St. Petersburg's Grant Dumas races year round but he looks forward to February when the first stop of the National Offshore One-Design series brings in fellow sailors from around the world.
"It is cold up north and everybody always looks forward to coming to Florida," said Dumas, the 45-year-old skipper of the race boat Warrior who won last year's event. "It is a great way to show off our local sailing scene."
Coming less than a month after Key West Race Week, the event, known as the NOOD Regatta, typically attracts an assortment of elite sailors who don't mind racing in the Sunshine State, especially when it's snowing back home.
The regatta, held off downtown St. Petersburg, is expected to draw more than 1,000 sailors. The term one-design describes boats with identical measurements and specifications, the same style of racing held in the Olympics.
Dumas and his crew, which usually consists of at least 11 other sailors, races a Tripp 38 in the Spinnaker A class.
"It is a pretty complicated boat … lot of strings to pull," Dumas said of his "party" size crew. "But we race together all through the fall and spring and even do the Friday night series during the summer months."
Dumas, who won last year's event, grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and learned race sailing with his father on Lake Erie. His team's victory in last year's NOOD earned the Warrior crew a trip to the Virgin Islands to compete in the NOOD season finals.
"We were happy to finish in the middle of the pack," Dumas said. "When you get to that level, you are competing against some very good teams.
The 28th NOOD regatta, which runs Friday through Sunday, is the first stop in a five-city circuit. Each event winner gets a spot at the NOOD Championship Regatta in the British Virgin Islands. The overall winner at each event is chosen based upon the strongest finish in the most competitive class. Race start times depend on wind and weather, but are scheduled to begin at about 10 a.m. daily. For information, go to sailingworld.com/nood-regattas.
Clearwater also will host a major sailing event this week as the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Olympic sailing classes hold World Championships. Both classes, the fastest, double-handed sailboats in international competition, will be featured at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The 49er (two men) made its Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000. The 49erFX (two women), the same boat with smaller sails, will sail for the first time at the Rio Olympics, as will the Nacra (one man, one women).
The 49er races, which run today through Sunday, will have some of the biggest names in international sailing. World Champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were the 2014 World Sailors of the year. The 2012 Olympic gold medalists, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, will also be competing. These sailors are helmsman and trimmers for America's Cup teams Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing. Local favorite Brad Funk of Clearwater will race with Trevor Burd of Marblehead, Mass.
The 49erFX and Nacra 17 fleets are new to the Olympics so there are no clearcut favorites for the worlds. But these new classes represent a big step forward for women's sailing because up until this point, only men got to race the extreme classes. The Nacra fleet will include St. Petersburg native Mark Mendelblatt and his wife, Carolina, as well as Sarasota's Dalton Tebo, who races with Michigan's Stephanie Hudson.
Many countries, including Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Canada and the United States, will use the Clearwater worlds to help determine the national representatives in Rio. For information, go to SailLife.com.
Contact Terry Tomalin at TTomalin@TampaBay.com or (727) 893-8808. Follow @TomalinTimes.