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Havana Cup race to Cuba gears up for a record fleet

Ocean Racing Venture's Havana Cup _ the annual race and flotilla from Tampa Bay to Havana, Cuba, in late May _ is gearing up for another record fleet, according to organizer Jim Duncan.

"Almost 100 boats have already signed up," Duncan said last week. "One notable change in the race fleet is that the start will be moved west of the Skyway to avoid the tide under the bridge and get us on our way to Havana."

With a limit of 100 boats in the flotilla division, Duncan recommended that participants get their entries in as quickly as possible. The remaining entries, up to 150 boats, are reserved for the racing fleet that sails from Tampa Bay on the morning of May 26.

Entry fee for the event, in either division, is $250 and includes "hosted" status at Marina Hemingway in Cuba May 28 through June 2. A pre-race skippers meeting is set for May 13 at the University of South Florida Campus Activities Center in St. Petersburg.

More than 200 boats have made the crossing from Florida in each of the past two years. For information, entry forms and racing rules, see the Ocean Racing Ventures Web site at www.havanacup.com. Entry forms also can be obtained by writing to ORV at P.O. Box 120403, West Melbourne, FL 32912-0403, or by calling (321) 953-5140.

OLYMPIC UPDATE: Robbie Daniel, Mark Mendelblatt and Brett Davis _ local sailors who are top contenders for spots on the U.S. Olympic sailing team _ carried their training programs to Biscayne Bay Jan. 25-29 for the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.

Daniel and crew Jacques Bernier of Daytona Beach, currently the top-rated US Sailing team in the Tornado catamaran class, have struggled in the two most recent regattas due to injuries and sickness. They were forced to drop out of the Tornado world championships in Australia in early January due to Bernier's illness, and both were not healthy for the Miami event. They finished third overall, with defending U.S. Olympic Tornado champions John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree winning the 12-race series.

Jill Nickerson, who manages Daniels' Suncoast Sailing Campaign, said, "The team is looking forward to getting home and healthy and preparing for the Olympic trials by getting back into premium form."

Daniel and Bernier hope to earn a berth on the Olympic team in the Tornado trials scheduled for March 23-April 2 in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Mendelblatt, the top-rated Laser sailor in the United States, is working toward the same Olympic goal. He finished third at the Miami OCR, 13 points behind Karl Suneson of Sweden, who won the 12-race regatta. Davis, from Clearwater, finisihed 12th overall after taking a 65-point penalty for a premature start in the sixth race.

Both Mendelblatt and Davis will compete at the Laser world championships in Mexico March 11-18. The U.S. Laser trials for the June 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, will be April 6-16 at the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere, Calif.

Also competing in the Laser class at the Miami regatta were Zach Railey of St. Petersburg, who finished 27th; Peter Branning of Sarasota, 51st, and Sean Doyle of St. Petersburg, 55th in the 62-boat field. Ben Barger of St. Petersburg finished third in the eight-boat Mistral class. The regatta attracted almost 200 sailors in seven classes, with entries from 32 countries.

USF SAILS IN HAWAII: The University of South Florida intercollegiate sailing team took its longest road trip to date with a flight to Hawaii for the Rainbow Invitational hosted by the University of Hawaii. Sailing three-person Flying Juniors in very windy and shifty conditions, the Bulls finished seventh in the 10-school competition.

Competing for USF were Jim Cook, Crisy Roland, Aubry Eich, Genoa Griffin and Jaimie Rabbitt.

"The shifts in puffs were often 10 to 15 degrees, resulting in auto tacks and death rolls," sailing coach Steve Lang reported via e-mail. "The main advantage winner UH had was better control in the breeze. They stayed on planes (surfing) longer and came up after capsizes quicker."

He added, "Jim and Crisy capsized on the finish line when in second; Jaimie and Genoa capsized on the last leg while in fourth; Genoa and Aubry capsized on the finish line while in third and drifted across the line to take a seventh."

Lang was hardly disappointed in the results, saying, "We showed better depth and flexibility than I've ever seen in a USF team. The experience is invaluable."

The USF team will host a regional intercollegiate regatta for double-handed Snipes Saturday and Sunday in Tampa Bay off St. Petersburg. For information on the team, visit wwwl.stpt.usf.edu/sailingteam/index.htm.

PHRF AND FOMA RACING RESUMES: Keelboats and multihulls in the Tampa Bay region will resume their racing schedule with the Tampa Sailing Squadron's Gasparilla Regatta Feb. 12 at Apollo Beach. Many of the same boats will compete Feb. 26 in the Pass-a-Grille Yacht Club's Anchor Trophy race in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Pass-a-Grille event is part of the West Florida PHRF boat of the year series. For more information on the Gasparilla Regatta, contact the sailing squadron at (813) 645-8377 in Apollo Beach. Call (727) 360-1646 for details on the Anchor Trophy race.

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