Early lead for Nerone
It was an action-packed and often-times thrilling afternoon off South Beach as strong and shifty winds challenged skippers and crews on the opening day of the 2010 Miami Grand Prix.
Principal race officer Dave Brennan completed three races in northwest winds that averaged 15-18 knots but gusted to 25 at times.
Regular shifts ranging as significant as 40 degrees kept tacticians on their toes as staying on the proper side of the course proved crucial. “It was quite shifty and the positions changes were huge,” said Dick Neville, who is serving as Brennan’s right-hand man aboard the committee boat. “That being said, it was still a very good day for sailboat racing. We had plenty of wind and lots of excitement. It was a fun day on the water.”
Nerone tactician Vasco Vascotto was on his game Thursday and the Italian entry holds first place in Farr 40 class as a result. Nerone, the defending class champion here in Miami, hooked into a massive right-hand shift and took off from the rest of the 10-boat fleet in Race 1. However, Vascotto earned his money the rest of the day – making enough good calls to rally Nerone from last to sixth in Race 2 and from fifth to first in Race 3.
“Vasco, for sure, did a great job of picking the shifts, but the whole crew did a good job of maneuvering the boat. There was a lot of gybing today and ours were all perfect,” Nerone boat captain and crew member Massimo Bortoletto said. “It was a tough day, but all in all it was a good day because we are winning.”
Jim Richardson's Barking Mad, posted a solid line of 5-4-2 and is second overall, three points behind the Italians. Former College of Charleston All-American Steve Hunt called tactics for Richardson, who captured the Farr 40 class at the 2008 Miami Grand Prix.
“It was a tricky day, a very tactical day and it was hard to get dialed in. Considering what could have happened, we are pretty pleased with our finishes. I felt we improved as a team as the day went along and our boat speed and boat-handling were excellent,” Hunt said.
There was a surprise leader in the talent-laden Melges 32 class following the first day. Frenchman Jean-Francois Cruette and his crew aboard Teasing Machine took first place in two of three races to post a low score of seven points – nine better than second-place Red of Britain's own Joe Woods.
This is only the fifth Melges 32 regatta for Cruette, a La Rochelle resident who got his first taste of the class by chartering for Key West 2009. Cruette was so enamored of the sport-boat he bought one and Teasing Machine placed 13th at Key West 2010. Christian Ponthies is tactician for Cruette, the Melges 24 Corinthian world champion in 2006.
Bliksem, the defending class champion for the Miami Grand Prix, holds third place in the 23-boat class – just one point astern of Red. Skipper Pieter Taselaar, tactician Jeremy Wilmot and team grabbed the gun in Race 1 and placed second in Race 2, but were hurt by a 14th in Race 3.
It appeared that the heavy air favored the older, lower handicapped designs in IRC class with Jim Bishop steering his J/44 to the top of the fleet on the strength of a solid 2-3-1 score line. Bishop, a resident of Jamestown, R.I., actually owns two J/44 sloops – a standard model that is used for one-design racing back home and Gold Digger II, which has been modified for IRC competition.
“The wind couldn’t have been any better, the weather is wonderful and we’re very happy to be down here,” said Bishop, who stays in comfort aboard the Coastal Queen, a 70-foot Oyster Bay Boat that was built in 1928.
Dave Willis, whose family competes against Bishop in J/44 class on Long Island Sound, is calling tactics on Gold Digger II, which holds a three-point lead over the Swan 42 Vitesse (Jon Halbert, Dallas, Texas).
“I’m very enthusiastic about the IRC rule and how it treats heavy and light boats equally. We performed well in the heavy breeze, but we’ll see how we do in light air,” said Bishop, who reckoned that different conditions could favor the faster, lighter displacement entries such as the Mills 43 Cool Breeze or the J/125 Stark Raving Mad.
Event director Peter Craig of Premiere Racing was pleased to get a nice jump-start on the projected 10-race series. Wind forecasts are favorable through the weekend and Dave Brennan’s race management team should have no trouble completing the full series.
Results: Class leaders after three races
IRC (6 Boats)
1. Gold Digger II, J/44, James Bishop, Jamestown, RI, USA, 2-3-1= 6
2. Vitesse, Swan 42, Jon Halbert, Dallas, TX, USA, 5-2-2= 9
3. Gumption, J/105, Kevin Grainger, Rye, NY, USA, 6-1-4=11
Farr 40 (10 Boats)
1. Nerone, Massimo Mezzaroma, Punta Ala, ITA, 1-6-1=8
2. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Newport, RI, USA, 5-4-2=11
3. Fiamma, Allesandro Barnaba, Rome, ITA, 3-2-7=12
Melges 32 (23 Boats)
1. Teasing Machine, Jean Francois Cruette, La Rochelle, FRA, 5-1-1=7
2. Red, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 2-10-4=16
3. Bliksem, Pieter Taselaar, NYYC, NY, 1-2-14=17