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Sail exhibit will spotlight boats, gear

The largest in-water sailboat show in the southeast starts Thursday at the Vinoy basin and nearby park in downtown St. Petersburg.

The four-day event is a must for sailors in search of new boats and gear, seminars on a variety of sailing subjects and a chance to meet fellow enthusiasts.

The entry fee is $10 for adults Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, the cost is $12.

Reduced-rate tickets and coupons are available online at

If you would like to experience the sport, there are free boat rides available Thursday-Sunday for those at the show. Rides last about 30 minutes.

PARALYMPIC PRE-TRIALS: John Ross-Duggan of Newport Beach, Calif., is a frequent visitor to the St. Petersburg Sailing Center to train and race in preparation for the Olympic Trials next November.

His campaign was enhanced by a stellar performance in the Nov. 5-10 Pre-Trials, in which Ross-Duggan won six of the eight events and was second in the other two.

Along with crew J.P. Creignou and Mark Ross, they seemed to be getting a little more speed from their 23-foot Sonar.

Ross-Duggan's main competition the past few years has been Paul Callahan of Providence, R.I.

Callahan introduced to this event a new steering system that looked similar to the handles on one of those America's Cup winches.

It will take time to learn the feel of the boat after using a tiller while strapped in his wheelchair on the starboard side.

Callahan and crew Keith Burhans and Mark Hersey won the last race by a considerable margin.

In the diminutive 2.4-meter class, Tom Brown of Northeast Harbor, Maine, is starting to get more competition after having it easy in past events.

"I need to work on light-air racing," Brown said.

Each time the wind increased, Brown was well in the lead. Jim Gleuk of Delafield, Wis., made it close, losing by a point.

John Ruf was third. Tampa's Roger Cleworth, continuing his rise in the 2.4-meter ranks, finished fourth.

Except in the Paralympic Trails next year, able-bodied men and women are invited to race in the class.

In Europe, large fleets of these boats race regularly. The more vessels on thecourse the better the competition. The USA team needs to be pushed to do well in international events.

FALL BAY RACE: The Saturday forecast was for extreme weather, so competition was postponed until Sunday.

As it turned out, Saturday was wet but sailable and Sunday was a gearbuster.

Winds were clocked at 35 knots in gusts by accurate instruments on the Laser course nearby.

Of the 42 keel boats registered for the annual event, 23 raced on Sunday and only nine finished.

Southern Crescent, Daniel Kerchoff's Farr 39 from Naples, won the Spinnaker A fleet. Jose Suarez-Hoyos' J-30 Mariah from Davis Island placed second.

Third was Constellation, Greg Petrat's Swan 48 from Sarasota. Fire and Ice, George Cussins' J-105 from Davis Island, was the only other finisher in the class.

The three finishers in Spinnaker B, in order, were Desparado, Ron Augustine's Beneteau FC10 from Clearwater; Marisol, an Evelyn 32 skippered by J.A. Booker of St. Petersburg; and Semper Fi, Ray Mannix' J-29 out of Windjammers of Clearwater.

Non-Spinnaker A had one finisher, Intrepid, a J-40 sailed by Jeff Russo of Davis Island. Shady Lady, a Cal 34 guided by Steve Honour of Windjammers, was the lone finisher in the True Cruising class.

There were no finishers in the Spinnaker C or Non-Spinnaker B divisions.

SUNFISH WOMEN'S NORTH AMERICANS: The same weather that affected the Fall Bay Race and Laser Masters was experienced by the 32 women sailing on Clearwater Bay.

Saturday's winds were 16-22 for the first three and shifty and dying for the fourth race.

Nancy Haberland of Annapolis, Md., won the event.Anne Edwards of Mississippi and Davis Island's Gail Heausler were second and third, respectively.

With the competitors battling the windy conditions, rescue boats were busy.