and Ken Clark. The True Grit award was presented to Fruition, a Palmer Johnson 43 sailed by William Gately, who passed some boats by anchoring in the adverse tidal current. The Fashionista award for the best dressed went to Shady Lady, with the prettiest boat award given to Warrior, a 1987 vintage that looked showroom sharp.