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Catamaran racing starts the new year

Many sailors are not up to doing much of anything the morning of Jan. 1.

However, catamaran racers in the bay area traditionally use the day off for a distance event appropriately called the Hangover Regatta.

Unlike most races, the cat sailors tend to have a small group running the event. L.J. Nicholson and Dave Parker stayed on the beach at the Dunedin Causeway to start and finish the vessels, while Jill Nickerson eyed the racing from a power boat.

The faster boats headed out of Hurricane Pass, raced around Anclote Island near Tarpon Springs, then returned, a distance of about 25 miles. Winds were about seven knots, with some gusts to 10. With the prevailing easterly breeze, it was a reach both directions.

Most of these twin-hulled speedsters set a large asymmetrical spinnaker that can quickly overpower even a skilled crew when the reach gets tight. John Fondrk, with crew Dennis Bedgood, flipped their Nacra 6.0 on the northward leg but recovered to finish.

The Nacra Inter 20 of John Casey and Jim Novak won their class by a little less than 3 minutes over the Olympic Tornado cat of Alain Dubuc and Eve-Marie L'Abbe of Canada. Robbie Daniel and Mark Herendeen finished just 36 seconds later in their Tornado for third.

A trend in catamaran racing has been Formula classes, lumping boats of a certain length and similar sail areas together. The Formula 18 class is emerging as the most popular.

Jennifer Lindsay and Kelly Gray sailed their Hobie Tiger to the lead in the class, beating to the finish several of the potentially faster 20-footers. The two sailors are practicing for this spring's championship in California, where they will represent this part of the country.

David and Kathy Ingram were second in the F-18s, slightly more than a minute behind after a 3-hour race. Sue Korz and Greg Thomas were third.

The Low Portsmouth fleet took the long course with the fast boats. These vessels range from high-tech A-cats to fast beach cats such as Prindles and G-Cats.

Bob Barton sailed his Supercat 17 alone for the win. Mike Crawford, competing alone, got to the finish first in his Taipan 4.9. But with handicap applied, he took second in scoring.

Seth Stern and Drew Braunstein sailed their Taipan 4.9 in the Formula-16 configuration to third place. Woody Cope would have enjoyed some windward work for his A-cat. The reaches relegated him to fourth among 14 boats.

The smaller cats sailed around Three Rooker Bar island and returned, a distance of about 15 miles. Tom Hirst led his Supercat 15 to the win. Kirk Smith was the first to finish on his Trac 16, but it wasn't by enough to save his handicap time. Third was Terry Fondrk on a Dart 18.

Their course was an adventure in eyeball navigation. The long, slender island that was Three Rooker Bar now is just two small islands at the north and south ends. The middle 3 miles has washed inland with the storms of the summer. It isn't fast to sail where pigeons are walking.

ORANGE BOWL REGATTA: Imagine 660 sailboats filled with juniors on one bay.

Miami's Orange Bowl Regatta had excellent wind for the big fleet.

Clearwater's Paige Railey dominated the 112-boat Laser Radials. She reports that she capsized once and jumped the starting gun.

While rounding the end of the line to re-start, Railey almost lost control. The adults on the power boat watching that end of the line had to dive for cover while shouting "heads down."

Railey broke out laughing, then she proceeded to catch and pass most of the boats in the huge fleet.

Clearwater's Mitch Hall was third in Radials, showing the strength of the local fleet.

UN-RETIRED: Cliff Bare was the director of the USF St. Petersburg sailing program before it was discontinued in 1987.

He had been the branch director of Offshore Sailing School's St. Petersburg branch until retiring three weeks ago.

Last week, Bare got a call from Offshore's owner, Steve Colgate, enticing him back to the busy school's Harborage at Bayboro branch.

USF re-established its program in 1992 through the dogged efforts of Professor Steve Lang and others and the help of Title IX laws requiring women in sports. Its team is ranked high nationally under coach Allison Jolly.

Eckerd College is losing coach Scott Norman, who has taken a position with Harken sailing gear.