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Youth regatta is a big draw

The National Offshore One Design Regatta was planned around its nation-wide tour and supplanted the usual date for the annual Valentines Optimist Dinghy regatta.

Enthusiasm remained, as 218 boats with sailors under 16 competed in the Jan. 16-18 event off St. Petersburg Pier.

Friday saw the huge fleet drift out to Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg Sailing Center and complete two light-air races.

Kenneth Andreasen was the principal race officer for the more experienced Gold fleet. Beth Pennington ran the Silver fleet with 45 newer sailors. As has been the case for years, the premier Opti event had no beginner Green fleet.

The fleet sat on the bay in frustration Saturday. Racing was attempted but the wind did not cooperate in strength or consistent direction.

"St. Pete is where all wind goes to die," said a Miami competitor.

Sunday, too, nearly was windless but had occasional squall lines that sent the fleet back to the safety of the center. So only the two races on Friday were counted for results.

Clearwater's Jason Kuebel finished 13th in the Red fleet and 14th overall among the 173 Gold sailors, the best among locals.

Ian Heausler of Tampa took second in the Blue fleet. Clearwater's Parker Polger was fifth in White.

Among the girls, Eliza Richrtz placed fifth and Adriana Kopp took ninth.

Max Baird was first in the Silver fleet and second overall in fleet. Kimberly Jennings was the girls Silver runner-up.

KEY WEST RACE WEEK: The Terra Nova Trading Key West Regatta again was the nation's premier event for sailors of larger vessels.

There were 301 boats with 3,000 competitors from 18 countries and 32 states on the small island.

"We had about the best conditions this year that I've seen there," Ethan Bixby said.

Bixby sailed on a Greek-owned boat that usually places at the top of the Farr 40 class, arguably the most professional sailor-laden group.

This year, they won one race and did well in others, but two mid-fleet finishes dropped them in the rankings. The winner averaged sixth place in each heat, showing the quality.

Andy Cheney, a familiar figure at the Harborage Marina, not only won the PHRF-9 class in his Beneteau Kelly but picked up the Lewmar Trophy for the outstanding boat.

"It was excellent racing all week, and we feel very fortunate to finish on top," Cheney said. "Our boat is much better in heavy air than light, and I think the fact the breeze built later in the week benefited us."

Michael Carroll of Clearwater's Henderson 30 New Wave captured second in the C-2 class. Local crew included Marty Kullman, Colin Park, Matt and Laura Bryant and Jay Kuebel. The Melges 30 they bested last year got them this time.

OLYMPIC CLASS REGATTAS: The season of reckoning has arrived for Olympic hopefuls, as the Miami-area regattas get under way.

The Olympic Class Regatta kicks off the events, which started Tuesday and continue through Friday with 700 sailors from 37 countries mixing it up in all the classes, including the Paralympic Sonar and 2.4 Meter.

Tampa's Arthur Anasov is sailing his Star under the Ukraine country listing. Ben Barger of St. Petersburg has entered his Mistral board and Dave Fagen his high performance 49er.

Zach Railey and Kurt Taulbee are in their Lasers, and Robbie Daniel is in his Tornado Cat. Jennifer and Timothy French each will sail a 2.4 Meter. Rick Merriman, who grew up on the St. Petersburg waterfront, will be there in his Star.

GASPARILLA REGATTA: Tampa Sailing Squadron's regatta for PHRF boats is scheduled for Saturday-Sunday. Another date was on some calendars, causing confusion.

EICH: Clay Eich died at age 23 after battling an illness. He was a familiar sailor on the St. Petersburg junior scene a few years ago.

During his 10 years on the junior team, Eich represented the USA in three European championships and competed for St. Petersburg High School's squad four successful seasons.