A single strip along Florida's west coast (it includes Tampa Bay and centers on St. Petersburg) has the bluest water, the brightest sands and the balmiest sea breezes anywhere—at least so the residents say, and at the gleam of an eye they will invite you down to prove it. And they always will find takers. Half the sailors in the country, it seems, have sailed at St. Petersburg. At right are the sails of some 50 Lightning boats that have come in from as far west as Kansas for the annual Mid-Winter Lightning Regatta. The Lightnings will be followed shortly by a similar convention of sleek Thistles, and there are a dozen deep-water ocean races involving up to 30 of the big boats (following pages) congregated here for the winter, whose skippers are always setting off in friendly competition for Fort Myers, Clearwater, Venice, Tarpon Springs or Havana. Thousands of local skippers stage regattas to fill the intervals, supplying clouds of Snipes, Fishes and Flying Dutchmen, in fact anything from sophisticated planing hulls down to the little 8-foot Optimist Prams which cradle the area's future sailing men. But anyone who thinks that sailing is the area's only sport is wrong. As Carleton Mitchell reports in a survey of the area (page 58), the causeways are dotted with fishermen who pay nothing for the privilege but the price of a pole, the fairways inshore are spotted with the bright straw hats of leisurely golfers, and the stands in Al Lang Field are filled with comfortably composed bleacherites who see the Yanks and the Cards long before their northern brethren. From the youngest to the oldest, this is the happy place.
In a colorful crowd, Lightnings (top) in Tampa Bay move up for the start of a race. Below, at race's end, they get a tow back to St. Petersburg
With spinnakers filling before a brisk northerly, three trim yawls, (from left) Jack Brown's "Callooh" J. Spencer McCourtney's "Brisote" and Luis Vida√±a's "Criollo," head off on the St. Petersburg ocean race
Bright sails make a colorful pattern on yacht club lawn in St. Petersburg