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94th Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta on Biscayne Bay - Day 4

by Luissa Smith 12 Mar 20:01 PST 7-13 March 2021

An easing up of the breeze at the 94th Bacardi Cup and 2021 Bacardi Invitational Regatta on Biscayne Bay, Miami, saw some changes in form in the J/70 and Melges 24 Classes with new faces coming out front.

Precision tactics continue in the Star Class as Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Bruno Prada maintain their magic and edge closer to a successful Bacardi Cup defence.


Two races for the Star fleet today and yet again series leaders and defending champions Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Bruno Prada repeated their dominance to claim two more wins at the 94th Bacardi Cup, making it an extraordinary 6 in a row.

The opening race 5 got underway to schedule at 1130 hours in a light 7 knot breeze, with Kusznierewicz/Prada muscling through to wrap up the windward/leeward race, with Eric Doyle/Payson Infelise in second and John MacCausland/Phil Trinter (USA) in third.

The breeze increased to around 10-14 knots for race 6 and a change of face as Joshua Powell/ Mark Strube (USA) burst through to own the lead in the upwind hike, trailed by Kusznierewicz/Prada. Heading downwind the Americans just kept out front over the Polish, with the entire fleet compressed together. Onto the second upwind leg and Kusznierewicz/Prada injected some speed, pushed hard to accelerate and took the advantage just over half way up the leg. From thereon it was another walkover and they never looked back to win with a massive gap over second placed Powell/Strube, with third going to Augie Diaz/Marcus Koy (USA). A breakthrough for this Bacardi Cup, as Powell/Strube are the only non-Star World Champion team to score a result inside the top three, seeing the partnership end their day in 8th overall.

Two more races to decide the final podium tomorrow and whist it looks like a second successive Bacardi Cup victory is assured for Kusznierewicz/Prada, anything could happen. The more intense battle is going to be for the remaining places on the podium, with just 9 points separating the top 5 and all capable of blitzing the competition.

Star Class – Provisional Results after Race 6:

1. Mateusz Kusznierewicz / Bruno Prada (POL 8548) - 5 pts
2. Eric Doyle / Payson Infelise (USA 8423) - 13 pts
3. Augie Diaz / Marcus Koy (USA 8509) - 18 pts
4. John MacCausland / Phil Trinter (USA 8448) - 20 pts
5. George Szabo / Guy Avellon (USA 8528) - 22 pts


A short postponement before J/70 racing got underway at 1020 hours in 12-15 knots and a building breeze. Off the start line for windward/leeward race 4 Joel Ronning (USA) and co on ‘Catapult’ rode the pressure on the left and led the fleet upwind with a clear lead. Covering the chasing pack behind ‘Catapult’ stayed out front, until a smooth move in the final stages of the last downwind leg from Travis Odenbach (USA) and his team on ‘Honey Badger’ saw them gybe early and with it take an emphatic lead and the race win, leaving the rest to fight it out behind.

Race 5 saw a change in form from ‘Honey Badger’ who dropped back to finish in 8th, with John Brim and his crew on ‘Rimette’ taking their first win of the series, 2nd to Joel Ronning on ‘Catapult’ and 3rd to Reed Loimer (BRA) on ‘Mancha Negra’. Bouncing back for race 6, ‘Honey Badger’ again took the win, second to ‘Catapult’ and third to Ryan McKillen (USA) on ‘Surge’.

Joel Ronning’s ‘Catapult’ are a streamlined team having raced together for many years.

“We just celebrated our seventh anniversary yesterday, so we have been out here a bunch of times,” commented Ronning. “I think we have done seven Bacardis together Patrick and I, and then Kris came on probably 4 years ago and Jud had been with us for some time.”

The fleet is deep in talent and 2016 J/70 World Champion Ronning has the legendary Jud Smith on board, who himself is the 2018 and 2017 J/70 World Champion, and knows precisely how to make boats go fast. Smith has sailed at the highest levels since the late 1970s and counts ten World Championship titles in the Sonar, Etchells, J/70 and Mumm 30 classes amongst his many credits.

Whilst Ronning is here to win, it is also about the ambience and joy of racing on Biscayne Bay. “First up the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta is centered in Coconut Grove, which is just one of the most beautiful places to be in the world in winter time,” continued Ronning. “The venue is amazing, the organization is really well done, consistently showing up all the time and everything is put together very appropriately. The race committees are awfully good and, if it is not Covid, the parties are awfully good as well!”

Going into Saturday’s final day of racing, the leading two teams ‘Honey Badger’ and ‘Catapult’ have advanced over the fleet and look set to tussle for first and second, with score lines indicating the teams currently placed third and fourth are likely to be duelling for third spot on the podium. Three races are scheduled to decide the final leader board standings, with the single discard kicking in after race 7.

J/70 Class – Provisional Results after Race 6

1. Travis Odenbach / Andy Horton / Geoff Becker / Danny Lawless / Travis Odenbach (USA 4) - 17 pts
2. Joel Ronning / Jud Smith / Kris Stoke / Patrick Wilson (USA 65) - 21 pts
3. Ryan McKillen / Jeff Reynolds / Lucas Calabrese / Sam Loughborough (USA 179) - 31 pts
4. John Brim / Zeke Horowitz / Zach Mason / Ian Coleman (USA 340) - 33 pts
5. Robert Hughes / Cameron Appleton / Thomas Allin / Ty Baird (USA 353) - 42 pts

Melges 24

A nail-biting three-way tiebreak sees 27 points apiece for the top three in the Melges 24, leaving everything to play for in tomorrow’s final three races.

By the time the Melges 24 got their first race of the day underway at 1136 hours the wind was phasing up and down around 18 knots, easing as the day progressed. The first attempt to start race 4 was a general recall, with the re-start going clean.

Defending Champion Bora Gulari and his team on ‘New England Ropes’ took the pin end start and nailed it through to the first mark, holding on to claim the win by a significant margin. They followed up with scores of 3,4 in the next two races, and only sit off the top three due to a DNF in race 2, after an altercation with the pin end anchor line, which will be discarded after tomorrow’s race 7 to shuffle the leader board standings.

“We had a pretty solid day today,” said Gulari. “The beginning of the day was pretty windy, nice glamour Melges 24 planning conditions, and it slowly got lowered to lazy planning conditions and an average of 12-13 knots by the end of the day. It was puffy, it was shifty, lots of clouds causing wind shifts so it was a great day of racing on the bay. It is hard to think of it, we had a challenging day yesterday. We are back in the regatta, I think we are a couple of points out, we don’t have a drop yet so are still carrying the DNF. We just got to keep charging and see what happens I guess.”

John Brown (USA) on ‘Blind Squirrel’ took the race 5 win, with Travis Weisleder (USA) on ‘Lucky Dog’ taking out race 6.

Top placed female skipper is Laura Grondin (USA) and her team on ‘Dark Energy’ in 7th overall, although today they kept a lower profile in the fleet compared to their prominence of yesterday. In recent years Grondin has gathered some professionals on board to help improve team skills and for this year’s event has a super talented line-up. Commenting on the racing so far Grondin said, “This is a challenge you know, it is heavy, there is a lot of breeze out there. I am using all the strength I have to move the sail controls when I have to. But I focus on good driving, and I feel that for me this week is the key to success.”

Melges 24 Class – Provisional Results after Race 6:

1. John Brown / Jeff Bonanni / Mike Buckley / Charlie Smythe / George Peet (USA 856) - 27 pts
2. Bruce Ayres / Jeremy Wilmot / Tomas Dietrich / Ted Hackney / Chelsea Simms (USA 851) - 27 pts
3. Travis Weisleder / John Bowden / Mark Mendelblatt / Hayden Goodrick (USA 858) - 27pts
4. Bora Gulari / Kyle Navin / Norman Berge / Ian Liberty / Micheal Menniger (USA 820) - 29 pts
5. Peter Duncan / Willem van Waay / Matteo Ramian / Carlos Robles / Victor Diaz de Leon (USA 829) - 33 pts

Racing on the final day, Saturday 13 March 2021, sees three races for the J/70 and Melges 24 Classes on the southern course area, with the J/70 up first at 1000 hours followed by the Melges 24 at 1115 hours. Two races will be held for the Star Class starting at 1025 hours on the northerly course in Biscayne Bay.

Due to Covid-19 a scaled down awards ceremony will take place at Shake a Leg Miami with prizes presented class by class to minimize contact, and sailors leaving before the next awards are given. The perpetual Bacardi Cup Trophy will be awarded to the first placed skipper and the Tito Bacardi Cup to the first placed crew of the 94th Bacardi Cup, with prizes also presented to winners in the Master’s, Grand Masters and Exalted Grand Masters divisions, as well as the Tammy Rubin-Rice Trophy to the highest placed team not otherwise receiving a prize. Prizes for the overall and top placed Corinthian teams in the J/70 and Melges 24 will be presented, alongside awards for the winners of the Bacardi Winter Series.

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.

Full results can be found here.

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