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Jim Cunningham takes 2014 Etchells Nationals Title

by Connie Bischoff on 26 Mar 2014
Winning team.... shows how fast they really are John Payne
Forty-seven teams from eight countries gathered at Miami’s Coral Reef Yacht Club for the Etchells winter season finale. The eighth annual Coral Reef Cup sponsored by Mount Gay Rum served as the 2014 Etchells U.S. National Championship.

The forecast for the three-day event was tricky, with a stalled front and no wind predicted for the final day on Sunday. The Coral Reef Yacht Club Race Committee headed by PRO Brian Fink planned on running as many races as possible on Friday and Saturday just in case Sunday turned out to be a drifter. The first day of racing turned out instead to be anything but easy. The medium wind estimate turned out to be a very light and shifty S/SW at six knots with lots of holes on the race course.

After a short postponement, the fleet was working its way to the weather mark in a tricky southwesterly. GBR 1379 with Robert Elliott, Stuart Childerley, Sam Richmond and Jed Lee on board captured the first race of the event followed by SUI 1403 – Seamus McHugh. The second race again saw very light and shifty conditions.

Raging Rooster’s Peter Duncan, Jud Smith and Tom Blackwell won Race Two. Wind speeds had dropped to four knots on the final run and the Race Committee pulled the plug on Day One. After a day of very trying conditions, there was a tie at the top of the standings with Peter Duncan and Robert Elliot each posting 11 points. Nothing helps a frustrating day of sailing better than cold rum drinks on beautiful warm Miami evening. More than 150 sailors enjoyed generous cocktails sponsored by Mount Gay and shared their versions of the day’s events. The Race Committee posted an early start time for Saturday, so it was off to bed early.

Day Two showed more promise with winds projected to build as the day progressed. With the outlook still bleak for Sunday, it was going to be a long day on the water for this fleet. Race 3 started in a fairly light and fluky southerly breeze. Seamus McHugh in SUI 1403 hit the shifts and stayed in the pressure to take Race 3 and move up in the standings.

Race four saw the breeze begin to fill just after the start. After very light winds in the first race of the day, the breeze built to a steady 13-15 knots with puffs a bit higher. Jim Cunningham’s Lifted with a talent laden crew of Jeff Madrigali, Mark Ivey and Bryn Bachman began their climb to the top winning Race 4, finishing seventh in Race 5 and earning another bullet in the final race of the day to hold a five point edge over Glenn Burton on Firing Line sailing with Bruce Nelson and Jon Easley.

After a long day (four races) on the water, sailors enjoyed smooth jazz, Mt. Gay Rum drinks and outside dining on another nice night in Coconut Grove. While the wind had been up and down and the forecast for Sunday suspect, more than a few sailors were overheard saying, 'This still beats shoveling snow.'

The prediction for the final day was one of the few forecasts which proved to be accurate. After a two-hour postponement on shore with no wind at all, the Race Committee pulled the plug and the day two results became final. Jim Cunningham used a very impressive two victory day to capture the 2014 Etchells U.S. National Championship and 2014 Coral Reef Cup. Keeping with tradition, teammate and former Etchells World Champion Jeff Madrigali filled the beautiful silver championship cup with ice cold Mount Gay Rum and shared it with fellow teammates Mark Ivey and Bryn Bachman.

Congratulations to Jim and his crew for a very well sailed regatta. Five other sailors, who had not previously qualified, made the list for the Etchells Worlds in Newport, RI in June.

Top Five Finishers – 2014 Etchells U.S. National Championship:

1) USA 1408 - Jim Cunningham, Jeff Madrigali, Mark Ivey, Bryn Bachman
2) USA 1398 - Glenn Burton, Bruce Nelson, Jon Easley
3) USA 1229 - Don Jesberg, Scott Mason, Ed Wright
4) USA 1198 - Scott Kaufman, Justin Law, Taylor Canfield, Steph Robce
5) USA 1225 - Steve Benjamin, Moose McClintock, Phil Trinter

For complete results, click here or visit Coral Reef YC.

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