The 2014 J/24 Midwinters were highlighted by somewhat fabulous, near postcard-perfect sailing conditions and with some extraordinary entertainment both on and off the water.
For one of the 'side-shows', there were hundreds of noisy offshore powerboats criss-crossing the course area with bikini-clad girls hanging out as they tried to score big in the Miami Boat Show 'Poker Run' down to Islamorada.
Nevertheless, focusing like laser-beams on the job at hand (and, never a stray eye wavering to acres of scantily-clad 'flesh' flying by), the formidable duo of John Mollicone on the helm and Tim Healy calling tactics (along with crew Geoff Becker, Leon Collin and Gordon Borges) on Team Helly Hansen managed to repeat their prior year’s performance— taking a ten point lead to the house and crowned the 2014 J/24 Midwinter Champions, again!
The regatta started off on a high note, with Regatta Chairman Marc Pincus describing it as 'a chamber of commerce day'. The weather was beautiful with a light chop and sunny skies. Plus, there were No 'black flags' during the four races, despite the reputation of the regatta being the 'inventor' of the notorious 'Black Flag' back in 1984 (remember Mario Bustamante, P.R.O. from Coral Reef YC??).
The 27 teams got off to an early start in Miami’s 80 degree weather. However, paradise is never perfect. The wind died during the second race causing the RC to shorten the course, but the breeze came back enough to have two more races.
J/24 Midwinters Championship 2014 - Chris Howell
For the Newport-based Helly Hansen team, it was self-evident after the first day they were determined to do no wrong and may have had, in fact, a 'crystal ball' on board (apparently they were sailing with almost 'clairvoyant' capabilities). Brown University Sailing Coach John Mollicone stayed out of trouble, kept his lanes clear, and managed to post three bullets on the first day for 8pts total. No one could match them. Miami’s Robby Brown on USA 799 and his team Ron Hyatt, Mark Liebell, Jeff Rubin, and Arthur Blodget finished in second with 10 points and Travis Odenbach on Honey Badger sailing with Patrick Wilson, Rossi Milev, Chris Morgan and Emery Williams were in third with 16 points.
When the RC Signal Boat 'Goldilocks' went out for the morning of the second day of racing on to Miami’s Biscayne Bay waving a huge 'Jolly Roger' flag, you could tell it was going to be a great day. The Coral Reef YC R.C. was relaxed and looking forward to another glorious day of sailing. The wind was six-nine knots and steady with no shifts. The race course was set west of the infamous 'Stiltsville' (houses built on stilts on the shoals south of Key Biscayne Island). The day’s final tally saw Team Helly Hansen extend their lead to seven points.
The big move of the day was Peru’s Luis Olcese sailing Scaramoush, climbing into second with two first places for the day. His crew Christian Sas, Joel Raffo, Joaquin Razetto, and Alek Stewart passed Davis Island’s Robby Brown’s team and Travis Odenbach. Odenbach’s Honey Badger (with crew Patrick Wilson, Rossi Milev, Chris Morgan, and Emery Williams onboard) held on to third place only one point behind Scaramoush. Needless to say, the evenings CRYC regatta dinner was abuzz with stories about the day’s events.
For the hosts, they couldn’t have scripted a nicer ending to the regatta, albeit with a few entertaining 'twists' thrown in for good measure. The last day dawned with yet another clear, sunny day with a mild six-nine knots breeze and light chop. Perhaps the most memorable part of the day for most was the hundreds of 'visitors' that kept criss-crossing the race course area; including the Miami Boat Show 'Poker Run' participants (40 very fast and extremely loud offshore 'Cigarette-type' boats with bikini-clad gals on the bow on their way to and from Islamorada); a massive pod of incredibly happy and frolic-some dolphins; and a slew of Biscayne Bay Yacht Racing Association racers getting yelled at about every imaginable sailing rules infraction possible!
J/24 Midwinters Championship 2014 - Chris Howell
It was like old times in the 10th race. After a failed attempt at a start, PRO Jaime Ramon called for the Black Flag. In order to make it more authentic and bring back memories of the 1984 J/24 Midwinters where the Black Flag and bow numbers were first used to 'discipline the fleet,' 1984 CRYC RC Chair Mario Bustamante was called down from the bridge to perform the black flag duties. As Mario raised the flag, he complained that 'it was a puny little black flag with no character and that the big Jolly Roger would have been a better choice.' Regardless, the Black Flag worked, the sailors were very well-behaved and it was an all clear start for the last race of the regatta.
Despite all the distractions, Team Helly Hansen won yet another race on the last day and sealed the deal to be crowned Midwinter Champions with five firsts in their nine race score card. Mollicone is a busy man this year. The plan is for John to skipper Helly Hansen in the upcoming regattas in Newport, RI in July, do the Pan American Trials, the Nationals in Marion, MA and the J/24 Worlds in Newport, RI in September. On top of all that, John says that his Brown University Sailing Team will start practice first weekend of March, weather permitting, commenting that 'the team is anxious and wants to sail!'
The race for second place was very exciting and close. Unfortunately, for the well-sailed (and outfitted) Scaramoush team from Peru, they 'punted' their last race, scoring a 10th and dropping into a tie-breaker with Odenbach’s Honey Badger, losing that to drop to third overall! 'Oh my goodness', or words to that effect, must’ve come to Luis’s mind as they were crossing the finish line in the last race. Not! Nevertheless, Odenbach’s Honey Badger crew stepped up to the challenge and managed to win the last race to hop onto the podium and snatch second place!
Two Davis Island, Florida teams took fourth and fifth. The fourth place team was Robby Brown’s USA 799 sailing with Ron Hyatt, Mark Liebel, Jeff Rubin, and Arthur Blodgett. In fifth place was John Poulson’s Long Shot with Nate Viladabro, Doug Fisher, Rob Brills, and Stephen Kaidos.
The MidFleet Award was won by Coral Reef YC sailor Jim Bill skippering Scouts Honor with Eamonn deLisser, Tim Banks, Isabel Galvin, Jillian Aydelotte. The very proud Corinthian teams were:
1. ZIA’s Patrick Frisch, Lori Dillard Rech, Stephen Marshall, David Rech, and John Humphreys from Miami, FL.
2. Velocidad’s Christopher Stone, Tim Fitzgerald, Patrick Murphy, Brad Russell, and Doug Tooney from Middletown, NJ
3. Lifted’s Ben Maloney, Erwin Naidoo, Evan Oulahen, Katrina Leighton, and Hugh Layton from Halifax, Nova Scotia
4. Muymuy’s Patricio Sly, Claudio Mintzias, Ernesto Mendoza, Lorie Sein-Messer, and Atilio Renam from Miami, FL
5. Joe Cool’s Lionel Baugh, Pilar Sanchez, Mauricio Ferres, Christina Urquiola, Andres Villar from Miami, FL.
Regatta Chair Mark Pincus reports, 'the CRYC Race Committee team for the regatta was made up of PRO Jaime Ramon who is also CRYC RC Chair, Timer Jane Anne Pincus, Scorers Penny Tannenbaum, and Sue Nichols, Landside Sharon Bourke and a cast of thousands with Mario Bustamante’s Goldilocks as the Signal Boat.' The last word from the Signal Boat was that if you were not out boating today on Biscayne Bay, you did not deserve to own a boat.