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Rough seas yield family finish

Matt Fisher, father share victories at the Winter Championship.

After trailing the leaders for the first two days of the Lightning Class Winter Championship at St. Petersburg, Matt Fisher of Westerville, Ohio, moved into the overall winner's spot as the five-race series ended on Sunday on a windy and choppy Tampa Bay.

Joining Fisher on the winners' podium was his father, George, who won the master's division for senior sailors while finishing 22nd overall.

The younger Fisher's team, which included Rick Bernstein and Dan Moriarty of St. Louis, didn't win a race during the three-day regatta but stayed close enough to leader Ched Proctor to capitalize on any mistakes. When Proctor's team struggled with an errant line under the boat midway through the closing race, Fisher passed Proctor.

"We were ahead of Matt at the mark, but when the spinnaker sheet went under the bow on the douse, he passed us," Proctor said. "The last critical time came on the final run. We jibed too early we should have been more patient."

Despite finishing second in the regatta, Proctor's team was the winner of the Lightning Class Southern Circuit that included races in Savannah, Ga., Miami and St. Petersburg. That honor was little consolation to Proctor.

"We kind of wanted to win this one it's been 17 years since I won this event," Proctor said.

Matt Fisher's team finished fourth in the final race. Combined with Proctor's ninth-place finish, Fisher won the overall honors by one point.

"We gained four boats on the second beat and Ched lost four boats," Fisher said. "We needed one more boat between him and us on the downwind leg for us to win, and one boat got past Ched just before the finish."

George Fisher, who has been coming to St. Petersburg to race Lightnings since 1948 when this regatta was launched by the host St. Petersburg Yacht Club (including 1953 when he raced on his honeymoon), won the master's division _ also by one point.

Asked about the conditions on the water during the series, which included one light air race, two races with moderate breeze and Sunday's heavy air race, the 74-year-old Fisher said, "I loved it all."

For his son, their double win was icing on the cake. "It's kind of special, his winning the masters and us winning this."

Sailmaker Jeff Linton of Tampa, sailing with Mark Taylor and Jaimie Rabbitt, was the top area finisher, placing 11th in the 67-boat field.