Classic offshore race back after 33 years

Published on November 11th, 2023

The dream of running the St. Petersburg to Lauderdale Race again, and building offshore events in the Gulf of Mexico, was finally realized on November 8 when 20 yachts took off from Tampa Bay and out through the Sky Bridge to test their speed and tactical skills over the storied 403 nm course around the bottom of Florida.

Last held 33 years ago, conditions were benign with a forecast of building breeze to 12-18 knots that would veer from NW to SE throughout the race. Initially, a light VMG run and narrow wind bands led to a restart at the Skyway Bridge as the fleet raced to the SW entrance buoy, switching to code sails and then jibs.

Then it was back to VMG running for 100 miles before the final 70 mile stretch to the turning mark at Rebecca Shoal, located to the west of Key West, that became a power reach as the forecasted wind build and rotation played out.

The lighter displacement boats with large A-kites initially led their ORC classes at the turning mark as the final and most tactical section of the race began.

Now passing along the Florida Keys, some yachts tacked inshore to avoid the Gulf Stream’s counter current, while others extended on port for 15 to 20 miles in order to pick up the edge of the Stream.

However, the wind oscillated and created tricky calls for navigators. Do you go for current or work the shifts? Ultimately, a balance between the two options worked best for the Class Winners.

As the course turned northwards along the Keys, faster offshore positions in the Stream were rotated back as compared with the inshore competitors sailing less distance. Sail options also played a role as the earlier one could get to a code sail and then an A3 the quicker you became.

After turning at the Port Everglades RW buoy off Fort Lauderdale, finishers reported their times at G3 marker and the wait began to see who was going to win the LL “Lew” McMasters Memorial Trophy and have their name and boat engraved alongside the sailing greats of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

First to finish and winner of the Commodore Robert B. Lassing Memorial Trophy was the Cookson 50 Privateer sailed by Ron O’Hanley. ORC1 Class winner and 7th in the ORC fleet was Chris Saxton sailing his J/125 Vortices.

The ORC1 class, first around Rebecca Shoal, faced left breeze and a pure upwind to the Key West RW buoy, whereas the slower boats were able to sail less distance. Texas based boats Kenai and Bear, after a long duel, finished 1st and 2nd in ORC2 and in the ORC Fleet. The ORC3 winner, Andrew Clark’s J/122 Zig Zag, and current holder of the SORC Islands in the Stream Series, took 3rd in fleet.

The PHRF fleet enjoyed a third night offshore and brought in the final finisher, the Beneteau First 47.7 Freedom of Hamble, with a 3 day 18 minute elapsed time. The fleet winner in PHRF was Petisa, a Salona 44 sailed by Harold Brandon.

With the results in: Chris and Karen Lewis sailing J/44 Kenai (photo above) will be the first engraving on the LL “Lew” McMasters Memorial Trophy since 1990.

Storm Trysail Club introduced a two boat team award and this was won by Team ZKZ – Kenai and Zig Zag. These two boats will battle it out in the Islands in the Stream Series having won the series for the last three years between them. However, many others could win overall as the ORC fleet is highly competitive and the racing quite tactical.

The event was a success and is here to stay and will run again in 2024.


Source: Chris Lewis

2023-24 Islands in the Stream Series
November 8 – St Pete – Ft Laud Race – St. Petersburg to Ft. Lauderdale
December 1 – Wirth Munroe Ocean Race – Miami to Palm Beach
January 11 – Nassau Cup Ocean Race – Miami to Nassau
February 22 – Ft. Lauderdale – Key West Race – Fort Lauderdale to Key West

For the Notice of Series, click here.

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