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94th Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta on Biscayne Bay - Day 3

by Luissa Smith 10 Mar 19:48 PST 7-13 March 2021
Strong breeze keeps the Star Class ashore on race day 3 of the 94th Bacardi Cup © Matias Capizzano

Miami in the spring normally serves up perfect sailing conditions, reminding everyone all of the things we love about our sport. So far here on the waters of Biscayne Bay, the race track has been rather breezy and the weather conditions on race day 3 at the 94th Bacardi Cup escalated to what can only be described as a frisky breeze and frothy waves.

Just over 20 knots of breeze and gusts up to well over 30 knots, combined with the Biscayne Bay waves which are super close particularly making off the wind sailing a bit risky, forced the Race Committee to make the decision to cancel racing. A tropical downpour then kicked in just to remind everyone that they were best ashore.

Carl Schellbach Principal Race Officer of the 94th Bacardi Cup, explained his decision, saying, "It is the third day in a row of more than 20 knots of breeze and gusts up to 30 knots. After two days of good racing in this weather, we have decided that it is probably a good idea to conserve everything.

"Nothing is going to change from yesterday through today, so we decided that we would conserve our equipment and our bodies and come back tomorrow," Schellbach added in reference to the leader board standings. "With twenty-five boats we have about a third the size of last year's fleet and we can run shorter races and more of them, give quality racing and we look forward to doing that the remainder of this week as the winds calm down and we can get into more tactical racing as opposed to the survival that we have had over the past couple of days."

Conditions are forecast to ease for Thursday 11 March with an easterly breeze averaging around 16-18 knots. Joining the Star Class on the track for their first day of racing will be the J/70 and Melges 24 fleets.

Going into Thursday's race day 4 for the Star Class defending Champions Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Bruno Prada (POL) lead, with Eric Doyle/Payson Infelise (USA) 2 points behind in second and George Szabo/Guy Avellon (USA) another 2 points back in third.

With racing cancelled, we chatted to a few Star Class teams who shared their thoughts on the breezy race track. First up the President of the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association (ISCYRA) Hubert Merkelbach from Germany and his crew Kilian Weise, whose scorecard of 6, 10 places them in 6th overall. Both from the south of Germany they have known each other a long time, but it was only in 2020 that they decided to team up. They raced a few regattas over the past months, but have now decided to sail all the majors together. Their key challenge is being on the smaller side of the typical size Star crew, which requires some compensation.

"We are working like hell on the boat," grinned Merkelbach.

"We try to hike both as hard as we can, try to make nice settings on the boat to compensate for what the others might have," Weise explained in reference to their lighter weight.

"We like to sail in every condition, but if it is too light it is not our favorite, so conditions like today it is very nice," continued Merkelbach. "The boat is planing and we can go full speed," he added, although that was before the breeze increased and racing was cancelled for the day.

One place up from the German duo in 5th place on the standings are the USA's Jim Buckingham/Phil Toth from their consistent 5, 8 scorecard.

"We have been sailing together for a little over two years now," commented Buckingham.

"We don't do a whole lot of big breeze sailing, so this year has been a little unique that way. The Mid-winters we had one or two days of pretty breezy conditions, nothing like this. This has been as windy a regatta consistently as I've sailed in. Sailing a Star boat in breeze is a real handful. It is physically demanding, but it is rewarding. The boats really perform well, particularly off the wind on the reaches which again we rarely do, as we are typically windward/leeward," Buckingham said in reference to the triangle courses so far set by the Race Committee. "Doing these triangles in 18-20 knots is really a lot of fun."

"Every time I look back, you have a huge grin on your face," chipped in Toth.

Toth's Star career was a natural progression after years racing the Finn internationally, as he explained, "It is a true sailors' boat and it is very rewarding. You get out of it what you put into it. The harder you sail the boat the harder you work the faster you really go. It teaches you so much about every other boat you can go off and sail. You sail big boats, little boats, the Star boat really encompasses all of those aspects and it is a blast too. It is so powered up and it just absolutely brilliant."

Buckingham has taught all his children to sail and his son, Charlie Buckingham, will be making his second Olympic appearance representing the USA at the Tokyo Olympics this year, following on from an 11th place finish at Rio 2016.

Preparing ahead of their first day of racing tomorrow were the J/70 and Melges 24 fleets. After four previous Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta appearances in other classes, Peter McClennen on 'Gamecock' is set for his debut in the Melges 24.

"I sailed a Melges 20 before and liked that a lot and wanted to try the 24 and got into this in the fall. Now this will be the third event in the Bacardi series, so it is great to be here and sail the event," said McClennen in reference to his team's 8th place finish in Bacardi Winter Series 1 and 6th in Series 2.

"The crew is new to this boat, but everybody on this boat has sailed with me before on other boats which is great. But putting it together with the right mix of size, weight and skill set on the Melges 24 is very, very important. So our goals are to go out and be competitive, have a good time and let the results fall where they may."

Anticipating the breeze for the days ahead McClennen was excited, saying, "24'ing in heavy air is clean living. It is super fun. I say to these guys, I'd buy this boat three more times because it is so fun when it's pressure. It is like the boat is built for that and it is such a pleasure to sail."

McClennen was proudly wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words 'EWE Spirit' in tribute to the fifty year old professional sailor Geoff Ewenson who died soon after last year's event. A long standing Bacardi Cup sailor, after Geoff passed unexpectedly of a heart attack his family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from thousands of grieving friends around the world. Geoff's wife, Mary, created the 'EWE Spirit Foundation' to continue and expand upon his legacy to aid those most in need.

"Geoff was such an inspiration to all of us and a positive force in sailing," reflected McClennen. "We are representing as a EWE Spirit boat. The goal of that is just to promote positive giving back to the community."

Racing is scheduled to get under way tomorrow, Thursday 11 March, at 1000 hours for the J/70, 1115 hours for the Melges 24 and 1125 hours for the Star Class. The J/0 and Melges 24 Classes will contest a nine race series of three races per day. Race activities are managed by Coral Reef Yacht Club, in collaboration with Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, US Sailing Center and Shake-a-Leg Miami.

A special thank you to this year's event sponsors and supporters: North Sails, EFG International, Shake a Leg Miami, HATUEY®Beer, Tuuci, Gubinelli Wines, Termodinamica USA, Coconut Grove Business District, Harken Derm, Jaguar Therapeutics. Team 1 Newport, Mark Set Bot, Sail 22 and Hobie.

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