Home-course advantage for Larson Florida native wins J/22 Midwinter title

SAILING

February 24, 1993|By NANCY NOYES

Chris Larson returned to his native Gulf Coast last week for the J/22 Midwinter Championships at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and walked away a winner after a seven-race, one-throwout series in which he won five times.

Larson, who moved to Annapolis about three years ago and is associated with North Sails' one-design program, showed his abilities in light and heavy air in the event, which consisted of three races Wednesday, three Thursday and one Friday.

Sailing with Larson in the regatta were Moose and Kris McClintock of Newport, R.I., and Will Jeffers of Clearwater, Fla.

The 40-boat fleet included sailors from Holland, the Cayman Islands and Canada as well as numerous U.S. sailors, including four additional crews from the Annapolis J/22 fleet and a Hampton, Va., team headed by skipper Ken Saylor.

"The first race on Wednesday was very light air, two or three knots," Larson said. "The race was all right, though, because the wind stayed steady with no major wind shifts."

Larson's luck went a little sour after the front came through between the first and second races, bringing a 180-degree wind shift and relatively steady northwesterlies in the six- to 10-knot range.

Having grown up in nearby Clearwater, Larson has sailed a great deal in St. Petersburg and had counted on his knowledge of local conditions to help him on the course, particularly after the passage of the front.

"St. Petersburg has a lot of characteristics that are recurring patterns when fronts come through," he said.

"But I think my local knowledge probably hurt a little in the second and third races," he said, describing a starting line problem that resulted in his having to take a 720-degree penalty turn after committing a foul in the second race and then getting caught on the wrong side of a wind shift in the third.

In both cases he was able to recover a great deal before finishing the contests, but his finishes of 10th -- ultimately his worst-race throw- out -- and seventh left him at the bottom of the top five in the fleet at the end of the first day's racing.

On Thursday, Larson said, winds were in the eight-knot range as the fleet started the day's first contest, which was the fourth race of the series, but breezes built to 16 to 20 knots by mid-race and held in that range through the rest of the day.

Three straight bullets in the heavier air and the throwout that came into the scoring system after five races had been completed established Larson's lead on the series by the end of that day's racing with a four-point cushion over second-runner Steve Ulian of Marblehead, Mass.

Friday's single series-concluding race was sailed in a dying northerly that Larson described as very patchy, starting at eight to 10 knots and falling to five or less with big shifts as well as holes.

In this race, in which the top five crews duplicated their overall fleet standings with their race finishes, Larson and his crew were rewarded with a blast (a victory) from the race committee and expanded their lead over Ulian to six points.

Former Annapolitan Charlie Ogletree, now living in Texas, finished the series fourth, just a quarter-point out of third.

Two more Annapolis teams finished in the top 10 -- Doug Clark (eighth) and Andy Hughes (10th).

Annapolitan Jim Hayes lost a tiebreaker for 15th to Saylor, and Bill Chambers was 30th.

"It was a good series," Larson said. "The race committee did a good job, and the weather was good, even though it was a little chilly on Thursday -- but still not like here."

That chill came from the breeze on the water, though, and those at the post-race celebrations ashore quickly shed their warmer gear for T-shirts in the clear and balmy conditions.

Family safety sessions

Fawcett Boat Supplies on City Dock in Annapolis will be host to instructors from the Womanship sailing school, who will conduct sessions on safe family boating from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

This free event will include displays and explanations of many types of safety equipment as well as a series of short seminars to be repeated through the afternoon.

For more information, call Fawcett's at (410) 267-8681.

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