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Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 - Day 1

by Bacardi Invitational Regatta 17 Dec 2022 21:08 PST December 17-18, 2022
Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 © Hannah Lee Noll

The two-day Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 for the thirty-eight boat J/70 and Melges 24 fleets opened today, Saturday, December 17, on Biscayne Bay, Miami, in a light and shifty breeze.

After three races, the day wrapped up with a top-three tiebreak in the Melges 24 between Drew Freides on 'Pacific Yankee', Chris Larson on 'Raza Mixta' and Laura Grondin on 'Dark Energy', and three straight victories to Richard Witzel's team on 'Rowdy' in the J/70.

The day kicked off with a morning weather briefing sponsored by Quantum Sails with Sail22 and SailFlow, before teams headed to the race track for the first of the day's three races. Racing started on schedule in a tricky 6 knot breeze and overcast sky, with the Melges 24 off first at 1100 hours, followed by the J/70s at 1105, with the wind disappearing by race end to leave a mirror-like Biscayne Bay.

As per the weather briefing forecast, the breeze shut off after race 1 and spun 180 degrees to south-southeast. With just 2-3 knots, PRO Mark Foster and his Coconut Grove Sailing Club Race Committee delivered well timed race calls, postponing on the water until the afternoon breeze kicked in. Race 2 got under way in around 8 knots and clean starts under a warm Miami sun, with more of the same for race 3.

Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 is the first of a three-event series for the J/70 and Melges 24, which culminates at the 2023 Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta, 8-11 March 2023.

Melges 24

Eighteen teams from across the USA were joined by international entries from Canada, Germany and Italy for this first event. Predictably close racing saw three different winners and a tie-break top three on 13 points each in a finely balanced battle. Drew Freides' team on 'Pacific Yankee' hold the advantage on count-back after their race 3 win.

In race 1, it was no surprise to see last year's Event 1 winner Laura Grondin and her team on 'Dark Energy' claiming the first mark rounding, pushed hard by Travis Weisleder on 'Lucky Dog', 'Pacific Yankee' and Chris Larson on 'Raza Mixta'. Close tactical racing in the light breeze ended in a super tight finish, as the two leading boats gybed just before the line. With just half a boat length separating them, the win went to Raza Mixta', second to 'Dark Energy' and third to 'Lucky Dog'.

"The boat is going well," said Victor Diaz de Leon, tactician on 'Raza Mixta'. "The team did a good job around the track with the manoeuvres, and we had a couple of shifts and puffs go our way and we were able to come back from 5th at the top mark and win the race. In the end it was very close. We have a great line-up onboard and we are having fun,"he continued in appreciation of the teamwork by Chris Larson, Erik Shampaign, Patrick Wilson and Matt Pistay.

Onto race 2, where Peter-David Karrié's 'Nefeli' played their fast card off the line, controlled the fleet from start to finish and took the win. Behind, there was some shuffling, with 'Dark Energy' stepping up to 2nd and Canada's Richard Reid and team on 'Zingara' finishing in third.

Larson, veteran of the America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, and multiple world championships, was not able to repeat his team's form in race 2, dropping from 3rd at the second windward mark to finish in 5th, an outcome which also saw the overall lead go to Grondin's 'Dark Energy' from her back-to-back 2nd place finishes.

All change in race 3, with 'Pacific Yankee' controlling the pack at the first leeward mark and going on to take the win, chased by Richard Reid's 'Zingara', 'Harry Melges IV on 'Zenda Express' and Peter McClennen's 'Gamecock'.

"It was a good day, it was challenging," said Freides. "It was really shifty, really puffy and the breeze was all over the place. The race committee did an amazing job in getting three races in those conditions. We just kind of hung in there. Actually, we had a terrible first start and had to dig back and finish 4th in that race, with some great upwind tactics and good boat speed. Second race we had our issues and the third race we finally got our act together, so it was good."

Freides is an aficionado of competing at Bacardi events in Miami, adding, "It is just fun. The weather for the most part is warm, the water's warm, the sailing is great, the people are fun. It is a fun event. We are always here."

Melges 24 Provisional Top 10 Results: (after 3 races)

1. Drew Freides/Nic Asher/Charlie Smythe/Alec Anderson/Mark Ivey (USA 865) - 13 pts
2. Chris Larson/Victor Diaz de Leon/Erik Shampaign/Patrick Wilson/Norman Berge (USA 829) - 13 pts
3. Laura Grondin/Taylor Canfield/Rich Peale/Cole Brauer/Rob Scrivenor (USA 864) - 13 pts
4. Travis Weisleder/John Bowden/Mike Buckley/Federico Michetti (USA 858) - 15 pts
5. Richard Reid/Serena Vilage/Ian Sloan/Bill Gooderham/Brian Kamilar (CAN 853) - 17 pts
6. Harry Melges IV/Jeremy Willmot/Fin Rowe/Ripley Shelley/Cooper Del Bridge (USA 866) - 19 pts
7. Peter-David Karrié/Alessandro Franci/Niccolò Bianchi/Saverio Cigliano/Alessandro Saettone (GER 673) - 21 pts
8. Peter McClennen/Anthony Kotoun/Mike Marshall/Allie Grey/Wilson Stout (USA 811) - 23 pts
9. Andrea Pozzi/andrea pozzi/matteo ivaldi/stefano ciampalini/carlo zermini (ITA 830) - 23 pts
10. Michael Goldfarb/Chris Rast/Jonny Goldsberry/Dave Hughes/Matteo Ramian (USA 825) - 26 pts


Twenty J/70s from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Mexico and the USA enjoyed the challenge of light and puffy conditions on Biscayne Bay, with the class act being Richard Witzel's team on 'Rowdy' who claimed three race wins.

'Rowdy' took the advantage off the line to control race 1, pushed by John Heaton's 'Empeiria'. In the long final downwind leg and a diminishing breeze, Witzel's team of Jud Smith, Carlos Robles and Tomas Dietrich wrapped up their perfect start to a stylish finish. Second to 'Empeiria' and third to Peter Barrett's 'Reset'.

"We enjoyed finishing that race," laughed Witzel after crossing the line. "It was a tough race to finish, the wind was dying. We just tried to keep the boat with some momentum, so we didn't park it!"

Onto race 2 and 'Rowdy' languished back in the rows off the start to face a lane battle. In a display of mastery, they advanced through to take the lead by the first windward mark, dominating to win with another clear lead.

Another clean start for race 3, saw 'Rowdy' again set the pace, but they didn't have it all their own way. The team had to again dig deep and fight back from third place at the first leeward mark behind James Murray's 'Calisto Racing' and 'Empeiria' to make gains and take the win, to secure top billing from a perfect scorecard.

Commenting on what makes the difference out on the track, Witzel said, "Success is always supporting your teammates. Trying not to, as much as you want to, second guess or question them and leaving all the debriefing and unpacking until the end of the race. Whlle you are out there, you just do the best you can."

From the pros at the front to the newbies. Sailing for just their fifth time together in a J/70 and racing their first event is the team on 'Grom Squad', whose average age is 16 years, except for 26-year-old pro Malcolm Lamphere. They are learning on the go, and it was no shocker for them to finish race 1 at the back of the fleet, a minute behind the next placed boat. The potential of youth soon translated to finishes of 12th and 15th in the next two races, to place them 18th overall.

"We could only go up from there," said Lamphere on their race 1 result, "and from thereon we still made a lot of mistakes, but we are learning and getting better every single moment. We're just trying to have fun."

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

1. Richard Witzel/Jud Smith/Carlos Robles/Tomas Detrich (USA 1562) - 3 pts
2. John Heaton/Will Felder/Zeke Horowitz/Zac Mason (USA 169) - 7 pts
3. John Brim/Ian Liberty/John Wallace/Greiner Hobbs (USA 1150) - 13 pts
4. Fernando Perez Ontiveros/Gonçalo Ribeiro/Bernardo Freitas/River Paquin (MEX 1152) - 18 pts
5. James Murray/Will Howard/Steven Leuck/Bill Hardesty (USA 152) - 19 pts
6. Daniel Goldberg/Tomas Hornos/Patrick Norris/Fernando Gwozdz (USA 84) - 26 pts
7. Robert Hughes/Marc Gauthier/Willem Van Way/Manu Weiller (USA 353) - 27 pts
8. John Evans/Chris Busch/Ron Weed/Abie McLaughlin (USA 600) - 28 pts
9. Trey Sheehan/Brad Boston/Curtis Florence/Orrin Starr (USA 389) - 30 pts
10. Michael Breivik/Matt Darbous/Tyler Woodworth/Ron Rosenberg (USA 372) - 31 pts

This evening teams enjoyed Bacardi hospitality at Shake-A-Leg-Miami. Racing resumes on Sunday, December 18, with three races scheduled.

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