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Previewing the 2021 Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta with Sara Zanobini

by David Schmidt 3 Mar 08:00 PST March 6-12, 2022
2020 Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta - Day 3 © Martina Orsini

When it comes to winter racing in Florida, it's tough to come up with a more classic One Design event than the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta. The event's inaugural regatta began in 1927 as a high-level race week for the (now) venerable Star Class, but, over the years, other high-performance classes found their way to the starting lines. The 2022 Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta (March 6-12, 2022) is open to Stars (of course), as well as J/70s, Melges 24s, Viper 640s and VX-One classes.

The 95th edition of this storied regatta is being organized by Twelve USA, Inc., and will be hosted by the Coral Reef Yacht Club, Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, Shake a Leg Miami and the US Sailing Center.

The event historically attracts over 500 sailors from 20-plus countries, making the regatta almost as international as it is competitive.

I checked in with Sara Zanobini, event organizer of the 2022 Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta, to learn more about this exciting warm-water One Design event.

Can you please tell us a bit about Bacardi Cup, it's history and culture, and the kinds of teams and sailors that one can expect to find here?

Firstly, Bacardi Cup is and always has been all about the sailors. This event, which celebrates its 95th anniversary in 2022, has racked up a global following of Star Class sailors and fans around the world. The world's best Star Class legends return to the stunning location of Miami year after year to race at Bacardi Cup and compete alongside their rivals and numerous talented teams.

Dating back to 1927, the Bacardi Cup brings the history of the Star Class to life - and ranks as one of sports' longest standing events. Almost a century after its foundation, sailors the world over still aspire to participate in the Bacardi Cup, applaud the regatta's glorious history and secure their names on the prestigious trophies. There's no dream too big - and the world's best continue to dream of victory at the iconic Bacardi Cup.

This year, as every year, we will see an aura of excellence pervade the boat park and race course, with sailors relishing the thrill of competition and drama that unfolds here on Biscayne Bay.

There are few better times of the year than spring in Miami, and the Bacardi Cup and Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta combine all the essential elements of warm weather, reliable breeze, camaraderie, tradition, friendships, exceptional hospitality and unforgettable moments.

What kind of fleet numbers are you seeing this year? How does this compare to previous years? Also, what classes are drawing the most boats?

We are really now back at pre-pandemic numbers in terms of entries, but not in terms of the diversity of nations competing because of Covid-19 travel restrictions still in place. We are grateful to those sailors who have decided to make the trip and travel from abroad.

The number of teams competing in 2020 was impacted by the pandemic and then last year due to national restrictions we had to restrict entries to just three classes - Stars, Melges 24s and J/70s - so our numbers definitely went down. We were though pleased to still be able to host the event.

This year, everyone is keen to get back racing and try to move forwards from the pandemic, whilst of course respecting the safety protocols that we continue to have in place. So far, we have well over 180 teams entered across the Star, Melges 24, J/70, Viper, VX One and 69F classes - which exceeds numbers from 2019.

The Star Class tops the entry line-up with more than 60 teams entered, whilst the VX Class will feature its biggest fleet to date, as we welcome new faces and returning sailors alike. The preliminary entry lists for the Melges 24, J/70 and Viper 640 [classes] have attracted in excess of the entries compared to 2019 - so we are thrilled.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Biscayne Bay is notoriously predictable, yet always unpredictable! Absolutely, local knowledge helps and those who have raced here over the years do have an advantage.

But, equally we have frequently seen non-local teams dominate on the race track and at the end of the day, success comes down to a team's whole package of sailing skills."

Who will bag the prize really is anyone's guess—and that's just one of the reasons teams enjoy racing here on Biscayne Bay. Yes, there is a form card going into the event and yes, we can pick out multiple teams with the potential to be on the podium—but who will ultimately crack the racing conditions on the day is wide open.

Historically, what aspects of the Bacardi Cup are most popular with the racers?

I think there are several essential ingredients - tradition, excellence, passion and Bacardi hospitality.

The Bacardi Cup is steeped in tradition, from the roll-call of legendary winners, to the challenge of one endurance race per day to the zero weight limit rule ensuring the event remains accessible to all crew combinations. Add to that world-class racing and event management, passion for sailing and the most phenomenal shore side hospitality and this really is the essence of Bacardi Cup and the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta.

Another incredibly important factor, which has always been part of our heritage, is that we are one of the few headline events where you don't have to be a world-beater to compete. Everyone is welcome to come to Miami, race and celebrate sailing.

Bacardi Cup and Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta hold a very special place in the hearts of many sailors around the world and racing here really is an unforgettable experience.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

I think simply—enjoy the atmosphere. Yes, being here at the Bacardi Cup is for many about winning, but it is also about learning, renewing old and making new friendships and being unified in our passion for sailing.

And of course, if teams have any queries or questions our event management team is here to help.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta amidst a still-churning pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

Our priority is to keep everyone safe. None of us could have expected that almost two years since Covid-19 hit that the pandemic would still be a reality for us all. As we did in 2020 and 2021, together with our partner Bacardi, the host clubs and our sailors, we organize the event under the auspices of responsibility and awareness.

As we advance our way through Covid-19, the rules and regulations around the world vary. In the USA too, understandably the protocols and regulations have been changing as the pandemic changes, so keeping abreast of that has been a priority for us.

Within the USA, there are also different federal requirements across the states, and it has been crucial to communicate the requirements in place on the ground here in Miami to our sailors, coaches, volunteers and all those involved travelling from the USA and abroad. We have worked hard to provide everyone with the information they need and we thank everyone for supporting our endeavors to stay safe.

What kinds of post-racing/onshore entertainment can sailors look forward to?

As you know Bacardi Cup and Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta are renowned for the post-race socials, happy hours, Bacardi cocktails, live music, dinners and all-round fun.

However, we are not yet able to confirm whether we can return to the 'all singing, all dancing' Bacardi hospitality we know and love - decisions will be taken in the coming weeks.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

As event organizers, we understand the environmental impact of our events and seek to minimize the damage to the environment.

We all have a significant role to play and our ambition is to be a sustainable event, so year on year we aim to improve our commitment. Our patron Bacardi is committed to caring for the environment and supports #thefuturedoesntsuck campaign.

Everything item we bring onto the event venues is biodegradable, from catering items to bags to plastic cups and reusable plastic bottles, and we encourage all our sailors to follow a low-waste approach.

Our partnership with MarkSetBot and Sail 22 allows us to reduce the number of ribs and boats on the racecourse. Our host clubs also have their own sustainability best practices to reduce the environmental impact of events.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

As event organizers, we are proud that we have managed to keep Bacardi Cup and Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta going throughout the pandemic. After the challenges of the past two years, I am delighted that we will be running an almost normal regatta.

I wish everyone an amazing experience, with great racing, fair winds, fun and camaraderie.

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