Sailing races to set slower pace at EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta

University of Pittsburgh student Finn Hobson grew up sailing all over the world.

Sicily, Thailand, Turkey and through the Mediterranean, the Bahamas and the Hawaiian Islands. But Thursday will be Hobson’s first sail down the Allegheny River and through the heart of Pittsburgh.

Hobson and sailors from Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Akron in Ohio will compete in the Pitt Sailing Club Invitational on Thursday, the second day of the 2014 EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta.

“This is the first time a lot of us have sailed in the city and on the river,â€� Hobson, 19, of Emmaus and the president of the Pitt Sailing Club, said. “It’s a perfect venue.â€�

Thursday’s series of races runs from 3 to 6 p.m. and will be the return of sailing to the regatta after a five-year hiatus and the first intercollegiate sailing competition held in Pittsburgh, said Joe Kirk, the regatta’s vice chairman and the event coordinator for Thursday’s competition.

Many speedboats featured in this weekend’s regatta will tear up and down the river at speeds topping 100 mph. The 13-foot Club Flying Juniors sailboats will navigate the course between the Fort Duquesne Bridge and Point State Park at speeds less than 10 mph, even with “ideal wind conditionsâ€� out of the west at 10 to 11 mph, Kirk said.

“It’s really not about flat-out speed,â€� Kirk said. “This sailing is going to be close to shore. You’ll be sitting on bleachers, and they will be 15 feet away, and you will hear the rustling of sails and the barking of sailors.â€�

Four boats will race at once, first sailing upwind, rounding a buoy and then sailing downwind to round another buoy about 1,000 feet away. The start-finish line will be in the middle of the oval course. The number of laps in each race will depend on conditions, Kirk said.

Former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey, an avid sailor with 25 years of racing experience, will call the races for the crowd. He said rivers, with shifting winds and tricky currents and tides, aren’t ideal for sailing, but he expects good races.

“Bring your camera,� he said.

Kirk hopes Thursday’s races will not be the last at the Point. He is the head of Point of Pittsburgh Sailing League, which aims to bring high school and college racing to the city’s rivers.

“If you’ve ever stood at the Point, you can kind of feel it, there is sort of a breeze there,â€� he said. “Sometimes the winds blows, and sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.â€�

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.


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