Cunningham on a roll at Etchells Biscayne Bay Series

Published on January 7th, 2018

The 2017-18 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series had its second regatta with the Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta, held January 6-7 in Miami, FL. Jim Cunningham, sailing with Jeff Madrigali, Mark Ivey, and Serena Vilage, followed up their win in the first event by topping the 38 boat fleet through the five race series.

Series informationEvent detailsResults

Overall results (Top 10 of 38; 5 races, 1 discard)
1. Jim Cunningham/ Jeff Madrigali/ Mark Ivey/ Serena Vilage, USA – 1-2-3-[8]-5; 11
2. Steve Benjamin/ Michael Menninger/ Ian Liberty/ Evan Aras, USA – [9]-9-8-1-1; 19
3. Michael Goldfarb/ Morten Henriksen/ Skip Dieball, USA – [31]-5-4-6-6; 21
4. Mark Watson/ Dirk Kneulman/ Andy Beadsworth/ Rob Scribner, USA – 3-1-7-[21]-11; 22
5. Jay Cross/ Michael Buckley/ George Peet/ Wilson Stout, USA – 4-[18]-2-9-7; 22
6. Kevin Grainger/ Chuck Norris/ Jeremy Wilmont, USA – 6-[20]-14-4-3; 27
7. Peter Duncan/ Jud Smith/ Andrew Parffery, USA – [13]-10-1-5-13; 29
8. Andrew Cumming/ Brian Kamilar/ William Felder/ Nikki Medley, CAN – 5-[22]-16-10-10; 41
9. Scott Kaufman/ Alex Curtiss/ Austen Anderson/ Jesse Kirkland, USA – 2-[21]-6-15-19; 42
10. Craig Mense/ John Harford/ Fred Strammer/ Atlantic Bruckman, USA – [26]-6-20-16-2; 44

Report by John Payne:
Before the first race, a number of competitors were beaten by Mother Nature as a significant storm in the northeast impacted travel plans. “If you didn’t make it out by Wednesday, you couldn’t get here,” noted Michael Gavin. “I know of several boats where some of the crew from Connecticut or Boston, couldn’t make it.”

Saturday’s weather was beautiful, if a little bit chilly. But, compared to the weather most of the sailors left behind up north, 60 degrees and sunny skies were just fine. The first race went off right on time with a bearing of 350 degrees, a distance of 1.4 nautical miles, with the breeze at a nice 11 knots.

First to the top mark was Jim Cunningham, leaving off where he ended the last regatta, the Piana Cup, which he won. In second and third were Jay Cross and local Miami sailor Buddy Crib.

By the first gate Scott Kaufman had eased into second place with Cross dropping back to third. A right shift to 005 degrees necessitated a Charlie flag at the gate, and the fleet headed back upwind.

At the second weather mark, the first two boats remained the same with Dirk Knuelman easing into third. The breeze was holding steady at 12 knots but had sifted farther right to 020 degrees.

Winning race one after leading wire to wire was Jim Cunningham. He was followed by Scott Kaufman in second, Dirk Knuelman in third, Jay Cross in fourth and Andrew Cumming in firth.

Race two was another course 4 set at 025 degrees with a distance of 1.5 nautical miles. By now the wind had freshened to 15 knots and Biscayne Bay was beginning to get choppy.

William Douglass was first to the top, followed closely by Jeff Nehms and Michael Gavin.

By the end of the first downwind Dirk Knuelman had taken over the lead with Michael Gavin in second and William Douglas in third. Jim Cuningham was lurking back in fourth with Michael Goldfarb in fifth. Winds were now up to 16 knots with higher gusts.

After some slight jockeying for position on the final legs, race two went to Knuelman. He was followed by Jim Cunningham and Michael Gavin. William Douglas and Michael Goldfarb rounded out the top five.

Race three was a course 5 with a heading of 020 degrees and a length of 1.4 nautical miles. PRO Stuart Childerley (a former Etchells world champion himself) was really firing off the races in quick succession.

At the top mark it was Jay Cross in first with Peter Duncan and Jim Cunningham close on his heels. Those three held their positions to the leeward gate where they were joined by Ernie Pomerleau in fourth and reigning world champion Steve Benjamin in fifth.

The last two legs saw big wind shifts as showers blew across the bay. The direction oscillated between 010 and 045 degrees with velocity ranging from 6 to 18 knots.

Peter Duncan passed Jay Cross to take the horn with Jim Cunningham finishing third. Mike Goldfarb took fourth and Ernie Pomerleau finished fifth.

At the end of the first day of racing, it was Jim Cunningham in the lead with 6 points. In second was Dirk Knuelman with 11 points. Third through seventh were Peter Duncan, Jay Cross, Steve Benjamin, Michael Gavin and Scott Kaufman respectively, with just 5 points separating the five boats.

Sunday turned out to be a warmer day, albeit overcast. PRO Chiderley started race four at a bearing of 065 degrees with a fresh 16-18 knot breeze chopping up the bay. Course 4 was set with a 1.5 mile weather leg. With an “all clear” start the 38 teams started across the bay.

At the top mark, Bill Mauk led the fleet. He was followed by Senet Bischoff and Steve Benjamin. Senet and his crew of Ben Kinney and his brother Clay are traditionally one of the top Corinthian teams sailing the Etchells.

Steve Benjamin, as he often does, pulled into the lead on the downwind and rounded first. He was followed by Bill Mauk, Jay Cross, former world champion Marvin Beckmann, Senet Bischoff.

By the time the fleet made it back to the top mark the wind had sifted right 5-10 degrees. That didn’t faze Steve Benjamin as he was still leading, followed by Bill Mauk and Marvin Beckmann.

That order held to the finish. Jim Cunningham finished the race in 8th, good enough to hold onto first, but Dirk Knuelman suffered a 21st which he will hope to drop.

Speaking with Dirk after racing he said about the 21st. “We got hung up at the weather mark and had to tack out. We still had trouble getting back in the line. You think about all the places where you could lose or gain a point and they were all so important this weekend.”

Speaking about their team Dirk said, “We had Andy Beadsworth on the boat this week. I’ve known and sailed with him for years, and he’s a great guy to be around. You always learn new stuff from the guys on the boat, and we learned a lot from Andy that we’ll use in the future.”

For race 5, PRO Childerley set course 5 (five legs) at a bearing of 075 degrees with the wind now up to 16-18 degrees. With Dirk Knuelman being the only boat with a mathematical chance of catching Jim Cunningham the race was on. All of the other trophies were on the line.

At the top mark it was Kevin Granger in the lead followed by Mike Goldfarb and Craig Mense. Granger held on to the top spot at the first leeward gate with Mense moving up to second and Steve Benjamin moving into third. A Charlie flag indicated the left shift of the course axis to 060 degrees.

Back at the top it was Benjamin, Mense and Jim Cunningham, one-two-three. After a speedy downwind and a fifth leg back upwind, Steve Benjamin took the horn. He was followed by Craig Mense, Kevin Grainger, Marvin Beckmann and Jim Cunningham.

Speaking with Jay Cross after racing, he said, “As always there was some good solid racing. It was really tight with unpredictable oscillations.” Jay pointed out how tight the racing was at the top, “Second through fifth were separated by three points.”

Other than the hit his wallet took for opening up the bar for free drinks after awards, Jim Cunningham was delighted with his team’s results. When asked why he had been so dominant this weekend, he said, “We were consistent and got good starts. Good starts and speed allowed us to stay in our lane and go where we wanted to go for five or seven minutes. We also had a couple of really nice downwind legs where we were able to climb back into single digits despite being buried at the weather mark.” In summery he stated, “We just made the best of our opportunities.”

Dirk summed up part of the popularity of the Etchells Winter Series, “I am so happy to not be freezing back in Canada. I can’t remember it being so bitterly cold.”

2017-18 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series:
Louis Piana Cup Regatta – December 9-10, 2017
Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta – January 6-7, 2018
Florida State Championship – February 3-4, 2018
Mid-Winter’s East Regatta – March 2-4, 2018

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