For the past two regattas (one in January and the other in February), it’s clear the fleet has experienced a combination of crazy weather and different teams showing up to challenge regatta leaders. The series leader (both “Open” and “Corinthian”) going into the weekend is local hotshot Rob Britts sailing HOT MESS from Davis Island YC with a total of 106 pts. However, the HOT MESS team’s position is tenuous at best if you recognize who’s sitting just behind them. The top four boats are just separated by 9 pts. Two points back is Mark Ploch’s SUGAR DADDY from American YC with 110 pts total, third is Jud & Cindy Smith sailing AFRICA from Eastern YC with 112 pts and fourth is Rob Butler/ Martie Kullman sailing TOUCH2PLAY with 115 pts. Fifth is the Werner/ Barnash team on SUPERFECTA from Rochester YC standing on 128 pts. There is no question a premium will be placed on sailing fast, smart and consistently to simply hang with the leaders. Expect to see the top four take the proverbial roller-coaster ride this weekend as the series championship is on the line.
With two Corinthian qualifying spots on the line, there’s a notable increase in this division going into the final regatta. In fact, the fleet is split nearly 50/50 between the Open’s (21 boats) and Corinthian’s (19 boats). There have been much improved performances by some of the Corinthian teams over the past few regattas, particularly if you take into account those teams that have also sailed the Midwinters in Key West, St Petersburg NOODs and Bacardi Miami Sailing Week. Britts’s HOT MESS team is clearly leading the pack, but it’s encouraging to see John Brim’s RIMETTE crew from Fisher’s Island YC moving up the ladder along with Noel Clinard’s LOONATICTU and Blake Kimbrough’s NOSTALGIA from Fishing Bay YC.
New boats joining the ranks in the Open fleet are Tom Londrigan on POLARIS, Dan Cheresh on EXTREME and current J/22 World Champion Al Terhune sailing DAZZLER from Annapolis YC. Perhaps the big question for the weekend is, will Joel Ronning’s crew on CATAPULT from Wayzata YC in Minnesota continue their winning ways (having just won San Diego NOOD last weekend)? Or, will Henry Brauer’s SCAMP team, Mark Ploch’s SUGAR DADDY gang, Jud & Cindy Smith’s AFRICA crew or Al Terhune’s freshly-minted DAZZLER group hop atop the podium as regatta winners?
Perhaps the biggest challenge for all sailors on Tampa Bay this weekend will again be a less than favorable weather forecast. With yet another “El Nino”-driven low pressure system driving across the southeastern U.S., the Friday/ Saturday forecast for thunderstorms and southerly winds of 10-20 kts may pose issues. But, Sunday at least looks promising with winds veering behind the front into the northwesterly quadrants with 8-15 kts winds. Hopefully, the fleet gets in a full complement of races to complete what has been a fun series for the teams that have participated all winter. For more Quantum J/70 Winter Series sailing information