Battle lines drawn
Most of the 46 entries participating in the annual regatta headed out of Government Cut for one final tune-up before the competition turns serious on Thursday. It proved an ideal day for testing sails and training crew as sunny skies and warm temperatures were augmented by winds that ranged from 12-15 knots.
"It truly is wonderful to be back here in Florida. We had lovely conditions today with the sun shining brightly and the wind blowing strong," said Colm Barrington, owner of the IRC entry Magic Glove. "That is why we all come here to go sailing in the winter. There aren’t many places in the world this nice at this time of the year."
In his native Dublin, Ireland, it is quite cold and nasty at the moment. Barrington steered his Ker 50 to overall victory in the IRC 2 class at Acura Key West 2007 and is hoping to duplicate that type of performance here in Miami. It won’t be easy as the one IRC class has nine good boats ranging in size from Marcin Rojek’s Swan 45 Better Than to Hap Fauth’s JV 66 Bella Mente. In between are four TP52s and a pair of Farr 60s.
"I think if anything the competition will be more intense than in Key West because we’ve added the three bigger boats," Barrington said. "A lot will depend on the type of conditions we get. Certain boats perform better in certain conditions."
No one can ever accurately predict the wind and weather, but Premiere Racing will surely deliver its characteristic top-notch race management and superb awards parties throughout the Acura Miami Grand Prix, being held Thursday through Sunday on an ocean course set just off the north end of Key Biscayne.
Respected Principal Race Officer Dave Brennan and his well-trained team of volunteers plan to conduct 10 races over four days while the evening social gathering at Monty’s Raw Bar is sure to deliver the best in food and drink.
There is certain to be stiff competition in all four grand prix classes as some of the top professional sailing talent in the world has trekked to this colorful, cosmopolitan city.
Robert Greenhalgh, a past International 14 World Champion and ABN AMROOne crewman for example is sailing aboard Magic Glove.
Samba Pa Ti, a TP 52 owned by California native John Kilroy, has four Volvo veterans aboard, including tactician Stu Bannatyne. Samba Pa Ti, named for Kilroy’s favorite Carlos Santana song, finished just one point behind Magic Glove at Key West.
"I’ve always enjoyed doing the Florida circuit, and to me that means a regatta in Key West and a regatta in Miami," said Kilroy, a veteran of the old Southern Ocean Racing Circuit.
An international fleet of 16 Farr 40s has come to contest the Rolex North American Championship and has typically attracted a slew of big-time professionals. Alinghi is the pre-regatta favorite after putting forth an impressive performance in Key West. Skipper Ernesto Bertarelli has several members of his America’s Cup crew onboard, including tactician Brad Butterworth.
"On paper, Alinghi has got a really good cart and a really good team," said Helmut Jahn, German-born skipper of Flash Gordon 5. "We were one of the other boats that did well in Key West, but it can all be turned upside down at this regatta. That is what makes this class so exciting."
Several foreign entries that missed Key West have arrived in Miami, including Aleph (Hughes Lepic, France), Cannonball (Dario Ferrari, Italy), Monick (Nicklas Holm, Denmark) and Old Boys (Eduardo Souza Ramos, Brazil).
"There are some new players and all of them are capable of doing well," said Jahn, who finished second, three points behind Alinghi, at Key West.
Another notable entry in Farr 40 class is Norwegian Storm, runner-up at the 2006 Miami Grand Prix. Skipper Eivind Astrup and crew led the regatta most of the way before being overtaken by Heartbreaker on the final day. "We are very happy to be back because this is such a well-organised regatta. We hope this place brings us the luck we deserve,” Astrup said.
There figures to be equally stiff competition in Melges 32 class, which also has drawn a slew of talent-laden teams. Skipper Claudio Recchi and crew aboard Let’s Roll overwhelmed the competition in Key West, clinching overall victory with one race to spare. Recchi is remaining humble despite keeping the Italian team entirely intact.
"It’s always nice to be in sunny Florida. We are back to see if we still have the boat speed we had in Key West," said Recchi, who deflects credit to tactician Gabriele Benussi. "We had very good fortune in Key West. It will be difficult to repeat. The gap in this class is very close."
Let’s Roll could get a challenge from Grins, the Georgia-based entry that placed second in Miami last year. Skipper Rick Orchard missed Key West for the first time in years because he was helicopter skiing in Canada with boyhood friends from California.
"From what I heard, Let’s Roll won Key West with good execution. It wasn’t the rig, it wasn’t the sails, it was time on the water and time in the boat," Orchard said. "We haven’t spent as much time in the boat as we should, but feel we can be competitive."
Peter De Ridder and the Mean Machine team are early favorite in Mumm 30 class after losing a tiebreaker and placing second in Key West. Volvo Ocean Race veteran Jono Swain, a Ft. Lauderdale resident, is calling tactics on Mean Machine.
"We are coming into this confident and sailing well," said De Ridder, who is mounting a Volvo Ocean Race campaign. "Our main competition will probably be Groovederci (Deneen Demourkas), although there are several solid teams here."
|Boat Name||Type||LOA||Owner / Entrant||Homeport||Helmsman||Tactician|
|Class A - IRC|
|Bella Mente||JV 66||66||Hap Fauth||Newport, RI||Hap Fauth||Peter Staulkus|
|Numbers||Farr 60||60||Daniel Meyers||Newport, RI||Daniel Meyers||Murray Jones|
|Hissar||Farr 60||60||Edgar Cato||Newport, RI||Brad Read||Morgan Reeser|
|Rusal-Synergy||TP52||52||Alexey Nikolaev||Gibraltar/Russia||Andrey Nikolaev||Alexey Nikolaev|
|Windquest||TP52||52||Doug Devos||Holland, MI||Doug Devos||John Bertrand|
|Samba Pa Ti||TP52||52||John Kilroy||Los Angeles, CA||John Kilroy||Stu Bannatyne|
|Decision||TP52||52||Stephen B. Murray||New Orleans, LA||Stephen B. Murray||Andy Lovell|
|Magic Glove||Ker 50||50||Colm Barrington||Dublin, IRL||Colm Barrington||Robert Greenhalgh|
|Better Than||Swan 45||45||Andrzej Rojek||Newport, RI||Andrzej Rojek||Britt Hughes|
|Aleph||Farr 40||40||Hughes Lepic||FRA||Hughes Lepic|
|Alinghi||Farr 40||40||Ernesto Bertarelli||Geneva, SUI||Ernesto Bertarelli||Brad Butterworth|
|Barking Mad||Farr 40||40||James Richardson||Newport, RI||ames Richardson||Brian Ledbetter|
|Cannonball||Farr 40||40||Dario Ferrari||Portofino, ITA||Dario Ferrari||Cameron Appleton|
|Fiamma||Farr 40||40||Alessandro Barnaba||Cala Galera, ITA||Alessandro Barnaba||Chris Larson|
|Flash Gordon 5||Farr 40||40||Helmut & Evan Jahn||Chicago, IL||Helmut Jahn||Mark Ivey|
|Groovederci||Farr 40||40||John Demourkas||Santa Barbara, CA||John Demourkas||Jeff Madrigali|
|Monick||Farr 40||40||Nicklas Holm||Tuborg, DEN||David Holm||Nicklas Holm|
|Nanoq||Farr 40||40||HRH Prince Frederik||Copenhagen, DEN||HRH Prince Frederik||Bouwe Bekking|
|Nerone||Farr 40||40||Massimo Mezzaroma||Savona, ITA||Antonio S Migliori||Lorenzo Bressani|
|Norwegian Steam||Farr 40||40||Eivind Astrup||Oslo, NOR||Eivind Astrup||Morten Henriksen|
|Old Boys||Farr 40||40||Eduardo Souza Ramos||Sao Paulo, BRA||E. Souza Ramos||Dee Smith|
|Opus One||Farr 40||40||Wolfgang Stolz||Frankfurt, GER||Wolfgang Stolz||Tim Powell|
|Ramrod||Farr 40||40||Rod Jabin||Annapolis, MD||Rod Jabin||Scott Nixon|
|Twins||Farr 40||40||Erik Maris||YC Porquerolles, FRA||Erik Maris||Gildas Philippe|
|Warpath||Farr 40||40||Steve Howe||San Diego, CA||Steve Howe||Ian Williams|
|Badfish||Melges 32||32||Philip Lotz||Annapolis, MD||Philip Lotz||Bill Jorch|
|Bigtime||Melges 32||32||Mark Landwer & Jeff Wittenberg||Chicago, IL||Jeff Wittenberg||Matt Woodworth|
|Evil Woman||Melges 32||32||George Gamble||Pensacola, FL||George Gamble||Mark Foster|
|Fast Forward||Melges 32||32||Tad Fairbank||Bainbridge Isl, WA||Tad Fairbank||Bob Pistay|
|Fresh Guidance||Melges 32||32||Simon Williams||Newport, RI||Simon Williams||Bill Hardesty|
|Grins||Melges 32||32||Rick Orchard||Flowery Branch, GA||Rick Orchard||Dave Chapin|
|Highlife||Melges 32||32||Peter Rogers||Hamble, UK||John Taggart||Ben Cooper|
|Let's Roll||Melges 32||32||Claudio Recchi||YCI, Italy||Claudio Recchi||Gabriele Denussi|
|New Wave||Melges 32||32||Carroll/Kullman||St Pete/Clearwtr, FL||Marty Kullman||John Jennings|
|Nitemare||Melges 32||32||Tom Neill||Chicago, IL||Tom Neill||Pat Considine|
|Nosedive||Melges 32||32||David Hoyt||Stowe, VT||David Hoyt|
|Savannah||Melges 32||32||Walter Kennedy||Charlotte, NC||Walter Kennedy||Rick Applin|
|Star||Melges 32||32||Jeff Ecklund||Ft Lauderdale, FL||Jeff Ecklund||Harry Melges|
|Stewball||Melges 32||32||Caleb Everett||San Francisco, CA||Caleb Everett|
|Vamoose||Melges 32||32||Robby Wilkins||Lexington, SC||Robby Wilkins||Ross Griffith|
|Wicked Woman||Melges 32||32||George Gamble||Pensacola, FL||Joe Godard||Mark Ploch|
|Champosa||Mumm 30||30||Jonathan McDonagh||Minneapolis, MN||Jonathan McDonagh||TBD|
|Groovederci||Mumm 30||30||Deneen Demourkas||Santa Barbara, CA||Deneen Demourkas|
|Just Plain Nutz||Mumm 30||30||J. Cameron Dean||Pleasant Valley, NY||Norm Dean||Billy Heintz|
|Kaizen||Mumm 30||30||Scott Baker/Moise Solomon||Noank, CT||Moise Solomon||Clinton Hayes|
|Mean Machine||Mumm 30||30||Peter De Ridder||Monaco||Peter De Ridder||Jono Swain|