Bill Hardesty back in the Etchells saddle

Published on February 10th, 2014

The Etchells 2014 Jaguar Cup Midwinter Series continued in Miami on February 8-9, with the ‘Jag’ attracting 73 boats for the Florida State Championships, the third stop of the four event winter series. After a lackluster performance in the second event, 2011 World Champion Bill Hardesty, sailing “Line” with his new bride Mandi, Marcus Eagan and current world match racing champion Taylor Canfield, took the title.

Miami is famous for its great winter climate, and Saturday did not disappoint. After a brief postponement on shore, waiting for wind, the fleet headed out.  A nice steady breeze of five to six knots from the south-southeast greeted the sailors when they reached the racing area on Biscayne Bay.  The sun was out and temperatures were hovering in the high 70s as everyone prepared for the first of three races scheduled for the day.

For race one, PRO Dave Brennan set a course at 165° with a first beat of 1.8 miles in a little over 6 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.  As Judd Smith commented, “It’s a fine line to remain hidden in the middle of the line while remaining legal.  We had one start where the guys on either side were called over early, and each was about a half a length in front of us.”  He went on to say, “The problem was, it took them a while to go back and, we had to eat a lot of bad air.”

Thomas Carruthers, sailing with Andrew Campbell and Chris Busch on “Elizabeth”, was first to the top, followed closely by Ernie Pomerleau and David Burrows.  Dave Brennan likes to start each Etchells race with a long first beat and first downwind, in an attempt to spread out the fleet. Having 70+ sharp pointed keelboats arriving in a leeward gate together can be rather dicey.  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.

Pomerleau and Dressell eked out a small lead on the downwind after splitting from Caruthers, and taking the left gate. They extended their lead on the upwind and took the gun.   Caruthers held on for second, with Bruce Golison easing into third. Bruce was taking the weekend off from his usual duties as PRO of the Melges 20 fleet, which was racing across Biscayne Bay, where he was seriously missed. Of note, former world Champion, Bill Hardesty, rounded the last weather mark in the low twenties and managed to gain ten boats on the last downwind, finishing eleventh.

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.  Seamus McHugh, sailing his boat “No Dramas”, with Simon Fry and former Etchells world-champion Andy Beadsworth, led the fleet to the first mark. Coaching Seamus for the week was two-time Olympic medalist Rod Davis. Keith Whittemore and Michael Gavin followed closely in second and third. Whittemore managed to pass McHugh on the second upwind and held on for the win.  Phil Lotz on “Arethusa” finished third.

By the start of race three, we were seeing eleven to twelve knots on the race course with lots of rain squalls dotting the horizon as a cold front moved in. Dave got the race off with a course bearing of 175° and a distance of 1.8 miles. Bill Hardesty rounded the top mark in first, followed by Jim Cunningham and Mark Watson, sailing with Dirk Kneulman. Hardesty led the race wire to wire taking the gun.  After the race, the fleet bolted for shore, just beating the rain to the dock.

Andrew Campbell noted the conditions could have been worse. “The winds were streaky but overall fairly consistent, especially considering the conditions of last week’s Miami Olympic Class Regatta. Overall we sailed well with two top-five finishes.”

Seamus McHugh comments on their struggles. “We could have sailed better. It was very tough if you got deep off the start because of the big fleet. (My team) sets the bar pretty high.  They don’t care as much about the result as how they sailed. They can get upset with a second, so it’s very demanding on the amateur on the boat.”

Typically, once back on shore it’s 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.  With the arrival of the driving rain, the festivities moved under the covered terrace.

There was a considerable amount of commiserating amongst the competitors. Twenty different boats had a single digit finish in their score line (out of a possible twenty-seven), but many of those also carried one or more scores in the bottom half of the fleet.  A few had two single digit scores and one “throw out”.  Those unfortunate boats were eagerly awaiting Sunday’s two scheduled races, which would bring an opportunity to drop the high score.

However, it was not to be. Sunday dawned with lingering fog and little wind following the overnight passage of a cold front.  PRO Dave sent the fleet out, hoping the building heat and clouds over shore might bring a sea breeze, but it was not to be. After waiting in vain for an hour and a half, Dave sent the competitors back to shore. That decision meant there would not be a drop for the regatta forcing many to keep a score they were desperately hoping to discard.

This year’s regatta was dedicated to the memory of Tom Piper, former captain of Etchells Fleet 20, and one of the men responsible for creating the Jag Series. His long-time partner Kristan Garrahan joined BBYC commodore Lloyd Hooper to present the awards. Winning the 2014 Florida State Championship was Bill Hardesty, sailing “Line” with his new bride, Mandi (I told you she was a keeper), Marcus Eagan and current world match racing champion Taylor Canfield.

After a lackluster performance in the previous Jag Series regatta, Bill devoted more time to this event. “We spent a lot of our practice time this week working on rig tuning to improve speed. I’ve pretty much been out of the Etchells since 2011 but I am starting to feel more comfortable in the boat.”

Finishing second was Peter Duncan on “Raging Rooster” with Jud Smith and Tom Blackwell, who found comfort in their game plan. “We needed to get to an edge,” shared Peter. “The right seemed to pay all day. The sea state was also a big factor.  I haven’t experienced that big chop before down here.”  Judd Smith added, “On the downwinds the middle was not too great. We worked hard jibing left or right to get out of the packs of boats. Once we got to the right we were able to pass boats.”  Duncan also was awarded the Etchells Fleet 20 Florida State Championship plaque as the top finishing Florida based boat.

Finishing third was Thomas Carruthers, sailing with Andrew Campbell and Chris Busch on “Elizabeth.”

Reining Etchells world champion Marvin Beckman on “The Martian” with Steve Hunt and Azra Culver, finished fourth. Commented Marvin, “We had a good couple of days of practice and were getting faster. Also, fighting back into the twenties after getting pushed over early on race three was important. We played the shifts and the downwinds really well.  There was shear on the left in race two, and on almost all of the downwinds.”

Rounding out the top five was Seamus McHugh on “No Dramas” with Andy Beadsworth and Simon Fry.

In his acceptance speech Bill Hardesty said his strategy for Sunday would have been to push Peter Duncan just enough so that Peter would win the regatta by one point, and once again open the bar for everybody after the awards. Since that plan didn’t pan out, Bill and Peter agreed to split the tab for the open bar.  Is a new tradition for the Jag Series now born?

Next up, the Mid-Winter’s East Regatta for the Schoonmaker Cup on February 28-March 2.

Complete results:

Report and photos by John Payne

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Fourth Place

Fifth Place

The 2014 Jaguar Series regatta dates are:

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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