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J/Crews love St Petersburg NOOD Regatta

by J/Boats 21 Feb 2020 04:15 PST 14-16 February 2020
2020 Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta © Paul Todd / Outside Images

The season opener for the Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design Regatta Series (a.k.a. NOODS) — the largest national sailboat racing circuit in the United States- was blessed with nice weather conditions, albeit on the light to medium side of the equation on Tampa Bay this year.

The St. Petersburg NOOD regatta, organized by Sailing World and hosted by St. Petersburg Yacht Club, has developed into the one of the largest regattas in Florida, and its 32nd edition saw 185 boats and more than 1,000 professional and amateur sailors converging onto Tampa Bay and the bustling downtown area for racing and fun on the Valentine's Day weekend on the Bay.

The one-design classes of J/24s, J/70s, and J/88s, saw spirited competition, for the most part. Here is what took place day-by-day on the various race courses.

Day 1 - Light and Fickle

Iris Vogel, of New Rochelle, NY, skipper of the J/88 Deviation, won her recent J/88 Midwinter Championship and, Friday, on the waters off St. Petersburg, Vogel and her teammates continued their winning streak with a win in the only race of the day. Light winds proved challenging for the race committees and the regatta's 193 teams racing in 13 different classes.

Vogel came away with the race win, but it wasn't easy. "We were deep at the first weather mark, but just focused downwind going from puff-to-puff," Vogel said. "The team did an excellent job coming back to win the race."

Four of the six J/88s hail from New York and use the St. Petersburg NOOD for winter training. Vogel says the level of competition in the class is very high as a result. "We are an active travel fleet; not to mention every team is well sailed and it's anyone's win at each regatta," Vogel said. "The racing is that close."

Day 2 - Moderate and streaky

David Jannetti, skipper of the J/70 VERY ODD, moved into the top spot on the J/70 leaderboard, which Jannetti credits entirely to his professional crew of Scott Nixon, Patrick Wilson and Danny Lawless.

"These guys really know what they are doing, and I am learning a ton from them," Jannetti said, of Miami. The St. Petersburg NOOD is Jannetti's fourth regatta after returning from an eight-year absence from the sport. "I'm sitting in the back [of the boat focused on keeping the yarns upfront flying evenly, and they are changing gears constantly," Jannetti said. "They're keeping everything tuned perfectly, working the body weight on the boat and helping me minimize mistakes."

He credited Nixon for saving the day's last race after a poor start. "With great tactics and the right windshifts, we still managed to round the top mark in first. I initially thought 'Oh, where is that throwout,' but he turned it around."

Jannetti is looking forward to accelerating the learning curve in tomorrow's final day of racing, but he is fully aware of the depth of talent at the top of the class. "The other boats will remind you very quickly if you make a mistake," he said. "My goal is to keep it light, keep it fun and go home with a smile on my face."

Two junior teams sponsored by Helly Hansen are battling hard in the J/70 fleet. The all-female team, skippered by 17-year-old Heather Kerns, of Apollo Beach, Fla., is made up of high school-aged sailors and say they are "having a blast doing the event with 'girl power.'" Together for almost four years, they finished third overall in the 2019 J/70 U.S. Youth National Championship, held at the NOOD's host club, St. Petersburg YC.

Kerns and her team concluded today's racing on a high note, finishing fourth, which she attributes to them sailing a well-rounded race. "We got a good start and stayed focused on boatspeed and good communication," Kerns said. "The wind had picked back up and since we are a light team we really focused on de-powering. Everything just came together. It's fun to show the guys that an all-girls team is competitive; and it's great to have Helly Hansen supporting us."

Day 3 - Awesome Finale

First-time St. Petersburg NOOD skipper, David Jannetti in the J/70 class, won top honors. With a 1-5 scoreline Sunday, Jannetti and his teammates on VERY ODD, cemented their lead. While they finished fifth in the final race, Jannetti said it was the result of a strategic decision to ensure no surprises from Dave Kerr's second-place USA 1516. "We were keeping tabs on them and doing a loose cover," said Jannetti. "While that was our worst finish, it was still the right thing to do."

Jannetti, of Miami Beach, Fla., said he is already planning his return. "St. Pete is such a fun and vibrant city. We enjoyed great sailing all weekend; and it has been a great way to warm up for next weekend's J/70 Midwinter Championship."

Rounding out the podium behind Jannetti and Kerr was the well-traveled Travis Odenbach on his notorious Honeybadger. The rest of the top five included Matt Braun's E.L.E. in fourth and Mike Schroff's Electric Pickle in fifth place.

Michael Quaid, of Williston, Vt., skipper of the J/24 ICE CUBE is a longtime NOOD competitor, and while his team finished third in 2019, this was his year. "To win feels great," said Quaid, praising his longtime crew and its light-air sailing skills. "We scored four firsts when it was light, but when the breeze came up like in Saturday's first race, it was our worst finish [fourth place]. The mid-range conditions today were my favorite; it made for a lot closer racing. It was very tactical and exciting."

Finishing in second place in the J/24s was Nate Vilardebo's Sabotage while third place went Lucifers Hammer. The balance of the top five included Jon Stewart's Breeze in fourth and Rick Jarchow's Team Exit Strategy in fifth position.

Iris Vogel and her team on Deviation finished on top of the six-boat J/88 fleet with five first-place and two fifth-place finishes. She said the key to her team's success was not to panic, especially after a few bad starts.

"This fleet is so competitive," said Vogel, of New Rochelle, NY. "There are no favors in this fleet; all the racing is very close and every little move counts. What saved us was good crew work, making the right calls and keeping our head out of the boat. The conditions were constantly changing all weekend."

The balance of the J/88 podium saw Andy Graff's Chicago-based crew on Exile take the silver, with William Purdy's Whirlwind taking the bronze. The rest of the top five included Lawrence Cutler and Andrew Weiss' One Too Many in fourth and Dave Tufts' Gaucho in fifth.

In the PHRF handicap classes, the J/Crews nearly swept all the top spots. In PHRF 1 Division, the J/111s did sweep the podium in quite a convincing fashion against their eclectic fleet of a dozen boats. Winning yet again in successive weekends was Spaceman Spiff skippered by Jim Sminchak. The silver went to Ian Hill's Sitella and third to Doug Curtiss' beautiful black and green Wicked 2.0.

Winning PHRF 2 Division, it was Stephen Mitcham's J/105 Breezin Bayou that set the pace all weekend to take class honors. Third on the podium went to yet another J/105, George Cussins' Fire and Ice.

The PHRF 3 Division was bracing for yet another onslaught of the dueling J/29s to lay waste to the fleet. While it may have been a touch light airs for that outcome to happen, Ray Mannix's team on the J/29 SEMPER FI continued their annual tradition of collecting silverware in the St Pete NOOD Regatta...for perhaps the 20th time! This time it was silver....losing the regatta as a result of a last race DSQ! Ouch!! Fellow partners in crime, Robert Whetmore's J/29 Family Circus managed a fifth place in this year's edition.

Finally, in Saturday's North Sails Rally- Cruiser Racer Division- it was Jose Suarez-Hoyos' team on the J/35 No Way Jose that managed to sail home after the one long day race with a bronze medal to add to their trophy cave.

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