With its rich history, the Bacardi Cup means so much to so many people. Star sailors from all over the world mark its dates in their calendar as soon as District 20 posts the event to the Star Class website. Tradition, camaraderie, hospitality, peer pressure, fantastic weather and the pleasure that comes from being among kindred spirits combine to attract Star sailors to participate in a week of racing in the largest Star Class fleet races available anywhere.
This year’s record registration will tip out at more than 115 Stars on a single starting line that will stretch for over a mile across Biscayne Bay. Imagine what it feels like to approach the top of the first beat and realize that no one can cross you anymore - you are going to round that windward mark in first place. The only job that remains is to hold your lead for the next four legs of the race. Imagine what it is like to win a race at the Bacardi.
Far and away the most exciting final leg of sailboat racing that took place on Biscayne Bay last year was during the second, five-leg race of the Bacardi Cup. Positions throughout the fleet shifted quite a bit in the fickle winds. As they approached the second weather mark Jock Kolhaus and Larry Scott were still well ahead of Loof/Ekstrom, Museler/Lidecis, Marazzi/Hofert, and Murray/Palfrey. They extended the lead on the run with everybody cheering for them as they rounded the final leeward mark.
It was up to them to loosely cover the past Star World Championship team of Loof/Ekstrom on the last upwind leg to the finish. Loof/Ekstrom tried to draw them into a tacking duel, but the leaders tried to minimize their tacks against the strong Swedes. Spectators held their collective breath as Kolhaus/Scott barely crossed Loof/Ekstrom on port within a hundred yards of the finish line. The Swedes tried to grind them down by hiking with their hands over their heads, but in the end they were nosed out at the finish.
A year after that magical moment when the gun sounded in their favor and applause, cheers and horns sounded as Jock Kolhaus and Larry Scott crossed the finish line just inches ahead of two-time Star Class World Champions Freddy Loof and Anders Ekstrom, I asked Jock and Larry what winning that race meant to them.
For Kolhaus, “The race was tense. It was hard to stay ahead of Anders and Freddy. Winning the race was exciting. It was a lot of fun. Quite a lot of people called to congratulate us. But the best part was learning what it meant for Larry. He said that it was one of the most exciting sailing events that he had ever experienced. As a skipper, that’s what made it very special to me.”
Larry Scott, down from Canada, tuning the boat and preparing to go out for a practice sail grinned from ear to ear when asked what it was like to win a Bacardi Cup race. He responded, “It was better than my first time with a woman.”
With over 230 skippers and crews trying to win a race during the 2008 Bacardi Cup this week, we’re sure to have a variety of reactions to the question, “What does it feel like to win a Bacardi Cup race?”
The legendary Bacardi Cup, ranked as one of the best international sailing regattas in the world, is sponsored in full by Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. and co-hosted by the Coral Reef Yacht Club and the U.S. Sailing Center in Miami, FL. What started out in 1927 as a three-day event with less than 10 boats in Havana, Cuba, now attracts more than 200 sailors each year from some 25 countries and remains one of the few sporting events in which weekend enthusiasts have the opportunity to compete head on with Olympian and World Champion athletes.
Follow the action at www.BacardiCup.com
where daily photos, video segments, articles and results will be posted from March 1 through March 7, 2008.