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America's Cup helmsman keeps skill sharp on match racing tour

Boats in the Melges 24 class take to the water on Tampa Bay near the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg during last month’s National Offshore One Design Regatta.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Boats in the Melges 24 class take to the water on Tampa Bay near the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg during last month’s National Offshore One Design Regatta.

Alinghi, defender of the 33rd America's Cup, will race on the 2009 World Match Racing Tour.

St. Petersburg's Ed Baird, Alinghi's helmsman, will lead the four-man crew consisting of Pieter van Nieuwenhuijzen of the Netherlands, Lorenzo Mazza of Italy and Warwick Fleury of New Zealand at as many as 10 match racing events.

The tour begins with the Marseille International Match Race on Tuesday and finishes in December with the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia.

"The World Match Racing Tour puts a premium on teamwork and mastering ever-changing conditions," said Baird, a three-time match racing world champion. "We'll get a lot of different opportunities to race all the top match racers, which will ultimately be great for our Cup preparations. I haven't been a regular on the tour since 2005, but it will be great to get back into the action and to remind myself and the team what it takes to win short, tough races against all the top guys."

The Alinghi crew had been racing in New Zealand while judges at the New York Court of Appeals decide whether BMW Oracle Racing will be able to sail against the Swiss team in a multihull challenge.

"Getting back on the tour will keep us up to date with the latest thinking on rules, tactics and strategies," Baird said. "We'll also have the chance to keep communicating with the race teams from the many syndicates that are part of the next America's Cup."

Twilight Series: Starting March 13, the St. Petersburg Yacht Club will begin its yearly Twilight Series. This racing series, which usually runs May through August, is starting earlier to take advantage of daylight savings time. The event originally featured any self-bailing keelboat, but in the recent past has also featured moths, Lasers, windmills and other dinghies. There are numerous classes. For the Notice of Race, go to www.spyc.org.

Raileys sail together: Siblings Paige and Zach Railey of Clearwater won a silver medal in the Laser Radial class and a bronze medal in the Finn class at U.S. Sailing's Rolex Miami Olympic Class Regatta at the end of January.

The Rolex Miami OCR was the second of seven stops on the International Sailing Federation's new Sailing World Cup series for Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.

Other locals that competed included St. Petersburg's Allison Jolly in the women's 470, Clearwater's Emily Billing in the Laser Radial, St. Petersburg's Ben Bager in the Men's RS:X, St. Peterburg's Jen French, Tampa's Brad Kendall with Mike Hersey of Hyannis, Mass., in the Sonar.

NOOD wrapup: In wet and windy conditions, nearly 1,000 sailors from more than 25 states sailed in last month's 12th annual National Offshore One Design Regatta near downtown St. Petersburg. Homegrown racers did not fare so well this year. Only six of the 15 fleets boasted a Floridian skipper as the winner. But even with out-of-towners racking up the majority of the fleet wins, a Floridian, David Flechsig of Port Charlotte, took home the overall title and will be invited to participate in the 2009 NOOD Regatta Championships in the British Virgin Islands in November.

Morgan Invasion: The Treasure Island Yacht Club will host the 24th annual Morgan Invasion at the club's Pass-A-Grille location May 8. The actual race, for boats built or designed by local hero Charley Morgan, will be in the gulf. Over the years this for-fun-only race has attracted racers from all over the country. No spinnakers or protests allowed. Competitors are also encouraged to dress in costumes. For information, go to www.morgan invasion.com.

Valentine's Regatta: More than 240 young sailors from as far away as Curacao and Canada came to St. Petersburg on Feb. 7-8 for the annual Valentine's Day Regatta. This event, sponsored by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and sailed out of the city's sailing center, is the largest event of its kind in the country. The Opti Gold fleet drew the most competitors with 163, followed by the Opti Silver fleet with 53, the Laser Radial fleet with 19 and the Laser 4.7 fleet with 10.

In the Opti Gold fleet, top SPYC performers were Nic Baird in 20th overall followed by Liam McCarthy in 25th and Ty Baird in 63rd. Also competing in the Opti Gold fleet were Hayden Grant, Sylvia Hopkins, Sofia Juster Kruse, Alexa Lynch, Trevor Avila, Martin Hood, Leo Willett, Nevin Avila, Nick Rudnicki, and Claire Dudenhoefer.

In the Opti Silver division, the yacht club was represented by Kurban Ali in ninth overall, followed by Zach Lynch in 11th, Estil Loyd in 17th, Blaire McCarthy in 19th, Tyler King in 24th, Callista Hopkins in 27th, Noah King in 34th and Grant Boicheff in 38th.

On the Laser course, SPYC's Cam Hall narrowly missed out on the overall victory in the Radial class, finishing second overall with U.S. Sailing team and SPYC member John Wallace in seventh.

On the 4.7 course SPYC's Noah King tied for second overall but lost the tiebreaker to finish third. Mallory Willett, Drew King and Donna Rudnicki also competed this year.

Have sailing news? To submit information, go to community.tampabay.com and click on the "Submit info here" link. Or reach Terry Tomalin at (727) 893-8808 or e-mail him at tomalin@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Nautical flea market/swap meet

The 13th annual JSI Nautical Flea Market is Saturday, running from 8 a.m. to noon at 2233 Third Ave. S in St. Petersburg. For information or to reserve space, call (727) 577-3220.

America's Cup helmsman keeps skill sharp on match racing tour 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 3:30am]
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