Pipped at the post

A dramatic finish sees an American winner in the Snipe Worlds in Long Beach

Sunday September 29th 2002, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
A final day with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery led Americans Augie Diaz and crew Jon Rogers to a dramatic victory over Brazil's world champions Alexandre Paradeda and Flavio Fernandes in the 2002 Snipe Western Hemisphere and Orient Championship Saturday.

Amid wild wind shifts and intermittent rain squalls that ultimately sucked the breeze right out of the race course, Diaz couldn't beat Paradeda in the last race but pounded him hard enough at the start to send him off to a seventh-place finish when the Brazilian needed to finish no worse than fourth to win the title. Final points: Diaz 15, Paradeda 17.25.

"This is huge," said Diaz, 48, who won the same championship in Colombia in 1972. "I'm very surprised and very happy. I'm very fortunate to have won."

Diaz, a Cuban-born Miami resident employed in his family's medical supply business, and Rogers, the 35-year-old director of the Coronado Yacht Club's junior program in California, were a solid, if unlikely, match.

"Even though this was the first time we'd sailed together, we meshed perfectly," Diaz said. "We had very good starts and very good speed. What we didn't have was the killer instinct. We had position to win a few times but couldn't prevail."

Indeed, they never won a race, while Paradeda won three and Pimentel won two and San Diego's Randy Lake, with crew Piet Van Os, won the only two Brazilians didn't win - the first and the last, both in the lightest wind of the week.

"I've got the start and finish down," Lake said. "I just have to work on the middle part."

The key was in their discards. The 25 competitors from seven nations were allowed to discard their worst scores after the sixth of seven races, which was the first of two races Saturday. With a half-dozen container freighters anchored near the race course, unable to unload because of a U.S. West Coast labour dispute, the race committee set an Olympic-style course (triangle lap followed by a windward-leeward lap) inshore to the south near the beach and into the teeth of an uncommon southeast breeze of 11-12 knots.

Paradeda got whipsawed by a 25-degree shift on the second upwind leg and finished 13th as Diaz sailed second to Paradeda's 63-year-old countryman, Ivan Pimentel.

Paradeda could discard the 13, but then Diaz, with no finish worse than third all week and no one else to worry about, could afford to waste the last race and sail with one mission in mind: get in his rival's face like a used car salesman with bad breath. With the wind down to only 4 or 5 knots, Diaz initiated his own match race and pinned Paradeda outside the committee boat, then broke away with a three-boat length lead at the start.

Diaz could have kept Paradeda stuck there indefinitely but explained, "I didn't think it would be good sportsmanship just to sit there on him. I'd already won the start from him."

Soon, however, he may have regretted it. Paradeda caught up and forced Diaz to tack to the right side of the course for clear air. When the wind went left, Diaz was hung out to dry as Paradeda clawed his way back into contention.

"It was out of my control," Diaz said. All he could do was keep sailing and hope that Lake, with a comfortable lead, would finish within the two hour time limit - otherwise, the final scores would revert to six races - or that Paradeda would finish no better than fifth.

Diaz won on both counts. Although the wind fell to 2 and 3 knots at times, Lake finished the shortened five-mile course with 4 minutes 45 seconds to spare, and Paradeda had come back only to fifth, unable to catch San Diego's George Szabo and Brian Janney, before a final, fatal shift dropped him to seventh in the last few hundred yards.

Overall, two countries dominated. Americans Diaz/Rogers, Szabo/Janney, Lake/Os and Henry Filter/Lisa Griffith of Annapolis finished first, fourth, fifth and 10th, respectively, while Brazilians Paradeda/Fernandes, Marcos Mascarenhas/Pedro Caldas and Pimentel/Pedro Tinoco were second, third and seventh.

There were no protests lodged in the entire regatta.

Top finishers (7 races, one throwout):

1. Augie Diaz/Jon Rogers, Miami, Fla., 3-3-3-2-2-2-(9), 15 points.
2. Alexandre Paradeda/Flavio Fernandes, Brazil, 2-1-1-1-6-(13)-7, 17.25.
3. Marcos Mascarenhas/Pedro Caldas, Brazil, 5-(13)-7-7-4-5-2, 30.
4. George Szabo/Brian Janney, San Diego, 8-11-5-4-(22)-4-3, 35.
5. Randy Lake/Piet Van Os, San Diego, 1-2-6-12-(17)-14-1, 35.5.
6. Santiago Silviera/Nicolas Shaban, Uruguay, 6-(22)-8-6-3-6-8, 37.
7. Ivan Pimentel/Pedro Tinoco, Brazil, 14-10-2-16-1-1-(DNF), 43.5.
8. Javier Ocariz/Nicolas Ocariz, Argentina, 4-6-(21)-14-5-12-5, 46.
9. Shigeru Matsuzaki/Toshio Matsuzaki, Japan, 11-8-(12.5)-11-10-7-4, 51.
10. Henry Filter/Lisa Griffith, Annapolis, 17-9-4-5-14-3-(18), 52.

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