by Rich Roberts
Wednesday, on the second day of the International A-Class Catamaran North American Championship, the normally reliable Long Beach sea breeze threw Matt Struble a slow and tricky curve ball.
A rare event: Matt Struble follows the leaders through the leeward gate
But a 1-3 day of finishes only proved that while may not be invincible, he will still be tough to beat.
Struble, untouchable in recent A-Cat events here, saw his unbeaten streak through three events vanish in shifty five to six knots of south-southwest zephyrs gasping over the ocean course, outside the breakwater of the harbor used a day earlier.
After stretching this week's string to four wins through Wednesday's first race, the San Diego sailor had to scramble for third place in the fifth race behind---are you ready?---Haywood (Woody) Cope, 65, of Tampa, Fla., and Mackenzie Cook, 19, of Scotts Valley, Calif., as Jeremy Herrin, 17, of Sarasota, Fla. jumped into third place overall with a 2-5 afternoon.
Humbled by the age spread, Struble, 41, could only say, 'It was a pretty tough day today.'
Well … not too tough. No one else had a four-point afternoon into the halfway point, and Struble expanded his overall lead from four to 11 points over second-place Bruce Mahoney of Houston, Tex., who remained solid at 2-2-3-5-6.
But you remember Cope, who started the event by losing his mast before finishing the first lap Tuesday.
'Just lucky today,' he said. 'I'll take luck anytime.'
OK, he was lucky to figure out that the right side was the way to go in the day's windup three-lap tour around a one-mile-long windward-leeward course. Struble fell in with a group going left that left him in ninth place at the first windward mark, behind Cook in front and Cope close behind.
Cope stands 14th among the 19 competitors from 10 states, but there are two throwout tallies to come in Race six Thursday and Race nine Friday that will erase his pair of 20s from Tuesday. He shrugged.
'I can't complain,' Cope said. 'It's fun. That's all I'm here for.'
For that matter, Struble will probably toss his third place, but Herrin has a ten and a nine to shed.
'It was light,' Herrin said. 'I was just covering to make sure nobody got in front of me. In the second race I went right and it worked out.'
Five more races are scheduled over the next two days, starting at 1 p.m. each day. Thursday's three scheduled races will be back inside the breakwater of the outer harbor.
(after 5 of 10 races; 1 throwout after 6 races, 2 after 9)
1. Matt Struble, San Diego, 1-1-1-1-3, 7.
2. Bruce Mahoney, Houston, Tex., 2-2-3-5-6, 18.
3. Jeremy Herrin, Sarasota, Fla., 4-10-9-2-5, 30.
4. Bill Westland, Huntington Beach, Calif. 5-3-7-4-13, 32.
5. Bob Hodges, Covington, La., 3-8-6-11-4, 32.