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Pennington takes helm of PHRF administration

Beth Pennington, a well-known and respected figure on the regional sailing scene for her work as a race official, has been appointed administrator of the West Florida Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF).

Pennington _ who along with her husband, George, serve as race committee volunteers aboard their powerboat Baby Doll II _ was selected for the new position by the PHRF board.

According to chairman Sandy Schoenberg, Pennington assumed responsibility Sept. 1 for answering all inquiries, fielding phone calls and faxes, relaying appeals to the rating committee and assigning ratings for new PHRF applications on previously rated boats.

Fairlie Brinkley of Clearwater has been appointed chairman of the West Florida PHRF Boat of the Year committee, which hopes to stimulate participation in the competition.

ABOUT PHRF: Sailboat racing is a sport of numbers, wind speeds and compass headings.

Nowhere are numbers more important than in the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) system of ranking boats based on their speed potential.

That ranking is designated numerically as a "handicap" expressed in seconds per mile.

The objective of the system is to allow mixed fleets of vastly different boats to compete, then use the handicaps to recalculate the "corrected time" for each boat. The faster the boat (according to the design numbers, not the crew aboard), the lower the rating.

In the case of the popular J/24 sloop, the 24-foot keelboat carries a PHRF rating of 174 seconds per mile when racing locally in mixed fleets of monohulls.

The Henderson 30 sport boat, a longer and more exotic design, has been given a rating of 45 seconds per mile.

Setting aside class divisions (which in most regattas likely wouldn't pit the 24-footer against the 30-footer for trophy honors), the J/24 would get a 129-second PHRF handicap advantage foreach mile of the course when scored against the Henderson 30.

Running those numbers, the Henderson would have to beat the J/24 by 129 seconds _ more than two minutes _ for each mile of the overall course distance to beat the J-boat on corrected time at the finish line.

On a 10-mile course, the J/24 could finish more than 21 minutes behind the Henderson and win on corrected time.

While PHRF ratings nationwide may vary slightly based on different sailing conditions in each region, the overall intent is to rate the boats with a handicap that makes most boats equal.

It is, arguably, an imperfect system, as certain wind and sea conditions favor certain designs.

Older designs and heavier boats may struggle in Tampa Bay's moderate to light wind conditions but often hold an advantage in stormy weather.

The ultralight sport boat designs can plane across the water like a powerboat in moderate winds. The rest of the fleet plows through the water.

The equality of the rating system is weather and course dependent.

Like other regional PHRF associations, the West Florida PHRF has established rules that govern how the boats are rated as well a system for appealing the rating assigned if the owner thinks it's unfair or if a competitor thinks the rating is too generous.

Independent of Pennington's role as administrator, the West Florida PHRF rating committee makes rulings for new boats coming onto the local racing scene as well as acting on any rating appeals.

MAKING WAVES: The best sailing conditions in the nation will prevail in Florida during the next three months.

But local sailors have been traveling abroad and into the northern states in search of the strongest competition and best conditions.

Despite a questionable disqualification in an early race in the series, the Greek-based Corel 45 Atalanti X finished second overall at the IC45 world championships in Marseille, France, earlier this month.

Aboard the boat in his regular spot as trimmer was sailmaker Ethan Bixby of St. Petersburg.

"We were DSQd on a race that we had won, and if we had been able to keep that race, it would have changed things a lot," Bixby said. "We ended up two points out of first."

Among the Atalanti X crew were Tony Celemare of St. Petersburg, international champion Ken Read at the helm, Warrick Fluerry of New Zealand's winning America's Cup team trimming the mainsail and Robbie Haines as tactician.

Mark Mendelblatt of St. Petersburg may have slipped on his Olympic campaign in the Laser class, but it hasn't slowed his progress on the international scene.

Mendelblatt, ranked second in the world, traveled to Holland for the J/22 world championships at the end of August and came home fourth overall.

It was the top finish by any team not based in the Netherlands.

LIEBEL BROTHERS WIN: With their strongest competition coming from another Florida team, the Liebel brothers _ Scott, Chris and Steve _ captured the Henderson 30 North American championship Sunday aboard Speed Racer.

The title was decided at the second annual Larchmont National Offshore One-design (NOOD) event in Larchmont, N.Y.

Trekking some 1,800 miles from Sarasota to Long Island Sound, the Liebel squad beat Mike Carroll's Tampa Bay-based team by six points after six races Sept. 8-10.

On Carroll's Henderson, New Wave, were designer Glen Henderson and John Jennings, both of St. Petersburg, as well as noted one-design racer and sailmaker Dave Ullman of San Diego, Calif.

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