Conditions take their toll

25 knot winds see new leaders come to the fore at Acura Miami Grand Prix

Saturday March 8th 2008, Author: Bill Wagner, Location: United States
Wet and wild! That was the story on a spectacular day off Miami Beach. High winds and heavy seas made for exciting yet challenging conditions on Day 2 of Acura Miami Grand Prix. Event director Peter Craig called for three races and PRO Dave Brennan delivered, giving competitors in all four classes quite a workout.

“It was awesome sailing, especially downwind. You get these boats surfing down those big waves and it’s fun, fast racing,” said John Kostecki, tactician aboard Melges 32 leader Pinta.

Wolfgang Stolz and the boys on Opus One had a tremendous day, winning two races and placing fifth in the other to take over the lead in Farr 40 class. Stolz, from Frankfurt, Germany, said it was just one of those days when everything seemed to work out. “We got good starts, went to the right side and got favorable shifts, played the current well and had a little bit of luck."

Kelvin Harrap, a member of the Team New Zealand America’s Cup syndicate, had a strong day calling tactics on Opus One, which now holds a healthy eight-point lead over Mascalzone Latino.

“What I’m most happy about is that we didn’t make any mistakes. I feel we have one of the fastest boats in the fleet and if we just sail smart and sail clean we can be in contention,” Stolz continued.

Opus One has sailed at the top of the Farr 40 class in recent years, placing fourth and fifth at the last two world championships. However, Stolz is still seeking his first class victory at a major international regatta. “Our weakness has been that we have one shocker too many,” he said. “In this class, anything above 15 really hurts and is hard to overcome.”

Farr 40 does not allow throw-outs so a result of mid-fleet or worse can be costly. Skipper Jim Richardson and the crew aboard Barking Mad, one of the most consistent teams in the class and winner of Acura Key West 2008, were left to wonder whether a 19th in Race 4 would come back to haunt them.

“Today was a reminder of just how hard it can be in this fleet. We got three great starts, but I made some bad decisions,” said tactician Terry Hutchinson, who was also upset with an 11th in Race 3. “Can we still win the regatta? Absolutely. Have we made it tougher on ourselves? Definitely.”

Barking Mad redeemed itself by getting the gun in Race 5, tacking only twice as a result of laying the mark on both upwind legs. The Newport, R.I. entry holds fifth place overall.

Mascalzone Latino, the Day 1 leader skippered by Vincenzo Onorato, also suffered a double-digit result, but minimised the damage by rebounding with a ninth and a sixth. The two-time defending world champions slipped from first to second - three points ahead of fellow Italian entry Nerone (Massimo Mezzaroma).

Southeast winds gusted to 25 knots while steep waves were as high as eight feet during Race 1, causing a bit of carnage on the course. Numbers, Dan Meyer's Judel/Vrolijk 66, the largest boat in the regatta, endured delamination of the foredeck and was forced to retire midway through the first race. Roxanne, the Melges 32 owned by Kip Meadows, sustained a broken spreader while two other entries in the sport boat class did not finish. The TP52 Mayhem (Ashley Wolfe) and the Aerodyne 38 Thin Ice (Stuart Hebb) also failed to finish Race 1 and headed for port.

“It was very tough out there. Sailing upwind into those big waves was scary at times. It was difficult to drive because I was getting thrown from side-to-side,” Richardson said.

Pinta remained atop the Melges 32 class after posting a superb line of 1-3-2 yesterday. This is only Illbruck’s second regatta in the rapidly growing class and Kostecki’s initial appearance as tactician, but you would never know it by the results. Pinta has placed no worse than third in compiling a low score of 11, but is still just one point ahead of New Wave.

“Winning is not the issue for us. We are brand new to the class and still have a lot to learn,” said Illbruck. “I was surprised by how well the boats handled in these types of conditions. We were under control the whole time.”

New Wave, co-owned by Michael Carroll and Marty Kullman, won the last two races to keep the pressure on Pinta. Star, skippered by Jeff Ecklund, lost points to the leaders despite a 4-2-4 score line yesterday.

“There were some big gains to be made out there today. Surfing the waves is a blast and provides plenty of opportunities to pass boats downwind,” Ecklund said.

Flash Glove, the JV 52 owned by Ireland's Colm Barrington is pulling away in IRC 1 class. Former ABN AMRO One crewman and International 14 and 18ft skiff world champion Rob Greenhalgh is calling tactics for Barrington, who won two races and placed second in the other on Friday. Flash Glove has a low score of seven, seven better than Sergey Pichugin's second placed Rusal Synergy

Flash Glove is going really well. They’ve been launched in a couple races,” said Doug DeVos, skipper of third place Windquest.

Bandit, a Swan 42 owned by Andy Fisher took over the lead in IRC 1 on the strength of a 2-3-1 line on Friday. It was an ideal day for the heavier boats in the class and Bandit overtook the lighter J/122 Teamwork.

“We had a lot of things to deal with today and we overcame them. That’s the thing with this team… it sticks together and is persistent,” Bandit boat captain Ben Poucher said. “We just seem to plug away and do what it takes to get around the course.”

North Sails professional Steve Benjamin is calling tactics aboard Bandit, which won Swan 42 class at Key West 2008.

“Steve has a lot to do with our success. His ability to tune the rig and make all the right calls out on the course is huge,” Poucher said.

Results (protests pending)

Farr 40 (28 entries)
1, Opus One, Wolfgang Stolz, Munich, Germany, 8-8-1-1-5=23
2, Mascalzone Latino, Vincenzo Onorato, Napoli, Italy, 1-1-14-9-6=31
3, Nerone, Massimo Mezzaroma, Punta Ala, Italy, 7-4-8-13-2=34

Melges 32 (20 entries)
1, Pinta, Michael Illbruck, Munich, Germany, 2-3-1-3-2=11
2, New Wave, Mike Carroll/Marty Kullman, Clearwater, Fla., 6-1-3-1-1=12
3, Star, Jeff Ecklund, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 5-2-4-2-4=17

IRC 1 (6 entries)
1, Flash Glove, J/V 52, Colm Barrington, Dublin, Ireland, 1-2-2-1-1=3
2, Rusal Synergy, Sergey Pichugin, Saratov, RUS, 5-3-1-2-3=14
3, Windquest, TP52, Doug DeVos, Holland, Mich., 2-5-3-3-2=7

IRC 2 (6 entries)
1, Bandit, Swan 42, Andy Fisher, Newport, RI, 4-2-2-3-1=12
2, Teamwork, J/122, Robin Team, Beaufort, NC, 1-1-4-4-4=14
3, Tiburon, Swan 42, Mark Watson, Newport, RI, 6-3-3-1-2=15

Acura has been the proud title sponsor and Official Vehicle of the Miami Grand Prix, Miami Race Week and the SORC for the previous 8 years. They are joined by supporting sponsors Mount Gay Rum (Official Rum) and SLAM (Official Technical Gear and Retailer). The Miami Beach Marina is the Official Site for this 2008 grand prix event. The Avalon and South Seas Hotels are the Official Host Hotels. Shake-A-Leg Miami is the official charity of both the Acura Miami Grand Prix and Acura Key West.

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