Ethan and Trudy Bixby sailed to a clear victory at the Windmill class nationals on Albemarle Sound in Edenton, N.C.
Most of Ethan Bixby's sailing is on a high-performance 505 or as professional crew on big boats, such as Roy Disney's Pywacket. But the St. Petersburg sailmaker enjoys sailing with his wife on the small, low-tech Windmill.
It was not a walkover, as New Hampshire's Larry Christian with crew Jen Lancaster of Newport Harbor, Calif., won two of the eight races and was second in most of the others.
The top two boats each sailed with total crew weight of under 300 pounds, now made easier by the class allowing a shorter dagger board, making lighter crews more competitive in stronger breezes.
St. Petersburg's Dave Ellis with crew Nora Schaugnessy of Maine took third. Their crew weight was significantly more, so they used the original, longer dagger board.
Lakeland sailors Dan Fontaine and Kevin Calkins were the heaviest crew, tipping the scales at well over 400 pounds. On the first day they sailed the boat under the waves and had to be towed to shore with the hull and air tanks full. An evening of repairs and tweaking of the rig resulted in stellar finishes the last two days, giving them a sixth-place finish. Calkins is off to graduate school, so Fontaine is looking for a lightweight crew.
The Windmill was designed by the late Clark Mills of Clearwater. It was to have been the next step up for kids too large for the Optimist Pram, which he had previously designed. But the boat was a bit too tipsy for young teens. Their parents liked the boat, however, relegating the kids to crew.
Many Tampa Bay area sailors once raced windmills. In the 1950s and '60s John Jennings, Ron and Don Krippendorf, Page Obenshain, Eugene Hinkle, Charley Morgan, Nancy Lucas, Don Cochran Jr., John Bear, Jim Pardee, Rich LaGrua, Ellis and others now active in sailing competed in the class. The class has seen a resurgence, with low cost one factor in popularity, with fleets coast to coast.
U.S. SAILING YOUTHS: Davis Island Yacht Club's Ian Heausler enjoyed the increased wind on the final day in the Laser Radial class to gain first place at the Youth Nationals sailed in New Orleans.
ISAF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: For the past few years, sailing's world governing body has staged the championship for all of the Olympic classes at one venue. This year the event was in Cascias, Portugal. The importance of the regatta was increased this year as each country has to qualify in each boat before they can enter the Games.
Among Tampa Bay area sailors attending, Ben Barger was the top-placing USA Windsurfer sailor, just beating Michael Gebhardt, the many-times Olympic contender. Barger's 50th place out of the 113-boat fleet was the final qualifying spot for the class.
Clearwater's Zach Railey placed 19th out of 73 in the Finn class, well ahead of other American competitors. His sights are set on the Olympic Trials.
Paige Railey finished 17th out of 107 in the Laser Radial for women. While an excellent finish, her biggest competition for the Olympic berth in the class, Anna Tunnicliffe of south Florida, was fifth.
Clearwater junior sailor Emily Billing placed 70th in her first worlds experience. The highlight was a fourth in the last race, silver fleet. The Laser class was the largest with 149 boats; Brad Funk placed 40th, second among USA sailors.
CATAMARAN RACING: Gulfport Yacht Club on Boca Ciega Bay will be the site of Cat racing this weekend. The Five Rum Regatta is for catamarans 20-feet or shorter. An added feature is a novice race. For info visit gulfportyachtclub.com.