The race known as the Regata del Sol al Sol started Friday morning from St. Petersburg to the tiny island off Cancun, Mexico, called Isla Mujeres. Twenty-four sailboats are competing in this 42nd race sponsored by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, testing the sailors' skill as they complete their 500-mile journey.
The lead boat is within 80 miles of the finish line as of 1300 Sunday. Skippered by Frank Kern of Gross Pointe Park, MI racing a J-40 he is facing one of the hardest parts of the race. The currents average 4 knots between Cuba and Mexico pushing against the boats as the head south. When the winds oppose the currents seas increase and make it a challenge to sail. If the winds go light the racers can drift north for hours away from their destination.
The boats from Bradenton are two members of the Bradenton Yacht Club, Chris Cantolino and Blaise Pierson with Patrick Roberts from Cortez . All were past the halfway point, about 150 miles to the finish line as of Sunday afternoon. Chris Catolino skipper of Sweet Melissa a Hunter 49, was leading the other Bradenton boats with 115 miles to the finish.
At this time the winds are strong out of the southeast and an approaching cold front can make conditions and finishes unpredictable. Winds may go light after the front passes and the currents can be stronger than the winds carrying the fleet away from their destination.
All of the boats have GPS transponders which send their position to the internet and can be tracked on the Iboats Web site. This is a mandatory requirement and allows continuous updates of the sailboats' positions.
At least one boat has headed back to Florida due to some equipment malfunctioning. All boats are reported safe, with some crew getting sea sick from the rough crossing.
Once at Isla Mujeres the festivities begin with the final activity the presentations of awards. Bradenton Yacht Club member Blaise Pierson on Midnight Sun took first place last year and is in the hunt again.