Saturday, 6 March 2010

Miami Grand Prix 2010: Tacticians Rule Day Two

Wind Shifts and Velocity Changes Test the Best

Close racing on Day 2 at the 2010 Miami Grand Prix. Image copyright Sharon Green/

by Bill Wagner

A northwesterly wind that ranged from 7 to 20 knots and shifted as much as 50 degrees during the day forced the boys in the back of the boat to take some risks and hope they guessed right.

“The wind was up and down velocity-wise and all over the place on the course. You could easily go from the top of the fleet to the bottom and back again in one race,” Bliksem skipper Pieter Taselaar said.

Flash Gordon was among three Farr 40s that handled the shifts and faired well on Friday. Bill Hardesty did his best to keep skipper Helmut Jahn in the pressure as the Chicago entry posted a second and a fourth to move into third place overall in the 10-boat fleet.

It wasn’t a surprise to see tacticians bellying up to the Tiki bar at Monty’s overlooking the waterfront at the Miami Beach Marina.

Two days of extremely shifty sailing conditions in the Miami Grand Prix have driven the men who make the on-course calls to drink. “You could go from the penthouse to the outhouse real quickly today” said Hardesty, tactician aboard the Farr 40 Flash Gordon. “It was pretty darn tricky out there.”

Former Star class world champion Joe Londrigan is trimming the main while Dave Gerber is trimming the jib and spinnaker aboard Flash, which has reunited the crew that was together for the Farr 40 Worlds. Evan Jahn is steering the boat during starts and upwind before handing the wheel to his father.

“Helmut has been our rock star. He has been passing boats downwind the entire regatta,” Hardesty said.

Barking Mad and Fiamma also totaled six points in two starts with a bullet in Race 5 lifting the former into the overall lead by a point over the Italian team. Barking Mad is without three regular crew members, including tactician Terry Hutchinson, due to the Louis Vuitton Series in Auckland, New Zealand. However, up and coming pro Steve Hunt has done a good job of filling in for Hutchinson and skipper Jim Richardson has been pleased with the crew work.

“We have a lot of new people onboard so there was some apprehension going in. It’s been a big transition and we’re doing some things well while there are other things we still need to work on,” Richardson said. “It’s been real shifty so far and we expect to see more of the same over the weekend. There’s a lot of good sailors scratching their heads because you can easily lose five places in an instant.”

Fiamma, skippered by Alessandro Barnaba of Roma, Italy, posted a pair of thirds on Friday to jump into contention. Tactician Lorenzo Bressani, regular helmsman for the standout Melges 24 program UKA UKA Racing, is calling tactics on Fiamma.

“It has been a very difficult day with big wind shifts. Both races went down to the last meter. It is necessary always keep the eyes open because things can happen in double-quick time,” Bressani said. “In this class the speed between boats is very similar so the fleet always stays united. A missed shift or tactical mistake can hurt you. Today, we sailed well and always in phase with the wind.”

Bliksem, the defending Melges 32 champion at Miami Grand Prix, moved from third to first in the overall standings with a second and a sixth on Friday. Australian Jeremy Wilmot is calling tactics for Taselaar, who proclaimed “I really like Miami. This regatta was good to me last year and hopefully it will be good for me again this year.”

Taselaar, a New York City resident, took delivery of a brand new boat on Friday and has outfitted it with new sails. “We are still tweaking the boat and feel we can get more speed out of her,” he said.

Teasing Machine, the French entry skippered by Jean-Francois Cruette, relinquished its opening day lead but is just one point behind Bliksem. “Teasing Machine has some very talented sailors onboard and is going very well,” Taselaar said of the relative newcomer to the Melges 32 circuit. “This class gets better and better ever year and there are an awful lot of good teams here at this event.”

There are five boats within 10 points of the leader in the Melges 32 class, which has attracted 23 entries and features a slew of top-notch pros. Jeff Madrigali is a new addition to the Star team and skipper Jeff Ecklund said his expertise has come in handy so far.

“When the wind is as shifty as it’s been so far you really have to keep your head out of the boat. Jeff has been very alert and done a great job of making sure we don’t get caught on the wrong side of the course,” said Ecklund, who has Harry Melges focusing on boat speed.

Gold Digger II, a J/44 owned by Jim Bishop of Jamestown, R.I., maintained the lead in IRC class after winning Race 5. Stark Raving Mad, the J/125 owned by James Madden of Oyster Bay, N.Y., made a move with a second and a third, but remains seven points off the pace set by Gold Digger II.

“Gold Digger is very capably sailed and does well in the moderate breeze,” Madden said. “We’d like to see winds that are either 18 knots or more so we can plane or less than 10 knots so our lighter displacement will be an advantage. This moderate breeze is challenging for us.”

Stark Raving Mad normally sails PHRF and Madden’s team is using this regatta as a test for how the J/125 can perform under IRC. “It’s been a competitive class, evidenced by the fact only four points separate the second through sixth place boats,” he said. “While there is a wide range of designs here, the speed differences aren’t as great as you might think. We’ve seen a lot of other boats within our quadrant of the race course.”

Race Headquarters is at the Miami Beach Marina, the official site and exclusive marina. Mount Gay Rum is the official rum. The Avalon and South Seas Hotels are the Official Host Hotels. Shake-A-Leg Miami is the official charity.

2010 Miami Grand Prix -- March 4-7, 2010

Class leaders after five races -- March 5, 2010

(6 Boats)

1. Gold Digger II, J/44, James Bishop, Jamestown, RI, USA, 2-3-13-1=10
2. Stark Raving Mad, J/125, James Madden, Oyster Bay, NY, USA, 4-5-3-2-3=17
3. Decision, TP52, Stephen Murray, New Orleans, LA, USA, 1-6-6-1-4= 18

Farr 40 (10 Boats)

1. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Newport, RI, USA, 5-4-2-5-1=17
2. Fiamma, Allesandro Barnaba, Rome, ITA, 3-2-7-3-3=18
3. Flash Gordon, Helmut Jahn, Chicago, IL, USA, 4-1-9-2-4=20

Melges 32 (23 Boats)

1. Bliksem, Pieter Taselaar, NYYC, NY, 1-2-14-6-2= 25
2. Teasing Machine, Jean Francois Cruette, La Rochelle, FRA, 5-1-1-10-9=26
3. Red, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 2-10-4-4-10=26

Florida Grand Prix - Standings after five Miami Grand Prix Races

Combined Key West 2010 and Miami Grand Prix

Farr 40

1. Barking Mad, James Richardson, Newport, RI, USA, 58 points
2. Nerone, Massimo Mezzaroma, Punta Ala, ITA, 68 points


1. Cool Breeze, John Cooper, Cane Hill, MO, USA, 56 points
2. Decision, Stephen Murray, New Orleans, LA, USA, 59 points

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

Melges 32

1. Red, Joe Woods, Torquay, GBR, 126 points
2. Samba Pa Ti, John Kilroy, Mailbu, CA, USA, 142 points

Miami Grand Prix 2010

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