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Winter Solstice Temps, Bacardi Invitational Cup, Sydney Hobart Race

by David Schmidt 20 Dec 2022 08:00 PST December 20, 2022
Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 © Hannah Lee Noll

Given the excitement of the weekend's World Cup—go Messi!—you're certainly forgiven if you had your eye on other sports this last week. Even if you don't follow soccer (sorry, "football" for any international readers), you'd still be forgiven as it's almost the Winter Solstice, it's frigid across wide swaths of Canada and the USA, and the only sailors who are really fired up in the northern hemisphere these days either A., have plans (and plane tickets) to do some warm-water sailing this winter, B., are into ice boating, or C., are into the softer-water version of B., known as frostbiting (you know who you are).

While I (and many other sane sailors) tend to follow a fourth well-worn path during this season of dark and cold, namely option D., "alpine skiing", I'm afraid that this does little to keep sailing skills polished come spring.

But, it does tend to create smiles, which, dear reader, during this time of dark and blustery weather, can be almost as great as that blistering spinnaker run that you and your mates enjoyed, just after you stole the pole position from your fleet's usual leader and about fifteen minutes before you and your friends managed to win the whole regatta.

Careful readers will note my deliberate use of the word "almost" in the preceding sentence.

While snow shovels might be in heavier rotation these days than A-sails or bowsprits across much of North America, thankfully the entire continent isn't seasonally hooped.

A few lucky sailors got to enjoyt the (warm) waters of Biscayne Bay, off of Miami, Florida, this past weekend at the Bacardi Invitational Winter Series, where racing unfurled in the Melges 24s and J/70s classes.

After six races, Drew Friedes and his Pacific Yankee Melges 24 team took top honors. They were joined on the podium by Harry Melges IV's Zenda Express squad and Chris Larson's Raza Mixta.

"It's an old program, but a new group and we are working towards doing the World Championships in Denmark next year, and this is one of the steps on the road," said Pacific Yankee's Alex Anderson about the team's win, in an official event release.

"We had a good day yesterday and kind of survived day 1 and went out today and had a 1,1,4 and took it down," continued Anderson. "So, we are really happy with how it went, but mostly we are just focused on the process of coming together as a new team."

In the J/70 class, Richard Witzel's Rowdy proved the boat to beat, followed by John Heaton's Empeiria and Fernando Perez Ontiveros' Black Mamba.

"We had a great weekend, we sailed well and most of the times went the right way and had good speed, so it was good for us," said Carlos Robles, Rowdy's tactician, in an official regatta report. "I think mainly this year we have done a lot of sailing as a team together, so we have been training a lot and as a team we are sharp and that showed. Each one of us has our own roles and we work well together. It's a good start to the year. We see it as a new season and it is always good to start strong."

The big-boat sailing news this time of year, of course, comes courtesy of our friends in Sydney, Australia, where the great Boxing Day tradition known as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is expected to begin on the waters of Sydney Harbor on December 26. For any Americans looking to escape the yuletide glee, this conveniently means that the race will start sometime on Christmas Day (depending on one's time zone).

For the crew of Hamilton Island Wild Oats (nee Wild Oats XI, or "WOXI" as she was affectionately known), the Christmas wish list is both short and stout: Claim a tenth line honors win for the Oatley family.

"This year's super maxi competition is red hot—Andoo Comanche, Black Jack and LawConnect, said Mark Richards, Hamilton Island Wild Oats's skipper, in an official team release. "All have amazing teams with people flying in from all over the world to sail these incredible boats."

Like many teams, Hamilton Island Wild Oats has called in the ringers. These include seven-time America's Cup winner Murray Jones, Cup and Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator Stan Honey, and America's Cup- and SailGP-winning wingsail trimmer Kyle Langford.

"The vibe onboard is fantastic with the new team members plus our usual solid crew, who have been sailing together for more than 15 years, from the beginning of the Wild Oats XI story," continued Richards. "I'm very excited; it's always good to sail with a great team. Every Hobart race is an exciting challenge and this one is no different. It's going to be a very hard race to win."

Sail-World wishes all Sydney Hobart crews good luck as they prepare for this epic bluewater battle, and we wish all North American readers good luck as they prepare for a multi-month battle with their driveways and sidewalks, armed only with shovels, snowblowers, (perhaps a wee dram,) and thoughts of that blistering spinnaker run to keep the old mental-energy engine rumbling.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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