Etchells: Seventy boats for the Sid Doren Memorial
The Etchells 2014 Jaguar Cup Midwinter Series continued in Miami on January 4-5. The Jag, as the series has become better known, attracted 70 boats for the Sid Doren Memorial, the second event of the four regatta series.
Miami is famous for its great winter climate, but the local weather gods were not quite so accommodating on Saturday. A light drizzle and overcast skies greeted sailors as they prepared for the first of three races scheduled for the day. However, with temps in the low seventies, everyone was happy they weren’t almost anyplace else in the continental USA as snow, ice and frigid temperatures gripped most of the rest of the country.
Race one got underway right on time for the seventy Etchells. PRO Dave Brennan set a course at 070° with a first beat of 1.5 miles in a little over 8 knots. As often happens in a large, aggressive fleet several boats pushed the start and were caught over early. Among those were two perennial favorites, Shannon Bush and Keith Whittemore. As Shannon said later, “Once we were over early that just about sealed our race. It’s difficult to claw your way back to the front of a 70-boat fleet.”
Andrew Cumming was first to the top, followed closely by Ernie Pomerleau and Jim Cunningham. That order held for the downwind. Dave Brennan likes to start each Etchells race with a long first beat and first downwind legs, in an attempt to spread out the fleet. Seventy sharp pointed keel boats arriving in a leeward gate together can be dangerous. Once the fleet has spread out some, Dave will then shorten the last two legs to keep the race to a decent length of time. Today’s races were no exception.
On the beat back to weather Jim Cunningham took the lead and won the race. Pomerleau / Dressell held on for second, with Mark Fleckenstein easing into third.
Race two went off with the same distance and bearing with the wind holding near 9 knots. Once again, many boats jumped the gun and had to go back, putting themselves in a deep hole. Mark Watson and Dirk Kneulman led the race wire to wire taking the gun. They were followed by David Burrows in second and Buddy Cribb in third.
Starting race three proved to be the biggest challenge for PRO Brennan and his race committee. Utilizing a mid-line boat, the starting line was almost a half mile long. Dave said they were getting different wind bearings on each of the three start boats with a variation of as much as 15-20° over the five minute starting sequence. This oscillation in bearing lead to three short postponements as the race committee worked diligently to set a square line. When race three finally got under way, the pin end RC boat looked like the center of a giant nautical merry go round as five or six Etchells, who were very early, rounded that end to re-start. Former two-time world champion Bill Hardesty was one of the boats over early at the pin, and was only able to salvage a finish in the top of the bottom half. Of note, Bill spent his honeymoon towing the Etchells cross country to make this regatta. Sounds like he found himself a keeper!
Peter Duncan, sailing with another former world champion, Jud Smith on board, led the fleet to the top mark, followed by Shannon Bush. Following in third was Tom Carruthers with Andrew Campbell on board. In another wire to wire lead, Peter Duncan held on over Shannon to take race three, the last of the day. Tom Caruthers finished third.
Back on shore it was time for some socializing under the sea grape trees. One of the best parts of the Jag, the sailors all meet up for a few cold ones, and some tasty snacks as provided by host Biscayne Bay Yacht Club. On this day there was a considerable amount of commiserating amongst the competitors. Nineteen different boats had a single digit finish in their score line, but many of those also carried one or more score in the bottom half of the fleet. The same oscillations the RC saw on the start of race three were present all over the race course. As Tom Lihan said with a chuckle, “We won our side of the race course all day; we were just consistently on the wrong side.”
Sunday dawned with a promise of more great racing. The rain had moved out, and there was plenty of sunshine and warm breezes. Race four started at 165° and 1.5 miles with winds approaching 10 knots. Peter Duncan won the pin and started off towards the left side of the course. He didn’t take that tack very far and flopped over to port in an effort to get to the right. As Tom Lihan pointed out, “there was a pretty strong left running current at the top of the course due to its proximity to the ICW. If you could be on the right at the top you picked up an extra one to one-and-a-half knots of apparent boat speed.” Duncan indeed got out to the right middle and rounded the top mark in fourth. First to the top was Phil Lotz driving Arethusa. He was followed closely by Ethan Doyle and Wade Edwards. On the long downwind the wind velocity started to decay. By the bottom gate it was barely holding at 5.5 knots. The top of the fleet was shuffled on the next two legs with the exception of Phil Lotz, who held on for the victory. Ante Razmilovic took second followed by Shannon Bush in third.
By now a very nasty looking squall was moving in from the south. It effectively sucked most of the wind out of that part of Biscayne Bay. The race committee decided to wait and see what would happen, but after it moved through bringing strong gusts and driving sheets of rain, it left the bay once again becalmed. With a second line of squalls fast approaching, the PRO decided to cancel racing for the day.
That decision meant there would be not drop for the regatta forcing many to keep a score they were desperately hoping to discard.
Winning the 2014 Sid Doren Memorial was Peter Duncan, sailing “Raging Rooster” with Jud Smith and Tom Blackwell. This follows their triumph in the Piana Cup back in December, and makes them the early overall leader for the Jag Series. Jud Smith, on the biggest secret to their success: “Not being over early! With 70 boats out there you gotta not make mistakes. A great start would be good if the fleet was half the size, but there were too many boats to push it.” He went on to say “We thought the right paid in the first two races, though not too much. We tried to be in the top twenty at the top mark and then gain a few boats on each subsequent leg.” Clearly that strategy worked.
Finishing second was Andrew Cummings sailing with local Brian Kamilar, Victor Diaz and Eric Aronsohn. Third place went to Jim Cunningham with Jeff Madrigali, Mark Ivey and Bryn Bachman. In fourth place was Ante Razmilovic on English Blue with his crew of Chris Larson and Stuart Flynn. Rounding out the top five were Skip Dieball and Jon McClean sailing with Jeff Eiber.
First place had an average score of 6, and fifth place had an average score over 12. As Jeff Madrigali summarized, “Consistency paid in a no drop regatta”
Next up, the Etchells Florida State Championship February 8-9, 2014.
Click here for complete results.
Report and photos by John Payne. Winning team below.