November 14, 2023

The first running of SORC’s St. Petersburg to Lauderdale Race in 33 years

By Chris Lewis, Event Chairman

The dream of running this race again and Storm Trysail Club building offshore events in the Gulf of Mexico was finally realized on November 8th when 20 yachts took off from Tampa Bay and out through the Sky Bridge to test their speed and tactical skills over the storied St. Petersburg to Lauderdale race course.

Photo: 20 yachts took off from Tampa Bay under the Sky Bridge / Kathleen Tocke

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 Sky Bridge as the fleet raced to the SW entrance buoy, switching to code sails and then jibs. Back to VMG running for 100 miles before the final 70-mile stretch to Rebecca Shoal that became a power reach as the forecasted wind build and rotation played out.

The lighter displacement boats with their large A-kites initially lead their ORC classes at the turning mark as the final and most tactical section of the race began.  Some yachts tacked inshore avoiding the Gulf Stream’s counter current. 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 compared to the inshore competitors sailing less distance. Sail options also played a role, as the earlier sailors got to a code sail and then to an A3, the quicker they became.

After turning at the Port Everglades RW buoy 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 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Photo: Ed Cesare accepting the trophy for Line Honors as navigator for Privateer / Kathleen Tocke

First to finish and winner of the Commodore Robert B. Lassing Memorial Trophy was Privateer the Cookson 50 sailed by Ron O’Hanley. ORC1 Class winner and 7th in the ORC fleet was Chris Saxton sailing Vortices, a J125.  The ORC1 class, first around Rebecca Shoal faced left breeze and a pure upwind to the Key West RW buoy, where as 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. ORC3 winner Zig Zag and current leader 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 Freedom of Hamble with a 3 day 18 min elapsed time. The fleet winner in PHRF was Petisa a Salona 44 sailed by Harold Brandon.

Kenai Crew / Kathleen Tocke

With the results in: Chris and Karen Lewis sailing J44 Kenai will be the first engraving on the LL “Lew” McMasters Memorial Trophy since 1990. The full results are available here and photos and videos can be found on Facebook here

Storm Trysail Club introduced a two-boat team award, and this was won by Team ZKZKenai 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.

Two boat team winner: Kenai and ZigZag / Kathleen Tocke

The event was a success and is here to stay and will run again in 2024. So start planning now to come down (or over) to the warm blue waters and enjoy fantastic hospitality at SPYC and LYC for a challenging fun event.

A big thanks has to go to supporters of this race and the SORC series: North Sails, Goslings, 81Bay Breweries, Parkway Chevrolet/ Team Bear and Team Hooligan.

Chris Lewis