Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mug May Reinstate Old Finish

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mug May Reinstate Old Finish

Article excerpt

Byline: Lawrence Dennis, Times-Union boating editor

Tomorrow's 49th Mug Race, the 38.5-nautical mile sailing race that starts in Palatka, may be the last that doesn't actually end in Jacksonville.

For the past several years, the race has ended in Orange Park. The finish line was moved there for safety reasons following the widening of the Buckman Bridge. The race used to finish off the Rudder Club, the sponsoring organization, in southern Duval County just north of the Buckman Bridge. Now the race finishes just south of the Buckman after participants round a turning mark, which was added to enable the race to maintain its status as "the world's longest river sailboat race."

That might change next year on the race's 50th anniversary.

"There are those who want to see it finish off the club like it did for so many years for the 50th race," The Rudder Club's Rich Brew said. "There are safety considerations, and I don't know that even if the club members can agree on it, that the Coast Guard would approve."

When the Buckman's new spans were built, their pilings were offset from those on the original part of the mile-long-plus bridge. The result was less space in which sailing vessels could pass under the structures in a straight line.

Under the old rules, competitors were allowed to pass under the bridge's three center spans. Now, Brew said, the only clear passage under the Buckman might be the center span, which is equipped with wooden fenders to protect the pilings from being struck by tugs, barges and other large vessels.

Race participants will not have to worry about bridge pilings, and they shouldn't have to worry about finding the turning mark either. That has been a common problem since the turn was added. The turning mark had been a standard inflatable racing buoy that many racers complained was difficult to pick up at a distance. …

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