Local skipper leads national championship winning sailing crew

Jacksonville's Paul Abdullah (in dark cap on boat and center in insert) captained Crime Scene to the national championship for Thistle-class sailing in the waters of the St. Johns River. Abdullah's crew included his wife Marie and Barrett Rhodes. (Main: Deb Fewell Insert: Jodi Weinbecker , 2022)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This week in the waters of the St. Johns River, a national championship in sailing was on the line in the Thistle class. These are sailing dinghies and 49 sailing teams from across the country have competed in Jacksonville all week.

The teams raced seven times with the top points finisher taking the national championship. Perhaps there was some home-water advantage because the team skippered by Jacksonville’s Paul Abdullah, with his crew of wife Marie and Barrett Rhodes won aboard Crime Scene.

Abdullah is a long-time competitive sailor. had finished second in nationals three times and has another six top 5 finishes besides that but now, he’s a national champion.

“Having a great team allows me to focus on driving the boat in the challenging conditions,” Abdullah said. “Winning the Midwinters in early March and finishing second at the Orange Peel Regatta in late March gave us the confidence to relax going into the Nationals. We had incredible boat speed, as well.”

In the first three races, Abdullah and company finished in the top six in each race, but races four through six were key in positioning them for the championship. Finishing second, first, and third respectively, left them with some breathing room heading to the final race. As it turned out, they needed it.

Crime Scene came in 21st, but it was enough with the second-place boat, Captained by Dave Dellenbaugh of the Carolina Sailing Club, and the third-place boat of Daniel Hesse, from the Saratoga Lake Sailing Club, finishing ninth and 14th to give The Florida Yacht Club boat the win in the top division.