Dauphin Island Race to feature 200 sailboats on Saturday

DAUPHIN-ISLAND-RACE.JPGSailboats compete on Mobile Bay during the 2011 Dauphin Island Race. (Press-Register/Jeff Dute)

MOBILE, Alabama – Good sailing conditions are expected Saturday for the anticipated 200 boats participating in the 54th Dauphin Island Race.

Winds are forecast to blow out of the southeast early at around 10 knots, then turn out of due south and build to 25 knots, according to the National Weather Service.

That bodes well for boats that sail strong upwind legs because of the race’s unique one-way nature, said Bill Whiston, who will be at the helm of his 32-foot Melgus “New Wave.”

“This format, with tomorrow’s forecast, should favor the best upwind boats,” Whiston said. “The Olson 40, like Greg Smith’s ‘White Trash’ that does so well every year, is an upwind machine.

“Combine that with a very talented and experienced team, and it’s easy to see why they’ve done so well in this regatta year in and year out.”

Whiston added, however, that the wild card this year is that the wind will be building through the day, giving an advantage to slower-rated boats when it comes to overall finish based on their corrected time.

“Faster boats benefit from a dying breeze because they finish while others are still sailing in less and less wind,” he said. “Slower boats benefit from a building breeze because they will sail a larger percentage of their race in more wind.

“Saturday is forecast for a building breeze, so if the conditions prevail as forecast, you can expect to see some boats with higher rating atop the podium for overall trophies.”

The Gulf Yachting Association determines ratings for the most competitive Performance Handicap Racing Fleet class in which Whiston sails. They’re based on windward and leeward performance.

Whiston’s vessel is the lowest-rated boat on Mobile Bay at 15, meaning that he owes every other boat competing today at least 15 seconds per mile.

As an example, Whiston said Smith’s boat, which has been the overall PHRF winner the past few years, is rated a 54. That means Whiston owes Smith 39 seconds a mile or more than 11 minutes over the 18-mile course.

The PHRF boats go off at 9:30 a.m., the Portsmouths at 9:45 and the one-designs and multihulls go at 10. The race officially ends at 5 p.m.

The boats generally raft up for the 7:30 p.m. awards ceremony in Aloe Bay at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo site on Dauphin Island

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