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Carleton Mitchell
March 10, 1975
Adopting the run-and-hit style of another champion, Dennis Conner & Co. gave the Stinger to the finest SORC fleet
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March 10, 1975

Float Like A Butterfly...

Adopting the run-and-hit style of another champion, Dennis Conner & Co. gave the Stinger to the finest SORC fleet

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If the Miami-Nassau race seemed made to order for the smaller fry, it was no more so than the longest distance event of the circuit—the earlier 403-mile bash "around the Horn" from St. Petersburg to Fort Lauderdale. Again starting in southerlies with a cold front on the way, the fleet had a beat from Tampa Bay through the Gulf of Mexico to the turning point at the tip of the Florida peninsula (Rebecca Shoal), then ran north in the Gulf Stream until near Alligator Reef, where a band of calm preceding the oncoming front trapped the leaders while tailenders were wafted up on the last of the southerly.

The fleet came together like a squeezed accordion. Stinger, which had opened a wide lead among the Tonners, found herself in a near luffing match with Bootlegger and Country Woman, but after the front brought a strong nor'northwester it was a windward thrash to the finish. With her position pinpointed by Omega electronic navigation, Stinger profited from Stream current to the last moment and the One Tonners made it almost an overkill, taking six of the first 10 positions in fleet. Stinger was followed by Country Woman and Inflation.

Although the drama of Davids vs. Goliaths dominated the two longest races of the circuit, which not only grab the headlines but also count most in points toward the championship, the fleet was the finest ever to assemble, making up in quality for an average drop of some 20 starters from last year. When northers did not arrive at crucial moments to break the weather pattern of the mildest and most serene Florida winter in memory, other classes held their own against the Tonners. The leadoff event, St. Petersburg to Anclote Key, went to Leading Edge, rating in Class C and designed by Hood for Canada- or World Two-Ton-Cup competition. Second was Class A Gusto; third, Hood, sailing the latest Robin, almost a sister ship of the winner. The Ocean Triangle race saw Turner on top with Tenacious, a Class B sloop, and the short Lipton Cup race off Miami was also won by Turner.

The consistency of the top skippers in other classes showed they were doing the best they could with what they had—and would have done better had there been no upsets in the trade-wind pattern. Going into Friday's final Nassau Cup race, Turner had five straight firsts in Class B and Hood was four of five in C.

Yet the success of the One Tonners cannot be credited solely to streaks of weather. As Dennis Conner explains, "When you are racing level, boat for boat, and know you have to beat another boat over the line or be beaten, you're working harder all the time. You see at once the results of everything you do. You're closer to 100% efficiency. Also, there has been more concentration on One Tonners by top designers in the past few years than on any other class."

Results of the Nassau Cup race were not known until 24 hours after the finish, for the discovery that the windward mark was not in place required recalculation of the handicaps. In travel-poster conditions of blue sky and bluer sea, Kialoa III scored a triple first on the two-way reach, not only again finishing first but finally saving her time on class and fleet. Stinger, Tenacious and Robin once more topped their classes, which for each clinched class supremacy in the circuit. Other overall winners were Bob Derecktor's Salty Goose in A, Moody Blue in D and the Class E Fortune Hunter.

Stinger had gone into the windup event with such a lead in points that the only way Conner could have lost the SORC championship would have been to hit a reef or break a mast; instead, he led the Tonners around the course by a wide margin and was a close third to Tenacious in fleet. Inflation's second in class and 10th overall was good enough to ensure her Hawaiian crew a second in the SORC standings, with Bootlegger third, repeating last year's sweep for the Tonners, still the hottest class afloat.

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