by Joy Dunigan
With a frontal system on its way to the Michigan coast and all the forecast models in agreement, the 26 racing teams from around the U.S. and the world knew before they left the dock that the final day of the 2013 Audi Melges 20 U.S. National Championship presented by Audi Muskegon would feature big waves and white knuckle speeds.
Audi Melges 20 U.S. National Championship
Race Officer Bruce Golison planned for three races to decide the championship, and the battle began at 10 a.m. less than a mile from Holland's famous 'Big Red' lighthouse in 10 knots of breeze.
Race five of the championship, the first of the day, saw the all-amateur team aboard Brian Hill's Atlas punch through the starting line, turning their advantage to a big lead at the top mark. Hill and Argo's Jason Carroll fought tooth and nail for the position down the first run, with Carroll squeezing inside Hill for the lead at the gate. The two worked their way up the right side of the course while Wilmot chose the left, while a shift and gust gave Kilroy's Samba Pa Ti the lead at the final mark that they refused to relinquish. Hill took third, while Kiss finished a distant fourth, still with a slim but solid lead over Carroll, Ryan Devos on Volpe, and Kilroy.
In Race six, the wheels fell off the bus for Bacio; Kiss's first real misstep of the event. While Kilroy took a fourth and Devos a sixth, Kiss finished 12th. After the race, Golison read the scores over VHF radio, the call crackling through the air as it repeated over dozens of speakers. 'Tied For First: Samba Pa Ti and Bacio with 17 points each!.'
A busy spectator fleet crowded the start line as the teams converged for the final and deciding race of the National Championship, and at the top mark, the first and second-placed Kiss and Kilroy were separated by a single boat length.
As the boats jumped up on plane and surged through the waves downwind, a slight misstep from Kiss let Jeff Ecklund's STAR get close enough to affect his wind while Kilroy reveled in the breezy, choppy conditions, and the race was effectively over. 'I misjudged where we needed to be, and let Samba Pa Ti get away,' said Kiss. 'There aren't a lot of second chances when it's all on the line with a team as good as Kilroy's.' The three-time National Champion was disappointed but charged up. 'This definitely motivates us to train harder for Worlds in December,' he said.
Meanwhile, Kilroy was busy tearing through the remaining boats, working his way to a big lead on the final leg. As the team crossed the line, Wilmot, Reynolds and Kilroy pumped their fists with sails flapping around them. Kilroy was overjoyed with the victory, his second major sportboat title in less than a year. It was also payback for Kilroy'ssecond-place against Kiss during last year's Nationals in San Francisco.
'Winning against someone as skilled and gracious as Michael makes this trophy mean a lot more,' said Kilroy, who also won the 'Masters' trophy for best performance by a skipper over 60 years old. 'This was an incredible regatta - one of the best I have ever been to - and we're looking forward to a lot more Melges racing in the months ahead.'
Taking eighth place overall, Toronto's Brian Hill won the Corinthian National Championship for the top all-amateur team. 'We're very happy with our performance, and barring one bad hoist we'd have done even better,' said Hill. 'I think we proved that your profession isn't what gets you results in this Class; All you need are good sailors, a well-prepared boat, and lots of time on the water.'
Twenty-one year old Ian Hollerbach aboard Fuku and 20 year-old Morgan Kiss on Baciami traded places all week long only to find themselves tied on exactly 77 points at the end of the regatta. Kiss won the tiebreaker to get 13th place overall. 'It was awesome to have Morgan out there to use as a barometer for how we were doing,' said Hollerbach.
The younger Kiss plans to compete right through the World Championship, while Hollerbach's plans are less definite. 'I think I'm going to be asking [mom] Karen soon if I can do it,' he said. Kiss also went on to claim the trophy for 'top performance by a female skipper.'
Top ten results (After Seven Races, One Discard)
1.) John Kilroy, Samba Pa Ti; 2--4-6-1-4-1 = 18
2.) Michael Kiss, Bacio; 1-4-7-1-4--3 = 20
3.) Jason Carroll, Argo; 7-1--4-2-7-2 = 23
4.) Ryan DeVos, Volpe; 3-6-6-2-6-6- = 29
5.) Richard Davies, Section 16; -8-5-3-10-8-5 = 39
6.) Cesar Gomes Neto, Portobello; 17-9-1--11-1-6 = 45
7.) Travis Weisleder, Lucky Dog/Gill Race Team; -7-3-10-12-3-10 = 45
8.) Brian Hill, Atlas (Corinthian); 6-11-13-12-3-5- = 50
9.) Marc Hollerbach, Fu; 8-10-12-5-8--8 = 51
10.) Rob Wilber, Cinghiale; 18-3-2-15--10-7 = 55
For the first time ever, the U.S. National Championship Opening Ceremony was streamed live on the internet. It's available for viewing or embedding at theAudi Melges 20 Ustream Channel
Friday night, six Audi Melges 20 racers got together with http://sailinganarchy.com/?utm_source=Kilroy%27s+Samba+Pa+Ti+Named+2013+Audi+Melges+20+U.S.+National+Champion+After+Come&utm_campaign=AM20+NATS+4&utm_medium=email!Sailing_Anarchy.com's Alan Block for a live, 30 minute talk show about tuning the Melges 20, the winter schedule and Worlds, the new mast, just how open the class is with information and tips, tips for newbie helmspersons, and much more. The video can be found at the Audi Melges 20 Ustream Channel.