Competitive racing, beautiful Miami weather, great wind, free flowing Mount Gay Rum and one of the best sailing venues on the planet resulted in high stakes in the U.S. Etchells Class National Championship.
The winning team sailing
Thirty-seven talented teams from seven counties took part in the three day regatta hosted by Coral Reef Yacht Club and Mount Gay Rum. Competitors traveled from as far away as New Zealand and China to sail 8 races in challenging light to medium conditions with the goal of capturing this year’s National Championship held in combination with the annual Etchells Coral Reef Cup.
The racing was tight going into the last day with several of the highly talented teams in contention. Jeff Siegal, USA 1296 with his long time tactician and past world champ, Jeff Madrigali, held a small lead over local ace Jeff Dever, USA 1090 and his team. Close behind were Snipe World Champ and Star sailor Tomas Hornos, USA 102 with Henry Frazer (Oriental, N.C.). Rounding out the top five were former Etchells world champ Dirk Kneulman sailing with New Zealander Anatole Masfen and Phillip Carlson (Sweden) as well as relative new-comer James McHugh (Beijing, China) sailing with world champ Andy Beadsworth (England) and Pete McCormack. This team was fresh off several weeks of training in Australia having sailed the Australian Nationals and 2012 World Championship down under.
The final day proved tricky with a shifty westerly breeze that is unusual for Biscayne Bay. The fleet was aggressive at the start of race seven and after two recalls including a 'Z' flag, the black flag was flown. Despite 12 over early penalties from the Z flag, the fleet still pushed the start and a number of the top boats were over. USA 1168, Peter Vessella and USA 102, Tomas Hornos were called over early and it cost them their shot at the top.
In the end, it was all about damage control on the last day and multiple time Jaguar Cup winner Jeff Siegal with his talented team of Jeff Madrigali, Wilhem Van Waay, and Sarah Callahan held it together on a shifty and tricky day to fend off the international teams of SUI 1403 James McHugh and NZL 1348 Dirk Kneulman and their teams to claim the 2012 National Championship. The top five boats finished within 15 points of each other.
The winning team....
The sailors were honored with a formal flag ceremony by CRYC’s Officers in full uniform. At the trophy ceremony, Jim Etchells, a descendant of the boat designer was present, the swimming pool and outside bar were full and Jeff Seigal went around offering sips of rum from his trophy. PRO Bill Smoak and his CRYC race management team enjoyed the regatta as much as the sailors did. Jeff Nehms was the Regatta Chair with a lot of team support. It was another great Coral Reef Cup but this time, it crowned the National Champions.
Top 5 Boats
1. USA 1296 – Jeff Siegal New York Yacht Club
2. SUI 1403 - James McHugh – SNG
3. NZL 1348 – Dirk Kneulman – Royal Akarana Yacht Club
4. USA 1090- Jeff Dever – Coral Reef Yacht Club
5. USA 1375 – Argyle Campbell – San Diego Yacht Club
Not only was the racing exciting, there was a lot of local color at the event. Official photographer Marco Oquendo’s press boat was full of bikini clad women who tried to distract the sailors resulting in some great shots. John Payne was taking photos on the water too. Each morning, the Swiss team delivered a big chocolate bar to the Race Committee on the Signal Boat 'Great Scott'. On land, the Mt. Gay Rum Gals, clad in short shorts distributed free rum drinks along with complete printed results.
The winning team celebrating
For complete results, http://www.etchellsfleet20.org/results/2012CRC_results.html