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Tight racing opens Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 for J/70 and Melges 24

by Luissa Smith 18 Dec 2021 18:21 PST December 18-19 2021
Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 © Katrina Zoe Norbom

Racing got under way to schedule on day one at the Bacardi Winter series 1 in Miami on Saturday 18 December 2021.

Almost forty boats took to the race track across the J/70 and Melges 24 fleets, in what turned out to be an unpredictable day of racing. The winter solstice and full moon challenged some teams' aspirations as the current in Biscayne Bay played an unpredictable rhythm and shifted the race track positions.

Racing continues on Sunday 19 December, with 3 races scheduled to crown the winners of the opening event of the season for the J/70 and Melges 24 Classes. As well as event glory for Bacardi Winter Series Event 1, points will also accumulate towards Bacardi Winter Series Event 2, 28-30 January 2022 and on to the series finale, the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta from 6-12 March 2022.


Three races and three different winners on the opening day of racing in the seventeen boat J/70 feet, but consistency saw Richard Witzel on 'Rowdy' dominate the end of day leader board.

A keen race 1 start in the J/70 fleet forced the Race Committee to a general recall. With the race under way on the second attempt, most teams opted for the favoured left-hand size of the course, heading upwind in a 9-10 knot breeze with choppy sea. Downwind it was all about reading the puffs, with significant gains to be made. Peter Cunningham (CAY) on 'Powerplay' (Chris Rast/Willem van Waay/Tony Rey) was out front from early on, claiming virtually every puff to hold their lead and take the opening win

The race 2 win went to Richard Witzel (USA) and his crew on 'Rowdy' (Carlos Robles/Mark Gauthier/Jud Smith), with Daniel Goldberg (USA) on 'Bazinga!' (Lucas Calabrese/Tomas Hornos/Kristen Berry) close behind.

Rain clouds started to overlay the track by race 3, delivering some big breeze for the first downwind which converted to boat speed and few gybes for teams. A weather change heading to the finish saw the different rain systems forcing the breeze to fade and a new team optimized to claim the race 3 win, with Victor Cribb (USA) on 'Victory' (Greiner Hobbs/John Wallace/Orin Star) in control at the finish. They were chased hard by Ed Lebens on 'Reggae Shark Racing', who wrapped up the first day in 6th overall.

'It's great to be back racing in this warm weather," said Carlos Robles (USA), crew on the leading boat ' Rowdy'. "Great conditions today, starting off with 14-16 knots from the east, and slowly as the day went by the wind started dropping to 10-12 and even less by the last race and it shifted right.

"For us we had a good day on 'Rowdy', with top three in all three races. But, it was not an easy day out there, not straightforward," Robles concluded.

Peter Cunningham (CAY) of 'Powerplay', who ends the opening day in second overall, commented, "I got a J/70 about five years ago and it has really been a huge amount of fun. Sailing down here in Florida is very, very competitive sailing, I mean really competitive sailing. We had three boats today that must have finished within 5 seconds of each other. We have a great crew and basically all I do is I do what I am told! They tell me what to do and I steer.

"The team started in the 1980s in San Francisco on a J/29. The 'power' means that we want to be competitive, and we are very competitive, but the 'play' means we want to have fun', on the water and off the water and enjoy it. This regatta, you see people having a really, really good time and that makes it a fantastic event."

J/70 Provisional Top 10 results: (after 3 races)

1. Richard Witzel/Carlos Robles/Mark Gauthier/Jud Smith (USA 1562) - 6 pts
2. Peter Cunningham/Chris Rast/Willem van Waay/Tony Rey (CAY 1310) - 8 pts
3. Victor Cribb/Greiner Hobbs/John Wallace/Orin Star (USA 677) - 10 pts
4. Daniel Goldberg/Lucas Calabrese/Tomas Hornos/Kristen Berry (USA 84) - 16 pts
5. Bobby Julien/Alec Anderson/Will Felder/Chris Waters (USA 639) - 16 pts
6. Ed Lebens/Ian Barrows/Conner Harding/Malcom Lamphere (USA 1150) - 18 pts
7. Geoffrey Pierini/Max Lopez/Ron Weed/Tomas Barrows (USA 49) - 23 pts
8. Zachary Segal/Enrique Quintero/Blake Cabassa/Ashton Merlin (USA 1154) - 23 pts
9. David Jannetti/Travis Odenbach/Kris Werner/Andy Horton (USA 1513) - 29 pts
10. Shiloh Jackson/Eric Doyle/Pete Crawford/Gina Gleason (USA 1145) - 32 pts

Melges 24

A clean start to race 1 for the twenty-boat Melges 24 fleet, saw the Italian dominated team on 'Nefeli' skippered by Peter Karrié (GER) headline the race. They were pushed hard by tight racing from Laura Grondin's team on 'Dark Energy' and Travis Weisleder on 'Lucky Dog', seeing the trio cross the finish in the same order.

After a general recall, a black flag start for race 2 saw a well behaved fleet take off in an easing breeze with a bonus of the sun coming out. The unpredictable current caused some lay line upsets and leader board changes, playing into the hands of 'Nefeli' who went from 4th to 1st in the final stages of the downwind to claim their second race win.

A clean start in race 3 and Laura Grondin was again up front, controlling the fleet to take the race win and with it seize spot on the leader board from her 2,4,1 scorecard, with a 2 point advantage over 'Nefeli'.

"It is nice to be here in Miami after one year missing last year," reflected Peter Karrié (GER) skipper of 'Nefeli'. "We are really, really happy to be back in this warmth. You can imagine in Germany it is really cold weather right now, it is dark and foggy and so we really enjoy to be here.

"The racing today was really tricky with different wind conditions," Karrié continued. "The wind changed in strength a lot and there was a lot to do for me as helmsman and for the crew to trim. We are really happy with our results and really happy with this first day."

Melges 24 provisional Top 10 results: (after 3 races)

1. Laura Grondin/Taylor Canfield/Scott Ewing/Rich Peale/Cole Brauer (USA 864) - 7 pts
2. Peter Karrié/Niccolo Bianchi/Alessandro Saettone/Alessandro Franci/Saverio Cigliano (GER 859) - 9 pts
3. Bruce Ayres/Tomas Dietrich/Chelsea Simms/Edward Hackney/Jeremy Wilmot (USA 851) - 13 pts
4. Drew Freides/Charlie Smythe/Morgan Reeser/Federico Michetti/Lara Poljsak (USA 865) - 17 pts
5. Travis Weisleder/John Bowden/Hayden Goodrick/Mark Mendleblatt (USA 858) - 18 pts
6. Geoff Fargo/Graham Bell/Jon Bell/Jeff Grange (USA 856) - 20 pts
7. Peter Duncan/Victor Diaz de Leon/Erik Shampain/Morgan Truvobich/Matt Pistay/Mac Agnese (USA 829) - 23 pts
8. Alessandro Rombelli/Francesco Bruni/Giorgio Tortarolo/Manuel Modena/Francesca Salva' (ITA 860) - 24 pts
9. Richard Reid/Rebecca Anderson/Richard Clarke/Bill Gooderham/Brian Kamilar/Gonzalo Ribeiro (CAN 853) - 29 pts
10. Steve Suddath/Shawn Burke/Steve Burke/Jack Smith (USA 862) - 30 pts

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