Still tight in every class

Bill Wagner reports from the penultimate day of the Acura Miami Grand Prix

Sunday March 11th 2007, Author: Bill Wagner, Location: United States
Class championships remain in doubt heading into the final day of the Acura Miami Grand Prix. Action on the Atlantic Ocean course is sure to remain fierce as those teams in contention pull out all the stops to claim victory at one of the world’s most renowned venues.

Competition is incredibly close in Farr 40 class, which is contesting the Rolex North American Championship. Twins maintained its lead for a third straight day, but has a pack of six other boats within striking range. Only five points separate the top five teams in the 16-boat fleet and the winner probably won’t be decided until the final race of the four-day series.

“I would rather be two points ahead instead of two points behind,” Twins skipper Erik Maris admitted. “We are in position to control our own destiny, but the boats behind us are all extremely well sailed. We have to forget about the standings and approach (Sunday) as though we are all even.”

Warpath won Race 7 and also notched a fourth on Saturday to jump from fifth to second in the overall standings. The California entry, sailed by the father-son team of Fred and Steve Howe, is the only Farr 40 to have won two races so far. “We are one of the quicker boats on the course and our tactician (British match racer Ian Williams) has done a good job of picking the lanes, picking the shifts,” helmsman Steve Howe said. “Coming into a major regatta like this, all you can hope is to have a chance to win on the last day and we do.”

Lurking just three points off the pace is Alinghi. Skipper Ernesto Bertarelli opened the regatta with a bullet before suffering a ninth and 12th, but has rebounded with a string of top five finishes. “We haven’t sailed these boats in the steep waves we have here in Miami. It’s quite different from what we saw in Newport and Key West,” tactician Brad Butterworth said. “We started a bit slow, but have re-trimmed the boat a bit and have tried to help Ernesto out with handling the boat in the waves.”

Alinghi's America's Cup team has recently been training hard in Dubai to prepare its defence in June. Bertarelli, Butterworth and crew had this week free because their Cup class boats are being shipped to Valencia.

“We wanted to keep our sailing skills sharp and this is the place to do that. I think Key West and Miami are the premier regattas in the states,” Butterworth said. “We’ve had fantastic sailing here this week. The conditions have been terrific and the race committee has done a really nice job.”

Things are equally as tight in the Melges 32 class, which has a five-point spread between the top three boats. Let’s Roll, skippered by Claudio Recchi, took over the lead with a first and a second on Saturday. The Italian entry has been incredibly consistent, finishing no worse than third in all seven races.

“Those guys sail the boat very smart and very hard, both upwind and downwind. They have great boat speed and don’t make any mistakes,” said Simon Williams, skipper of fifth place Fresh Guidance.

Star, which entered the day with a two point lead over Let’s Roll, now trails by two points. Skipper Jeff Ecklund (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) welcomed the completion of seven races because that allowed him to throw out a 13th sustained on Saturday morning.

“We are pleased, but we must be careful because there are at least four boats that are just as fast as we are,” Recchi said. “We will keep an eye on Star, but we also must be aware of (third place) New Wave.”

Let’s Roll dominated the fleet at Acura Key West 2007, winning the series with one day to spare. Recchi did not hesitate when asked how it would feel to also win in Miami. “It would be an incredible honor, an incredible achievement. Those are two very prestigious regattas and the class has become so tough,” Recchi said.

Samba Pa Ti, the TP52 owned by John Kilroy of Los Angeles, held the lead in IRC class for a second straight day. Kilroy has finished first, second or third in all seven races.

Samba is sailing very, very well. They have clearly upped their game since Key West and seem to be going a lot faster than the other TP52s,” said Colm Barrington, skipper and owner of second placed Magic Glove.

Barrington's Ker 50, the second smallest entry in the nine-boat fleet, also counts all top three finishes and stands just two points behind Samba Pa Ti. “We have seven boats that are bigger than us so we are taking gas all the way around the track,” said Barrington. “It cuts down on your tactical options because most of the time you just go for clean air. All things considered, we are happy to be as close as we are.”

Mean Machine has dominated the Mumm 30 class, winning five of seven starts. However, skipper Peter de Ridder and crew have yet to clinch victory as Groovederci is still mathematically alive. kipper Deneen Demourkas and crew would need to win both races on Sunday and hope for Mean Machine to suffer a fourth and a fifth in order to pull off an improbable comeback.

“We’ve sailed a solid regatta so far and we just have to go out and do it for one more day,” said Mean Machine South African tactician Jono Swain.

De Ridder has already announced intention to field a Volvo Ocean Race syndicate and is defending his title on the TP52's Breitling MedCup circuit and is also having a Farr 40 built for this year's world championship in Denmark. His Mumm 30 has already been sold and this may be the Monaco resident’s last regatta in the class. “It would be nice to go out on a high note,” Swain said.

Action in the four-day regatta, organized by Premiere Racing, concludes on Sunday.

2007 Acura Miami Grand Prix - March 8-11, 2007
Provisional Class Standings after 7 Races - March 10
Top 3 Boats in Class

IRC (with discard)
1. Samba Pa Ti, TP52, John Kilroy, Los Angeles, CA, USA,(3)-1-3-2-1-3-1, 11
2. Magic Glove, Ker 50, Colm Barrington, Dublin, IRL, 1-3-2-(5)-3-2-3, 14
3. Windquest, TP52, Doug DeVos, Holland, MI, USA, 4-2-1-3-(6)-5-4, 19

Farr 40 (Rolex National Championship – with no discard)
1. Twins, Erik Maris, Newport, RI, USA, 6-1-2-7-9-5-4, 34
2. Warpath, Fred & Steve Howe, San Diego, CA, 4-10-13-1-3-4-1, 36
3. Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli, Geneva, SUI, 1-9-12-4-2-3-6, 37

Melges 32 (with discard)
1. Let’s Roll, Claudio Recchi, YC Italiano, ITA, (3)-2-2-2-3-2-1, 12
2. Star, Jeff Ecklund, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 4-1-1-3-1-(13),4, 14
3. New Wave, Carroll/Kullman, St,Petersburg, FL, 5-5-(9)-1-2-1-3, 17

Mumm 30 (with no discard)
1. Mean Machine, Peter de Ridder, Monaco, 1-2-1-1-1-1-4, 11
2. Groovederci, Deneen Demourkas, Santa Barbara, CA, 3-1-2-2-2-4-3, 17
3. Kaizen, Baker / Solomon, Noank, CT, 2-4-4-4-3-3-1, 21

Acura Grand Prix Awards (Key West and Miami Series Combined)
Provisional Standings after 7 Races - March 10
Top 2 Boats

1. Samba Pa Ti, TP52, John Kilroy – 26 points
2. Magic Glove, Ker 50, Colm Barrington – 28 points

Farr 40
1. Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli – 88 points
2. Twins, Erik Maris – 98 points

Melges 32
1. Let’s Roll, Claudio Recchi – 24 points
2. New Wave, Carroll / Kullman – 47 points

Mumm 30
1. Mean Machine, Peter de Ridder – 38 points
2. Groovederci, Deneen Demourkas – 56 points

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