KGB governs Etchells fleet on Biscayne Bay
Published on January 12th, 2015
The second stop of the 2014-2015 International Winter Etchells Series, formerly known as “The Jag,” attracted 49 boats for this year’s edition of the Sid Doren Memorial on January 10-11 in Miami, FL.
Hosted by Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, this Etchells circuit has long been one of the world’s premier series for small keel boats. While the numbers were down over last year, there were still plenty of former world champions sprinkled throughout the fleet, guaranteeing spirited competition.
Saturday began under mostly sunny skies with a nice northerly breeze and temperatures in the upper 60’s. The first race started with a bearing of 015 in a fairly steady 8 to 10 knots. Starting at the signal boat, Bryon Ehrhart and crew immediately tacked out to the right side and enjoyed a bit more pressure than the left and middle of the race course. At the top of the 1.7 mile first leg, they had carved out a five boat length lead, and they never looked back, winning the race wire to wire. Also launched was Gary Gilbert who finished second. Trailing a bit farther back was Kevin Grainger in third.
Gary Gilbert also started at the boat and went right. According to him, “55 [Ehrhart] dug a bit farther out to the right than us, but it still paid well for us.” He continued, “We seemed to be well tuned for the breeze, so we just stayed out there.”
By the second race the breeze was above 10 knots with gusts into the low teens. The direction was consistent so the1.7 mile first leg went off on a 015 degree bearing.
Steve Benjamin, a relative newcomer to the class, rounded the weather mark in first, narrowly leading a pack of boats in from the right side. Close on their heels was Jon McClean with Skip Dieball at the helm. They passed Benjamin on the downwind and hung on for the win. Benjamin finished second with Tony Rey taking third.
According to McClean, “We started well and went left, and the pressure stayed strong out there.” Jon added, “The new Dieball sails are great! The kite is very fast, and we made up lots of distance downwind. Also, Skip sailed the waves really well.”
The third race saw winds still from a general northerly direction, but by now they were up into the mid-teens. PRO Davey Brennan called for course 5, the five-leg course with an upwind finish, as a wide line of rain showers began to form to the east. Those showers started moving towards the race course, and featured a small water spout that came close to touching down on the bay.
The first boats to the top mark came in from the right side, led by Senet Bischoff. They were closely followed by a big pack of ten or fifteen boats led by Dirk Kneulman, sailing with Mark Watson. Those two boats held first and second all the way to the finish, with Byron Ehhart taking third.
“The winds didn’t go as far right as forecast,” noted Bischoff. “That’s the reason the first lefty got us to the top mark. From there we were able to extend. Ante Razmilovich made a nice gain going right (downwind) but we were able to maintain the lead. There were some big gains to be made due to both pressure and shifts. Also, the current made it choppy”
According to Dirk Kneulman, “It was all about the cloud.” He went on to explain, “We got a nice start and after a minute or two went right. Half way through the race the left looked good because we thought the cloud was moving that way, but it stayed right. The cloud just hung there and stayed.”
After racing, the sailors were treated to a wonderful seafood buffet with plenty of free beer. Papa’s Pilar Rum has signed on as a new sponsor of the series, and they were serving up plenty of their fantastic blond rum and dark rum.
Exclaimed Tony Rey, “What a great day out on the bay. Good wind, nice weather and big chop. A classic Biscayne Bay day!”
Sunday dawned with more breeze and the promise of scattered showers. With the top eight boats separated by a mere ten points, the competition would be on. Bryon Ehrhart held a slim one point lead over Stephen Benjamin, with Senet Bischoff and Tony Rey three more points removed.
Race four went off with a bearing of 085 degrees in 14 knots. For the first time the left side paid and Senet Bischoff came from that side to round the top mark in first. A big pack of ten to fifteen boats were close behind led by Jay Cross and Argyle Campbell.
After rounding the right gate (looking downwind), Bischoff and Cross benefitted from clear lanes and relatively smooth water. They headed back upwind on the left side. Probably the first fifteen or twenty boats rounded the same gate mark.
One of the boats caught up in the mess was Shannon Bush. She opined, “Today it was all about changing gears, to go through the slop. The gate was so churned up by all the traffic, we were reaching to get out of the slop.” She continued, “The breeze was on and off, and up and down all day.”
Interestingly, Gary Gilbert was the first boat to take the left gate mark. By finding a clear lane and smoother water, he was able to climb back to the top five at the next weather mark rounding. Senet Bischoff held on, leading the entire way. He was followed by Jay Cross and Peter Duncan in second and third, respectively.
The last race of the regatta went off on a course of 100 degrees. By now we were seeing gust in the upper teens. Unfortunately, a few of the boats challenging for the podium were called over early. Jay Cross and Argyle Campbell were among those named. Another was overnight leader Byron Ehrhart. He and Argyle eventually retired.
“There was a big left shift, maybe fifteen degrees, on the first upwind of race four, and we were hung out right,” explained Ehrhart. “That hurt us for that race. The next race we were over, and after coming back they said we were still over. I didn’t fancy looking at the back of the fleet for the entire race, so we sailed in.”
Meanwhile back on the race course, the team of Kinney and Bischoff was again way out in front. In fact, they also led this race all the way. Finishing second in the final race was Andrew Cumming. Third went to Skip Dieball and Jon McClean.
Winning the Etchells Sid Doren Memorial were Ben Kinney and Senet Bischoff on their boat KGB, with Clay Bischoff as their third. Clay explained what it took to keep their winning scoreline of 16-5-1-1-1. “We were very fast and didn’t make mistakes. We were also able to get off the line cleanly which allowed us to tack when we wanted to.”
Peter Duncan on Raging Rooster with Jud Smith and Tom Blackwell finished second, with third place going to Steve Benjamin on Scimitar with Mark Mendelblatt, Dave Hughes and Graham Landy as crew. Fourth place was Skip Dieball, driving Jon McClean’s boat with Jeff Eiber as their third. Rounding out the podium was Tony Rey skippering George Andreadis’s EFYRA 3, with Phil Trinter and Chris Cantrick as crew.
Report and photo by John Payne.
The 2015 Jaguar Series regatta dates:
Dec. 6-7: Louis Piana Cup Regatta
Jan. 10-11: Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta
Feb. 7-8: Florida State Championship Regatta
Feb. 27-Mar. 1: Mid-Winter’s East Regatta for the Schoonmaker Cup
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.