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97th Bacardi Cup Day 1

by Luissa Smith 4 Mar 17:35 PST March 4-9, 2024
97th Bacardi Cup - Sixty-six Stars representing fifteen nations face light wind tactics on opening day © Martina Orsini

The 97th Bacardi Cup, March 4-9, 2024, kicked off today in Biscayne Bay, Miami with sixty-six Stars representing fifteen nations for what turned out to be a light-wind tactical challenge.

Seasoned Star Class veteran Augie Diaz and crew Henry Boening executed a perfect display of skill to secure the win. With the exception of second placed Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Bruno Prada in second place, Diaz/Boening headline a top ten leaderboard dominated by Grand-Masters (skippers aged 60 and above) or Masters (skippers aged 50 through 59). In sailing age is not a barrier to success, and the seasoned prowess of these highly experienced teams was proven today.

The breeze took time to kick in, with an initial postponement ashore, before the fleet headed out to Biscayne Bay. Once on the water, the Race Committee waited for the breeze to stabilize, with a clean start at 1.24pm in the 8-knot westerly. The light air conditions were no easy read, and the race proved a snakes and ladders puzzle with the leading positions exchanging multiple times.

Defending Bacardi Cup Champions, Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Bruno Prada initially led at the first windward mark, punching out ahead of the fleet along with Lars Grael/Ubiratan Matos, and Diego Negri/Sergio Lambertenghi in third. Downwind Grael/Matos accelerated away to lead the pack, with a switch in position behind as Negri/Lambertenghi edged into second, Diaz/Boening in third and Kusznierewicz/Prada in fourth.

Onto the second windward leg and all change, with Kusznierewicz/Prada again setting the pace, chased by Diaz/Boening and Grael/Matos, with Eric Doyle/Payson Infelise gearing up to fourth. Onto the final downwind and Diaz/Boening found the speed button to overhaul Kusznierewicz/Prada and take the race win. Behind it was neck and neck between Grael/Matos and Doyle/Infelise for third and fourth.

Diaz/Boening pulled off acute tactical sailing and superb boat handling. Their win over the defending Bacardi Cup Champions, Kusznierewicz/Prada, was just a matter of seconds. Diaz knows Biscayne Bay well and has raced plenty of lead-in events as part of the Star Winter Series.

Commenting on their day, Diaz said, "I have the absolute privilege of sailing in the Bacardi Cup many times, because I am very old, but most importantly I have the privilege of sailing with Henry Boening. We had a great day today."

Boat speed made all the difference for the partnership, with Diaz adding, "I feel very fortunate that after a bad start, we were able to clear pretty quickly and then we had good speed both upwind and downwind. I think we got a little bit lucky at the end of the race where Mateusz and Bruno gybed a little early in my opinion and we able to just go to the right spot and be able to pass them. It was really mostly about being in the right place at the right time."

Diaz has more than 40 years of pedigree in the Star Class and proved yet again that he continues to rank as one of the best. Despite his extensive list of achievements spanning many classes, including winning the 2016 Star Worlds and the 2018 Star Europeans, The Bacardi Cup title has so far proved elusive.

Diaz has tried many times, but also acknowledges that for him the event is more than the racing, saying, "This is an event to cherish. You come here and it is not just about the event, it is about the people, it is about the company. Bacardi has a long tradition of supporting Star sailing. Sailing in the Bacardi Cup, for me what an absolute privilege."

A strong start to the Bacardi Cup was a big tick for Kusznierewicz/Prada. Looking ahead to the racing ahead, Kusznierewicz remarked, "I was sailing many years and I learn one thing, that if you do a pretty good race especially at the beginning, I take it as the proof that there is a lot of potential in us. We know that we have a lot of work to do, but so far the boat goes well, we know how to tune it, we just have to focus on the bow and every race. But the most important thing is that we enjoy it. I can't wait to have another race because it is so beautiful out there."

There are numerous Bacardi Cup Champions, Star Class World Champions, and Star Continental Champions racing, and in an impressive show of dominance all top four finishers today are both past Bacardi Cup and Star World Champions.

Tonight, Star sailors will gather at the iconic Bacardi Building in Miami for the Star Class Party for an evening of Bacardi hospitality. Racing continues on Tuesday, March 5, with a scheduled midday start.

Provisional Results after Day 1: (top ten, 1 race)

1. Augie Diaz / Henry Boening (USA 8509) - 1 pt
2. Mateusz Kusznierewicz / Bruno Prada (POL 8559) - 2 pts
3. Lars Grael / Ubiratan Matos (BRA 8392) - 3 pts
4. Eric Doyle / Payson Infelise (USA 8580) - 4 pts
5. Marin Misura / Tonko Barac (CRO 8531) - 5 pts
6. Josh Powell / Mark Strube (USA 8522) - 6 pts
7. Piet Eckert / Frederico Melo (SUI 8575) - 7 pts
8. Paul Cayard / Frithjof Kleen (USA 8550) - 8 pts
9. Jørgen Schönherr / Markus Koy (DEN 8532) - 9 pts
10. John MacCausland / Peter Sangmeister (USA 8448) - 10 pts

Full results can be found here.

The Bacardi Invitational Regatta gets under way from March 7-9, with nine races.

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