Thursday, November 23, 2017

USF women aim to move up at sailing championships


ST. PETERSBURG — Abby Featherstone would love to go out a winner. The 21-year-old senior on the USF women's sailing team is competing in the finals of the College Sailing Spring National Championship this week.

"It still hasn't hit me yet," the Sarasota native said before the competition began Wednesday. "But this is it."

The USF women's sailing team, the only varsity sport on the St. Petersburg campus, heads into today's final day of competition in 11th place with 247 points after 14 races, well behind leader Dartmouth (149) and runnersup Boston College and St. Mary's (188). Today's final four races are scheduled to begin around noon in the waters near the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

"The competition has been really tough," said Featherstone, who capped her eight-race Thursday with second-place finishes in her final two races. "Some of these schools have really strong programs."

Eckerd, with USF a co-host of the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association's premier event, is 13th (287 points).

In addition to the local schools and the leading clubs, Brown, College of Charleston, Connecticut, Cornell, Georgetown, Hawaii, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Michigan, Minnesota, Navy, Old Dominion, Rhode Island, Roger Williams, Santa Clara, Stanford, Texas, Tufts, the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington, Western Washington, Wisconsin and Yale also fielded teams that qualified to be here.

The sailors have been competing in a boat called the FJ, a dinghy with an overall sail area of about 100 square feet. Competitors sail in identical, or "one-design" craft that are rotated among sailors every few races.

This style of racing puts a high premium on boat handling and tactics, so seasoned sailors such as Featherstone get a chance to show their skill in races that generally last about 18 to 20 minutes.

"The past four years have been great," said Featherstone who started sailing at age 9 and plans to spend this summer coaching youth sailing in San Francisco. "I have gotten a chance to travel and sail for free. I'll really miss the lifestyle."

Featherstone credits coach Allison Jolly, a former Olympic gold medalist, with the team's growth and success.

"She is a true icon of the sport," Featherstone said. "Everywhere you go, people know her. Yet she is so modest and humble. She's a great role model and an inspiration to the whole team."

Jolly, now in her ninth season as coach, said the great thing about the USF sailing team is the fact that it is open to everybody.

"We've taken kids, good athletes who have never sailed before, and introduced them to the sport," Jolly said. "Four years later, they can be racing in the national championships. I don't think you can see that in any other sport."


Captainís Corner: Bay area reefs, hard bottoms, flats worth your attention

With air temperature still in the upper 70s to low 80s during the day in between cool fronts, you might want to look around bay area reefs, hard bottoms and flats. When the water starts warming in the middle of the day, snook start biting. But donít ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Get ready for gag grouper migration

With falling water temperatures and bait fish making their way into the near shore waters off of the coast, we can expect the fall migration of gag grouper to be in full swing with the next two or three cold fronts that make their way into the centra...
Published: 11/18/17
Updated: 11/20/17

Captainís Corner: As visibility improves, so does spearfishing

Spearing in the Gulf of Mexico is improving day by day. First, the underwater visibility is getting much better. For more than a month, after Hurricane Irma, the offshore water clarity was so poor that most divers stayed home. The water is now much c...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17

Captainís Corner: Snook bite remains aggressive

We are in the midst of prefrontal conditions, so there should be good fishing today. Bait seems to have moved on the last full moon and judging by the amount of bait fry that has filtered onto the flats, it spawned also. Load up the wells with the sm...
Published: 11/17/17

Captainís Corner: Calm seas closer to beaches rewards with kingfish

Strong east winds have made it challenging for offshore anglers. The first few miles are quite tolerable since the land buffers the shoreline. After that, sea conditions have been tougher. Anglers searching for kingfish have been rewarded with calm s...
Published: 11/16/17

Captainís Corner: A little wind doesnít stop hot fishing in November

Despite many windy days, November fishing has been amazing. The water is cooling off, and the fish are becoming more aggressive. Itís getting to be the time of year when the cold fronts start to make their way out of the north. When this happens, win...
Published: 11/15/17

Captainís Corner: Fly fishing success possible, even in wind

When your day to fly fish arrives, do you hope for a day without wind? Knowledgeable fly fishers know there are many ways to deal with different wind situations. Avoid open water, and select an area that offers protection. Stay close to shore and use...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/14/17

Captainís Corner: Low tides and cold fronts make for rewarding fishing

Fall and winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to highly rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus miles an hour out of the northeast combined with an astronomical low tide around the new moon and full moon phase...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17

Captainís Corner: Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, ...
Published: 11/12/17
Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

The fall king mackerel run is still going strong. The fish have seemed to come in waves; one week there are numerous fish more than 30 pounds, and a week or two later no one can find any more than 20. It also seems the fish are not moving south all t...
Published: 11/11/17