Sunday, 7 March 2010

Miami Grand Prix 2010: Miami Grand Prix Championships Down to the Wire

The Battle off South Beach Concludes Sunday

Image copyright Jeremiah Tamagna-Darr/

by Bill Wagner

Competitors in the 2010 Miami Grand Prix will sleep well following another action-packed day on the waters off South Beach. Crew members aboard the leading boats in Farr 40 and Melges 32 will surely need a good night’s rest as overall victory is still undecided in these two one-design classes.

There was a new leader in both Farr 40 and Melges 32 for the third straight day as Saturday’s three races took place under superb conditions: sunny skies and strong winds. Skipper William Douglass and his crew on Goombay Smash posted three good results and took a narrow one-point lead in Farr 40 while Jean-Francois Cruette and the Teasing Machine team reclaimed first place in Melges 32 by just four points.

British America’s Cup veteran Ian Walker is calling tactics on Goombay Smash, which won Race 6 then tacked on consecutive third place results to make an impressive rise to the top of the Farr 40 standings with 30 points. Flash Gordon, owned by Helmut Jahn of Chicago, sailed well for the second straight day and stayed in contention on the strength of a bullet in Race 7.

The Italian entry Nerone (Massimo Mezzaroma), which led after the opening day, is just five points behind the leader. Barking Mad (Jim Richardson, Newport, R.I.) and Fiamma (Alessandro Barnaba, Italy) are tied for fourth with 37 points apiece.

“This regatta is still very much up for grabs,” said Bill Hardesty, tactician on Flash Gordon. “The points are really close and we can’t really focus on Goombay because we have Nerone right on our tail.”

Nerone and Barking Mad are engaged in a tight duel for the Florida Grand Prix title, which is awarded based on the combined results from Premiere Racing’s two winter regattas. Both boats have compiled 78 points after a total of 18 races at Key West 2010 and Miami Grand Prix.

Principal race officer Dave Brennan plans to hold two races on Sunday to complete the 10-race series.

Hardesty feels it’s important to put up a good result in Race 9. “That first race tomorrow is critically important because it will determine each team’s strategy for the final race. Hopefully, we can get a good start, hit the first shift and be able to sail our own race.”

Teasing Machine notched bullets in two of the initial three races to take the early lead in Melges 32 class. However, finishes of ninth and a 10th on Friday dropped the Frenchmen into second behind Bliksem. Cruette and crew maintained their confidence and rebounded by winning two more races on Saturday while discarding the 10th. All 23 teams in the fleet were able to throw out their worst result once six races were completed.

“Teasing Machine definitely has great speed and they’re making good decisions around the course. In these shifty conditions we’ve been having, smart choices get rewarded and those guys have not made many tactical mistakes,” said Jeremy Wilmot, tactician aboard Bliksem.

Bliksem, the defending class champion at this regatta, got caught on the wrong side of a shift on the final leg of Race 8 and finished 12th and concluded the day with 32 points – four astern of Teasing Machine. Wilmot said it’s his job to give owner Pieter Taselaar a chance to repeat as Miami Grand Prix winner.

“We’re happy to have a chance to defend our title. We just have to go out tomorrow and sail smart. I need to put the boat in good spots and make sure we don’t go backwards like we did in the last race today,” Wilmot said.

Red, the British entry skippered by Joe Woods, holds third in the overall standings with 39 points. While Woods would need some help to wind up winning this regatta, he is certain to claim the Melges Gold Cup for combined results at Key West 2010 and Miami Grand Prix. Red has accumulated 135 total points, 29 better than second place Fantastica (Lanfranco Cirillo, Italy).

Gold Digger II had another successful day in IRC class and is close to completing a wire-to-wire victory. Skipper Jim Bishop (Jamestown, R.I.) has steered his 20-year-old J/44 to first place in five of eight races and has built a comfortable 12 point lead over second place Stark Raving Mad, the J/125 owned by James Madden.

Saturday's racing was held in northwesterly winds that ranged from 12-15 knots and clocked around to the east. For the third straight day there were significant shifts with the race committee reporting pressure changes of as much as 40 degrees. While the shifts have made it tough on tacticians, Brennan said the sailors respect how hard the race committee has worked to change marks and maintain fair courses.

"It's been incredibly shifty all three days with big gains and losses to be had," Brennan said. "Nonetheless, it's been fantastic racing in real Chamber of Commerce conditions. We've had a lot of sailors come past the committee boat and tell us they appreciate the effort, which is nice to hear."

Class leaders after eight races - March 6, 2010

IRC (6 Boats)

1. Gold Digger II, J/44, James Bishop, Jamestown, RI, USA, 2-3-1-3-1-4-1-1=16
2. Decision, TP52, Stephen Murray, New Orleans, LA, USA, 1-6-6-1-4-2-5-3= 28
3. Stark Raving Mad, J/125, James Madden, Oyster Bay, NY, USA, 4-5-3-2-3-6-3-2=28

Farr 40 (10 Boats)

1. Goombay Smash, William Douglass, Newport, RI, USA, 6-3-4-1-9-1-3-3=30
2. Flash Gordon, Helmut Jahn, Chicago, IL, USA, 4-1-9-2-4-4-1-6=31
3. Nerone, Massimo Mezzaroma, Punta Ala, ITA, 1-6-1-7-10-2-7-1=35

Melges 32 (23 Boats) – with discard

1. Teasing Machine, Jean Francois Cruette, La Rochelle, FRA, 5-1-1-(10)-9-1-1-10=28
2. Bliksem, Pieter Taselaar, NYYC, NY, 1-2-(14)-6-2-2-7-12= 32
3. Red, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 2-(10)-4-4-10-6-4-9=39

Florida Grand Prix - Top Two after eight Miami Grand Prix Races

Combined Key West 2010 and Miami Grand Prix

IRC Combined

1. Cool Breeze, John Cooper, Cane Hill, MO, USA, 68 points
2. Decision, Stephen Murray, New Orleans, LA, USA, 69 points

Farr 40

1. Nerone, Massimo Mezzaroma, Punta Ala, ITA, 78 points
2. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Newport, RI, USA, 78 points

Combined Melges Gold Cup, Key West 2010 and Miami Grand Prix

Melges 32

1. Red, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 135 points
2. Fantistica, Lanfranco Cirillo, Torri del Benac, ITA, 164 points

Miami Grand Prix 2010

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