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SORC loses its corporate sponsor

After three years of sponsorship, Audi of North America has withdrawn its financial support of the Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC). Citing economic trends within the automobile industry, Audi terminated the relationship, but did so in time for SORC to reshape its plans for 1991.

The Audi sponsorship was designed to help continue offshore yacht racing at the international level SORC had achieved over the years. The money, said to have been more than $90,000 in the initial support year, was directed to the six yacht club memberships in the SORC. None of it was to be given to owners and crews finishing high in the various races.

The sponsorship was set up to give yacht clubs money to stage the SORC races at a time when operational expenses were threatening the financial ability of some clubs to put on a first-class regatta.

Some clubs, with funds set aside for sailing events such as SORC, diverted the Audi money in part to junior sailing programs. Audi applauded that, since it fit well with its desire to promote sailing.

The SORC could pick up another racing-minded corporate backer, but at this late date and with the current economic picture, that is not likely.

Audi's sponsorship was well intended but the timing ran afoul of a shift of interest by competition sailors who shunned overnight offshore racing in favor of daytime racing on short courses.

The fleet size grew this year. Maybe the numbers will go up another notch next year regardless of sponsorship support.

The 1991 schedule will consist of a possible maximum 14 races _ 12 long, two short. The famous St. Petersburg-Fort Lauderdale race is included.

The dates: Feb.

28-March 1 for four Tampa Bay day races; March 3 for the St. Petersburg to Fort Lauderdale race; March 8 for two Mark Baxter Memorial day races; March 9 for two Lipton Cup day races; March 10 for two ocean races; March 11 for the Gulfstream ocean race.

Other than those starting in St. Petersburg, the races will be off Miami Beach.

Maybe what the SORC needs is what the Feb.

1 Fort Lauderdale-Montego Bay, Jamaica, race is touting. Ted Turner and Jane Fonda will crew for Ted Jr. on the former Whitbread racer The Card, now known as Challenge America, in the 811-nautical mile race.

If Fonda does deck work and stands watches for that long race she may find new muscles to write about in her next fitness book.

Despite all the budget cuts, the wheeling and dealing that went on in Washington, one project that survived will finance the updating of Tampa Bay tide and current charts. U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-St. Petersburg, succeeded in getting $1.5-million from a House-Senate conference committee. Existing chart data go back to 1963.

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