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AON 2023 Etchells World Championships at Miami - Day 3

by Kate Somers, AON 2023 Etchells World Championships 19 Apr 2023 17:56 PDT April 16-22, 2023
AON 2023 Etchells Worlds at Miami day 3 © Nic Brunk

After two days of action on Biscayne Bay, the AON 2023 Etchells World Championships are displaying the depth that so many predicted.

There have been different winners of each of the four races and it's easy for even the best boats to follow an impressive result with a disappointing one.

Jim Cunningham, chairman of the Etchells International Governing Committee, knows the feeling. Cunningham and his Lifted team finished third in the opening race Tuesday then followed with a 24th. It was more of the same Wednesday with Lifted (USA 1504) getting the gun in Race 4 after finishing 17h in Race 3.

Photo Nic Brunk

Considering the up-and-down nature of his results so far, Cuningham said he felt fortunate to be in fourth place in the overall standings.

"It just goes to show how difficult this regatta is. This fleet is so deep and we have already seen that anyone can have bad races or even average races," Cunningham said. "It's going to come down to the boat that is able to maintain the most consistency. We've got a long way to go and I think we need to just keep plugging away."

Wednesday was Bacardi Race Day and conditions on Biscayne Bay were ideal with northeasterly winds blowing 12 to 14 knots to start. Principal race officer Dave Brennan repeated his strategy from Tuesday, sending the 63-boat fleet on a four-leg course in Race 3 and a five-legger in Race 4.

Brennan set weather legs of 2.2 nautical miles for both races, but had to shrink the course after the breeze dropped to single digits midway through Race 4.

"Each time they went around I brought the top down and the bottom up to get my target time," Brennan said. "It was the second race in which I really had to do some work to stay within the time limit."

Brennan said the wind remained remarkably consistent with shifts to either side of 70 degrees.

Skipper John Sommi and his crew aboard Veracity were the big winners of Bacardi Race Day. Sommie steered USA 1477 to victory in Race 3 then tacked on a third straight single-digit result in Race 4.

Victor Diaz de Leon is serving as tactician on Veracity, which has a low score of 26 points. That is 15 clear of Oatmeal (USA 1453) and Skanky Gene (USA 1464). Sommi, who holds dual membership at Shelter Island Yacht Club and Annapolis Yacht Club, was thrilled to post a bullet in his first World Championship.

"We got an okay start then worked our way up the ladder. We caught a couple of shifts and managed to round the weather mark in first. We were able to hold on from there," Sommi said. "Our team has the boat really dialed in and we feel really fast upwind, which gives the tactician more options."

Sommi got into the Etchells class four years ago, initially chartering a boat from Steve Benjamin. He wound up buying USA 1477 after chartering that boat from Dirk Knuelman of Ontario Yachts.

Sommi credits the coaching of Chris Larson, Jud Smith and Morgan Trubovich with getting his team up to speed. "Their fingerprints are all over any success we might have," he said.

While pleased to be leading the AON 2023 Etchells Worlds after two days, Sommi recognizes the regatta has not even reached the midway mark.

"It's still very early and there are some boats that have high drops, so the standings are going to change dramatically once we get to seven races," he said. "We have to eliminate as many mistakes as possible and put ourselves in the best position to be successful race by race."

Oatmeal wins the tiebreaker with Skanky Gene by virtue of having the best result — a third in Race 3. Mark Mendelblatt and Andrew Palfrey are crewing for Duncan, an American Yacht Club member.

"We're just plugging away. It's beautiful conditions with great breeze, but there are some interesting holes that make it difficult," Duncan said. "I think the race committee has done a good job of getting the lines square and setting good courses, but the breeze kind of waffles more than I thought it would."

Duncan started the regatta with a 4-9-3 score line before suffering a 25th in Race 4. "We would like to have the second weather leg of the second race back, but overall I feel like we're hanging in there and hope to continue to do so."

Taylor Canfield is calling tactics for Cross, who finished fifth in Race 2 and has three other results bunched between 11th and 13th. George Peet and Franny Schulte are also sailing with the Houston, Texas skipper.

"We feel pretty good in the sense we've been sailing consistently; We've been getting good starts and showing good speed," Cross said. "We've been able to sail the first beat relatively uncovered by other boats. We have been getting to the top mark in good shape."

Lifted had a back-and-forth battle with Lydia (Josh Powell, USA 969) in Wednesday's second race. Lifted led after the first windward leg, but Lydia moved ahead during the run. LIfted was still one boat length behind at the second top mark, but gybed first to get inside Lydia and that decision paid dividends.

"We were one-two at each of the marks all the way around the course. It was a lot like match racing," Cunningham said.

Jose Fuentes was smiling broadly as he stood on the dock in front of Coral Reef Yacht Club. The Annapolis Yacht Club member is competing in his fifth world championship and performing better than he ever has before.

Caramba has sandwiched results of fifth and eighth around an 11th and sits in seventh place overall with 52 points. Fuentes credits his crew consisting of tactician Tony Rey, jib trimmer Marc Gauthier and bowman Wilson Stout.

"It feels great. We had a tough first race, but we've had three really good ones after that. Things are falling into place," Fuentes said. "We've been starting in pretty good spots and been connecting the dots. Tony has been making some great calls and the crew has been fantastic. All our tacks, gybes and roundings have been flawless."

There were U-flag penalties assessed in both of Wednesday's races and many teams cannot wait for the throwout to come into play. That happens after seven races are completed. Day 1 leader Cruel Jane 2.0, skippered by Luke Lawrence of Oakville, Ontario, was among the boats flagged, putting a damper on a strong series start with a score line of 2-3-4.

"We've had a couple really bad starts precisely because we're trying to be careful. Some of the people around us have pushed it and they've gotten chucked," Fuentes said.

Brennan noted the U-flag is automatically implemented after two general recalls by Etchells class rules.

"It is what it is. You have a big, aggressive fleet and this is the World Championship. A lot of teams are pressing the line and the class prefers to control the fleet in that way."

Find out more on the event website at 2023.etchellsworlds.org

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