When operations chairman Don Wood totted up the Mills Race entries last night he had 168.
``That's six more than last year,'' he exulted, ``and a lot of the boats are new to the race.''
He's still hoping for two more to make it an even 170, and since last-minute registration is the norm for Toledo sailors, he just might get his wish.
Boosting the field for today's race is a new group of sportboats and burgeoning interest in the multihull class.
``We have 11 trimarans and catamarans, including one from Chicago,'' Wood said.
``And thanks to the efforts of [Detroit skipper] Harry Bloom, we've got eight J105s coming from Detroit and Cleveland.''
Bloom, who won the Mills Trophy in the yacht Bloomerang in 2001, now races a J105 named Dirty Harry. According to Wood, he heavily promoted the Mills Race at the Detroit NOODs last weekend. As a result, three Cleveland boats sailed to Toledo Yacht Club directly after the finish.
Last year's Mills Trophy winner, Burt Jones' Burden IV, sailed by Kent Colpaert, also will be returning this year. The Express 38.5 will compete in Performance Handicap Racing Fleet Class A, along with Bill Bollin's Stand Aside, a top contender from Toledo.
Stand Aside won last year's Green Island Race and also did well in the 2002 Commodore Perry Race.
In a big fleet like the Mills, it's hard to predict who's hot and who's not, so, with a nod to Entertainment Weekly's Shaw Report, we asked Skip Dieball, an Olympic aspirant and head of the Greiner sail loft, to help sort it out.
OUT: Big boats, like the 50 and 70-footers from Detroit and Cleveland.
FIVE MINUTES AGO: Boats that were optimized for longer distance racing like the J/35. ``The class is strong, but it's not quite what it was,'' he said.
IN: The smaller, lighter, higher performance boats, like the Mumm 33, Hobie 33 and most of the J boats.
Take the J/105, for example, a 35-foot long sloop with an asymmetric sail, sprit on the front and larger-than-normal spinnaker.
``In a relatively point-to-point race like the Mills,'' Dieball said, ``the asymetric sail adds some versatility and leads to a good performance.''
Dave and Sue Grassley's Sho-Wae-Cae-Mette, a Beneteau 36, in PHRF B, is one of the newest and hottest designs in the group. It is ``a very exciting boat that sails very well upwind,'' according to Dieball. ``Also, the Hobie 33s are alive and well.''
The weather, as always, will be a key factor in determining the winners. The long-range forecasts have been almost as unstable as the wind this week.
If the wind stays southwest, the tighter, longer reaches would favor Bollin's Stand Aside, a 28-foot Thompson 870.
Northerly winds, on the other hand, mean deeper water and a big advantage for boats with long waterlines like the 2002 winner, Burden IV.