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Regatta del Sol al Sol: Sailing Race from St. Pete to Mexico


ST. PETERSBURG -- The St. Petersburg Yacht Club, jointly with the Club de Yates de Isla Mujeres, recently organized the 35th annual Regatta del Sol al Sol. Competitors raced sailboats a distance of 500 nautical miles from Saint Petersburg Yacht Club  to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, an island off the coast, just northwest of Cancun.

The regatta started on April 23rd at 10:00 am and finished April 28th-30th. Most participants are on their way back to Florida now.

This year's over all winners were: 1st place, American Spirit, a Beneteau 40. 2nd place, Sweet Melissa, a Hunter 49. 3rd place, Midnight Sun, a Hunter 37. There were five classes; Spinnaker, Non-spinnaker, Racer Cruiser, Crusing A, and Cruising B.

Official Race Flyer Provided by

Saint Pete Yacht Club

The class results are as follows:

  • Spinnaker
    • 1st place: Frank Kern on Carinthia, a J-120
    • 2nd place: Ray/Mike Sullivan on Second Wind, a Dufour 44
  • Non-Spinnaker
    • 1st place: Blaise Pierson on Midnight Sun, a Hunter 37
    • 2nd place: Tom Glew on XTC, a Beneteau 46
    • 3rd place: Russel Hoadley on Blue Heron, a Catalina 380
  • Racer/Cruiser
    • 1st place: Patrick Roberts on Spring Fever, a Catalina 34
    • 2nd place: Martin Zonnenberg on Cool Change, a Tartan 37
    • 3rd place: Dieter Hugel on Tigi Too, a Newport 41-2
  • Cruising A
    • 1st place: Christopher Cantolino on Sweet Melissa, a Hunter 49
    • 2nd place: Jopie Helsen on Jade CruChu, a Helsen 470
    • 3rd place: Henri Rochard on Kasoumai, a Beneteau 423
  • Cruising B
    • 1st place: Brian Fox on American Spirit, a Beneteau 40
    • 2nd place: Mike Noble on Nobility, a Morgan OI 41
    • 3rd place: William O'Dell on Kuma, a Harden 45 Voy

Gregg Knighton of Knighton Sails, raced on Midnight Sun. "Every year the race is different," he said. "This year was my seventeenth trip and it was the first time we had to go North of the run line. The wind started out SE, but then clocked around NW making it a bit of a beat."

Knighton said that they gained distance by staying North out of the current, their pace averaging approximately 7 knots in about 15 knots of breeze. 

The race committee was able to track the boats through a high-tech system involving race tracking and ham reporting, which they implemented a few years back. Race tracking is a system that uses Automatic Packet Reporting System APRS (or ham reporting) to view and track participants.

The technology is used to track offshore, mid to long distance yacht regattas. A racer can view an animated history of the race and interact with the person mapping. They can view both their own performance and the performance of their competitors. The system uses an amateur radio-based system for communications which includes messages, alerts, announcements and bulletins. These communications are collected locally and then distributed globally. Any station, radio or object that has an attached GPS is automatically tracked. 

Through this system, not only was the race committee able to track position and speed, but they were also able to report what effects weather conditions were having on the crew and even what the crew was having for dinner.

"Everyone on board is now 'on their feet', and have been eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Captain Mike thinks that Scooter is about 30 miles away," said one entry.

"(The tracking system) is cool," said Knighton, "it allows you to do more things tactically."

The St. Petersburg Yacht Club has been hosting this regatta for 35 years. The original regatta was organized by Miguel Aleman, the Secretary of Tourism in Mexico, about seven years earlier. It has always been a well-attended event, featuring a variety of activities, including a sail for children, and a basketball tournament after the yachts finish.


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