Sullivan has right touch in light winds to take Melges 24 lead in regatta


April 30, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Light winds, usually the bane of competitive sailors, filled Neil Sullivan's sails just enough yesterday to keep him at the front of the fleet in the National Offshore One-Design Regatta without causing serious damage to his boat.

Sullivan, skipper of the first-place Melges 24 boat, and his crew discovered that the mast was beginning to punch a hole in the bottom of his boat.

"We heard a pretty big boom in practice [Thursday] and thought we cracked the mast. We saw cracks, but it didn't seem to be a problem. Then cracks started expanding," said Sullivan, of Annapolis. "Luckily the winds were light and there wasn't a lot of rig tension."

Despite problems, he scored a second and a first on the opening day of the three-day regatta. Sullivan finished repairs on M-Fatic as it got dark last night and said the boat was ready for the second day of competition.

Wind chill rather than victory flushed the cheeks of sailors, and bright sails provided the only splash of color on a day dominated by gray skies and calm, gray seas. Light and shifty winds at 6-10 knots frustrated sailors and prevented big, bold moves by the 274 boats spread out on four courses south of the Bay Bridge.

"These are probably the most challenging conditions because if you make a mistake, you can't just come back by working harder because everyone is doing the same thing," said John Bertrand, a Melges 24 sailor who won the first NOOD regatta of the year in St. Petersburg, Fla. "Today our goal was not to have any disasters and we were pleased."

Bertrand, of Annapolis, is in 11th place in the 39-boat fleet after two races.

Marylanders lead in 13 of 17 classes.

In the Etchells class, sailing legend Gary Jobson announced his return to competitive racing on his home waters with style.

With Jud Smith, one of the world's best keelboat sailors on board, Jobson had one first and two second-place finishes.

"The last month and a half, I've been feeling normal," said a beaming Jobson, who battled cancer for two years.

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