SNIPE CLASS: Taking their slogan seriously

Published on March 18th, 2013

The Snipe Class slogan is “Serious Sailing, Serious Fun.” After spending the weekend covering the XLVII Annual DON Q Rum Keg regatta on March 15-17, I have to say they take their slogan, well…, seriously. Thirty eight Snipes from nine different countries converged on Miami’s Biscayne Bay for the second stop of the Snipe Winter Circuit. The Don Q is a five race event with no drop, so every race is serious. One false start or bad shift can make the difference between trophies or memories.

Friday brought out another Miami chamber of commerce day with clear skies, light to moderate northerly winds and temps in the low seventies. Race one got under way at a very civilized noon. Ernesto Rodriguez with crew Julia Melton jumped out to an early lead, and never looked back. Ernesto had been scheduled to sail with perennial Snipe champion crew, Kathleen Tocke. When it looked like illness might keep Kathleen on the dock, Augie Diaz stepped in and offered to have his crew Julia join Ernesto. According to Ernesto, “That’s the great thing about this class. Everybody helps everybody. For Augie to offer to have Julia sail with me is the ultimate gesture of sportsmanship.”

Kathleen decided she felt well enough to sail the first day, and joined Augie to earn a first day score line of 5-1 leaving them in first place over former world champions Bruno Bethlem and Dante Bianchi of Brazil who rolled a 4-2. Ernesto and Julia’s 1-6 left them in third. After the two scheduled races, the fleet was back on shore early enough to go out and explore the local Coconut Grove nightlife. It seemed like half the fleet wound up at Scotty’s Landing a local waterfront restaurant and favorite of the sailing community.

Day two began with a postponement on shore. The predicted sea breeze was late in arriving, which gave the sailors time to talk shop, with many of the more seasoned Snipe skippers offering rigging tips to the newcomers. This is another nice facet of Snipe sailing. Peter Commette said, “We all try to help everyone learn how to best rig and sail the boat.” He continued, “Just recently, Augie and I were helping Ernesto with the set up on his main sail. We discovered we had been using different standards for measuring mast rake settings. Once we figured that out, we got him dialed in, and look how well he sailed.”

By the time the Coconut Grove Sailing Club race committee had brought the fleet out to the bay, and set a course in the light and shifty conditions, it was getting late. After one general recall and a couple of mid-sequence AP’s caused by big oscillations, the race got off in a light five to six knot Southeasterly breeze. Recent University of Miami graduate and long-time Snipe sailor, Nick Voss, lead the race wire to wire. His, and crew Nicole Popp’s, local knowledge of the conditions, paid big dividends. Rounding out the top three were Brian Kamilar with crew, Enrique Quintero in second, while Ernesto and Julia added a third to their line, giving them the day three lead. Kathleen was unable to sail Saturday leaving Augie, who has won the Don Q many times, on the beach. After the first race, PRO Jamie Ramon decided that the failing breeze and late hour didn’t leave enough time to get in the second scheduled race, so the fleet headed back to shore.

Once the fleet arrived back to CGSC, one of the best aspects of the Don Q Rum Keg Regatta began. It is a long-standing tradition of the regatta that upon returning to the dock on Saturday, the non-sailing family members meet the competitors with trays of Don Q daiquiris. This ceremony is followed by a big party for all featuring a feast of good Cuban and Caribbean food, and of course, more daiquiris. Remember that earlier part about “Serious Fun?”

Sunday was the last day, and the race committee was determined to get in both remaining races. A problem was that several of the competitors were leaving that afternoon, with their boats, for Nassau, the third stop on the Winter Circuit. A ten o’clock first warning meant the racing might not get finished in time to pack up for the ferry. The first race started in a nice 12-14 knot southeasterly, under mostly cloudy skies. Peter Commette and crew Bruno Mello took the left side of the course and rounded the top mark with a nice lead on the Brazilians, Bethlem and Bianchi. They extended over the next three legs and won the race with a twelve boat length lead over Kamilar and Quintero. Bethlem and Bianchi fell back to third. Ernesto Rodriquez took fourth keeping him in the overall lead.

By the start of the second race, the breeze had lightened a bit. Rodriguez and Diaz headed out to the left side along with Nick Voss. Peter Commette, who had a difficult start, spotted a bit of better breeze on the right, and rode that to a huge comeback rounding the top mark just on the sterns of Voss and Rodriquez, and just in front of Diaz. That order lasted all the way to the finish with only one or two boat lengths separating each of the top four.

Ernesto Rodriguez and Julia Melton won the regatta with a nice, consistent line of 1-6-3-4-2. The former world champions Bruno Bethlem and Dante Bianchi finished second. Peter Commette and Bruno Mello tied for third with Brian Kamilar and Enrique Quintero but won on the tie-breaker. Nick Voss and Nicole Popp rounded out the top five. Though the fleet was down from last year, it still featured top level competition. The Don Q Rum Keg has always been an international event with this year’s boats coming from as far away as Canada, Finland, Norway, Italy, Columbia, Uruguay, and Brazil in addition to the United States and Puerto Rico. Much of the fleet now moves to Nassau and the Royal Nassau Sailing Club for the third leg of the Snipe Winter Series.

Complete results: XLVII_Don_Q_Results

Report and photos by John Payne.


Gonzalo ‘Old Man’ Diaz with DonQ perpetual trophy

DSC_2753 Ernesto Rodriguez
Winners Ernesto Rodriguez and Julia Melto

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