Seventy boats for Etchells Jaguar Cup Midwinter Series finale

The Etchells 2014 Jaguar Cup Midwinter Series wrapped up in Miami with the Mid-Winter’s East Regatta for the Schoonmaker Cup on February 28-March 2. The Jag, as the series has become better known, attracted 70 boats for the fourth and final event of the series.

Friday’s conditions proved to be quite tricky. The first race went off with a bearing of 330 in a nice puffy breeze which ranged from 8 to over 12 knots. As is typical for this series, and one of the things that makes it so popular, is the sun was shining and the temperatures were hovering in the high 60s.

The fleet headed off on the first of four legs with a northwest wind nearing twelve knots. Thomas Carruthers took the first race followed by Jim Cunningham in second and Buddy Cribb in third. In race two, two-time world champion Bill Hardesty took the horn with reigning world match racing circuit champion Taylor Canfield calling tactics. Second and third went to Ben Kinney and Senet Bischoff’s KGB, and Seamus McHugh’s No Dramas. By race three the winds, while still shifty and puffy, had dropped to close to six knots. Buddy Cribb took the horn in that race, followed by Bill Hardesty in second and John Hele in third.

At the end of the day, local Coral Reef sailor Buddy Cribb stood atop the leader board with a 3-8-1. Commenting on their consistency despite the conditions, Buddy answered with a chuckle. “I don’t know exactly how we did it but [my crew] Eammon [deLisser] and Stu [deLisser] were spot on in telling me where to go. We worked left in the first two races and right in the third. We sailed the compass and were fortunate to have clear lanes.”

Following Buddy in second and third after day one were Bill Hardesty and Chris Larson, respectively.

If possible, Saturday’s weather was even better, with one exception. When the boats got out to the race course, the early northwest breeze was fading. It finally shut off, leading to a two-and-a-half hour postponement before filling back in from the northeast. A special nod goes to first time Etchells PRO Bruce Harper for showing the patience to wait for the good conditions.

Race four of the regatta went off with a bearing of 045° and a distance of 1.7 miles in a freshening six to seven knots. As often happens in a large, aggressive fleet, several boats pushed the start and were caught over early. That can be the kiss of death in this regatta.

First to the top mark was Marvin Beckmann sailing his boat, The Martian. He was closely followed by Peter Vessella and Mark Fleckenstein. At the finish, Beckmann and Vessella maintained their one-two order with Chris Larson, sailing Ante Razmilovic’s Swedish Blue to third.

Race five started with the extremely puffy and shifty wind a bit farther right, centering in on 060°. After the 1.7mile upwind it was Skip Dieball driving Jon McCleans’s boat with the lead. They were followed by Meredith Carroll in second and Robert Elliott in third. Dieball and McClean led race five wire to wire taking the horn. Coming in second, after passing Carroll on the second downwind leg, was Marvin Beckmann. Carroll held on for third.

So, at the end of day two it was the reigning Etchells world champion Marvin Beckmann holding the lead over Chris Larson in second and Bill Hardesty in third.

According to Steve Hunt, main trimmer and tactician for Marvin Beckmann, they found the conditions to be real shifty. “It was very important to sail the long [lifted] tack upwind and the headed jibe downwind.” Continuing, he commented on the Jag fleet. “The fleet here has really stepped it up on starting, so we’ve worked hard on our starting. Marvin did very well on the starts today.”

Given the light conditions, Bill Hardesty shared his go-fast downwind technique. ”I learned it awhile back from Dr. [Scott] Piper. He went sailing past me on a light air downwind while sitting low in the bottom of the boat. I tried it, and I’ve been doing it ever since. And besides, it helps my back.”

Sunday was the final day of racing for both the Midwinters and the 2013-14 Jag. Partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 70’s, and a nice easterly breeze of about ten knots greeted the fleet. Any of the top dozen boats were within reach of the podium, so it was on! Race six, sailing course four (four legs), started with a bearing of 100° and a distance of 1.9 miles. Once again many boats were overanxious and got caught on the wrong side of the starting line at go. All of the hailed bow numbers returned, and cleared, and the race was on.

At the top mark, Chris Lanza on Vertigo led a group of boats in from the left side to round first. He was closely followed by Kevin Grainger on Gumption and Bryon Ehrhart on Lucky. Grainger and Ehrhart passed Lanza on the second upwind to take first and second, with Ken Womack easing into third.

It was now time for the last race of the series and the championship. PRO Harper called for course five (five legs) at a bearing of 105°. Starting race seven proved to be the biggest challenge for the race committee. Utilizing a mid-line boat, the starting line was almost a half mile long. Bruce said they were getting different wind bearings on each of the three start boats with a variation of as much as 10-15° over the five minute starting sequence. The first attempt at a start ended in a postponement as sixty of the seventy boats tried to start on the signal boat side of the mid-line boat due to the oscillation in bearing. The second attempt at a start saw the fleet a bit more spread out to either side of the mid-line boat, but about half the fleet was pushing too hard, resulting in a general recall.

Finally, under the dreaded black flag, a well behaved armada of seventy Etchells lined up all in a row, and started the race. Three of the first four boats to the top mark had a former Etchells world champion aboard. First was Bill Mauk with 2005 champion Tito Gonzalez in the crew. They were followed by Tom Lihan with 2000 champion Vince Brun calling the shots. In third was Skip Dieball followed by 2007 champion Andy Beadsworth calling tactics for Seamus McHugh.

“We’ve had three really great days of intensive training, and it paid massive benefits. Six of our seven starts were good enough to win,” said Beadsworth.

As the fleet started downwind, the winds, which had been over eight knots at the start, began to fade. With the real possibility that the race might need to be shortened to three legs, the signal boat left the staring area to get up to the top mark to set the finish line. Without the big signal boat as a landmark, the leaders were struggling to find the leeward gate, close to two miles away.

“We were sailing along happily out on the right side with Tito the only boat outside of us,” explained Lihan. “All of a sudden Tito jibed over and sailed across our stern. I asked Moose and Vince what he was doing, and they realized he had spotted the gate way to our left. We jibed over as well, and rounded just ahead of Tito.

“When we got back to the top, we noticed the offset mark was missing and figured out they planned to shorten the race, just as the S flag came out.” Lihan won the race, followed by Bill Mauk and Scott Kaufman.

Winning the 2014 Etchells Midwinter Championship, for the Schoonmaker Cup, were Ben Kinney and Senet Bischoff sailing their boat KGB. Joining them aboard for this regatta was Senet’s brother Clay. With an average score of over six, their win showed once again how important consistency is in winning these Jag Series regattas. While they only scored one race in the top three, they also only scored one race (not including their discard) in double digits.

“In the past, Ben and I treated this as a social endeavor,” admitted Bischoff. “We always sailed with a bunch of friends, and had a great time, but we never had a consistent third crew. This year we added my brother Clay, a two time team race world champion and former college sailor of the year, and it’s been huge.

“We are an all Corinthian (amateur) team so we don’t come in early to practice. We did buy a new set of Doyle sails from Jud Smith, and that has been a big help. Jud is very open and honest in helping us get better. We can send him a photo of our sails and he will respond immediately with tuning advice.”

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Rounding out the top five were Marvin Beckmann, sailing with Steve Hunt and Ezra Culver in second; Chris Larson, sailing with Ian Gordon and Stu Flinn in third; Peter Duncan, sailing with Jud Smith and Tom Blackwell in fourth; and Seamus McHugh, sailing with Andy Beadsworth and Simon Fry in fifth.

The overall champion is Peter Duncan, followed by Ante Razmilovic and Chris Larson in second, and last year’s champion Marvin Beckmann in third.

“This is the tenth year I’ve raced the Jag, and I’ve never won so this is a huge deal,” admitted Duncan. “We’ll be back for Nationals at the Coral Reef Cup in a couple of weeks. Then, since we qualified out of Fleet 20, we’ll do the Etchells Worlds in Newport in June.”

After the awards, Senet and Ben opened the bar for the remaining competitors, spectators, friends and race committee. A new Jag series tradition is born!

Report and photos by John Payne.


Complete results: http://www.etchellsfleet20.org/results/2014JMW_results.html
Jag Series Results: http://www.etchellsfleet20.org/results/2014JagSeriesStandings.pdf

The 2014 Jaguar Series regatta dates:

Louis Piana Cup Regatta
December 7 & 8, 2013
Up to 5 races

Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta
January 4 & 5, 2014
Up to 5 races

Florida State Championship Regatta
February 8 & 9, 2014
Up to 5 races

Mid-Winter’s East Regatta for the Schoonmaker Cup
Feb. 28, March 1 & 2, 2014
Up to 8 races

Jaguar Cup Series Championship
To qualify for the JAGUAR CUP SERIES, boats must count their place in the Mid-Winters Regatta, and any two of the other three individual regattas (Piana Cup, Sidney Doren Memorial, Florida State Championship). Place scores from each individual regatta of the series will be used with a Low Point Scoring System (1st Place = 1 point, 2nd Place = 2 points, 3rd Place = 3 points, etc.). The boat with the lowest score will be declared the winner of the 2014 JAGUAR CUP SERIES.

Click here for series details.

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