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Smith wins battle, Benjamin wins war

Published on February 26th, 2017

The final regatta in the 4-event Etchells Biscayne Bay Series, the Midwinters East, was held February 24-26 in Miami, FL. With 47 teams on the line, Britain’s Lawrie Smith took the title without needing the final eighth race. Finishing second was Steve Benjamin who claimed the overall series award.

Final Results (Top 10 of 47; 8 races, 1 discard)
1. Alfie, Lawrie Smith, GBR – 1 -9 -2 -1 -9 -5 -1 -[48] ; 28
2. Terrapin, Steve Benjamin, USA – 7 -[18] -12 -5 -3 -3 -2 -1 ; 33
3. Skanky Gene, Jay Cross, USA – 9 -2 -4 -4 -[24] -12 -6 -3 ; 40
4. Arethusa, Phil Lotz, USA – 4 -1 -1 -2 -11 -[23] -4 -18 ; 41
5. Raging Rooster, Peter Duncan, USA – 12 -13 -6 -[14] -4 -2 -5 -4 ; 46
6. GBR 1424, Barry Parkin, USA – 3 -3 -[25] -3 -20 -11 -12 -13 ; 65
7. Lifted, Jim Cunningham, USA – 13 -7 -11 -6 -2 -[39] -22 -6 ; 67
8. KGB, Senet Bischoff, USA – 5 -6 -8 -21 -17 -[32] -3 -8 ; 68
9. Mahalaga, Peter Vessella, USA – 18 -5 -14 -18 -8 -13 -9 -[26] ; 85
10. Viento, Michael Goldfarb, USA – 17 -12 -18 -[45] -10 -10 -11 -10 ; 88

Series detailsEvent detailsMidwinters results

Event report by John Payne:
The regatta serves as the last opportunity to win the coveted series championship. The scoring for the overall series crown is comprised of a boat’s best two finish places in the first three regattas of the series plus her score in the Midwinters East. Going into the finale, three teams were tied with four points each. Steve Benjamin, Peter Duncan and Phil Lotz were all primed to duke it out for the crown.

On Friday, the chamber of commerce was back in charge of the weather. However, someone forgot to remind them of the need for wind. Clear skies, temperatures in the low seventies were a welcome respite to those here from northern climes and Europe, but the near total absence of breeze was a concern.

After postponing on shore, PRO Stuart Childerley sent the fleet out to the bay. Unfortunately, the Commander’s Weather forecast was spot on, as the light gradient breeze tussled with the sea breeze trying to fill in over the race course. Race one was finally started at 1400 after a total of three hours postponement.

British Olympic Medalist Lawrie Smith on Alfie, sailing with Hugo Rocha, Gancalo Ribero, and Ruben Castells, were the quickest out of the gates winning the first race over Langson McKeige in second and Barry Parkin in third.

The second race saw a steadier breeze in the 6-8 knot range from the east-southeast. Phil Lotz and his Arethusa team rallied to take to horn. Phil had usual tactician Luke Lawrence on board along with Lara Dallman-Weis and newcomer Ava Meshel. Ava is an 11-year-old Opti Green Fleet sailor from Lauderdale Yacht Club that was added to the crew to get closer to the weight limit.

According to Phil, “Ava was a real trooper, hiking hard when we needed her. I think she learned a lot, although she probably doesn’t appreciate that yet. We kept pointing out all of the Olympic medalists and world champions so she would understand the level of competition in the fleet.”

Finishing second in race two was Jay Cross just ahead of Barry Parkin once again in third. It was after 1700 by the time the fleet returned to shore and there were many sailors (of age) looking forward to the traditional free keg of beer. It had been a long day.

Saturday’s weather forecast was for more of the same and it was once again accurate. After a total two-and-a-half hour postponement, race three got under way with a course 4 at a bearing of 155 degrees and winds holding fairly steady at 7 knots. As often happens after a long postponement, the crews were all pushing it at the start. A large group of boats bulged out in the middle of the line, leading to a general recall. PRO Childerley went to the U flag for the re-start and still caught 12 boats over early.

After a clean start at the pin the first (non UFD) boat to the top was Ernie Pomerleau, followed closely by Phil Lotz and Lawrie Smith. Over the next three legs those three traded positions with Phil just nosing out Lawrie at the finish and Ernie finishing a close third.

At this point it was looking bleak for the other two boats gunning for the series crown. Peter Duncan and Steve Benjamin each had a single digit finish to go along with a pair of teens.

Race four saw the best breeze of the regatta so far. PRO Childerley set a course 4 at a distance of 1.4 miles in a steady breeze of 12 knots at 175 degrees. In what looked like Deja Vu the pin was won by Phil Lotz and Ernie Pomerleau. They were led into the top mark by Lawrie Smith. The left was definitely still paying. Lawrie won the race with Phil finishing second. Barry Parkins scored the hat trick with his third third of the regatta. Of note, Steve Benjamin finished fifth, to begin clawing his way back to the top.

By the end of race four, everyone was exhausted. During the last downwind, an anonymous voice on the race committee private channel suggested, tongue planted firmly in cheek, that someone had hidden the Romeo flag (used to signal another race to be run). PRO Childerley persevered and race five went off just after 1600.

Bruce Burton sailing with John Easley and Skip Dieball took the victory. perennial Etchells Series winner Jim Cunningham, sailing with Jeff Madrigali, Mark Ivey, and Bryn Bachman took second. Rounding out the top three were Steve Benjamin, Michael Menninger, Ian Liberty, and Dave Hughes.

At the end of day two it was Phil Lotz in first with 8 points, followed by Lawrie Smith with 13, and Jay Cross with 19. The race committee decided to get a one-hour earlier start on Sunday in light of the forecast for favorable winds.

Commander’s forecast was once again right on the money and race six started at 1013 after a brief delay. A course 4 was set at a bearing of 035 degrees in a nice steady 7 knots with some gusts up to 12.

Andrew Cumming sailing on Blackadder with Brian Kamilar, Kristin Sanders, and Will Felder took the horn for the race. They were followed by Peter Duncan on Raging Rooster with Andrew Palfry, and Jud Smith. Steve Benjamin finished third.

Peter commented, “Great Race Committee work! It was a pleasurable weekend on the bay as it’s always nice being someplace warm.” Jud added, “The left was really paying. We missed a chance to go back in one race, and it really cost us.”

Steve Benjamin chimed in, “We were using our heavy jib and were really worried the wind might drop at the end of the race. Fortunately it held up and the last two races were in 15-18 knots.”

Race seven was another course 4 with the same bearing and an oscillating breeze of 15 knots with some gusts to 18. Once again the left paid with the puffs mostly coming from that side. Lawrie Smith won the race assuring him of the regatta title with a race to spare. Steve Benjamin took second with Senet Bischoff on KGB with new crewmates Chris Larson and Stuart Finn finishing third.

So it came down to the last race to decide the 2017 Etchells Winter Series winner. Phil Lotz held a nine point lead over Steve Benjamin. Benjamin once again chose the left side and got out to an early lead. Lotz got mixed up with some other boats and wasn’t able to get out clean, getting pushed back. Meanwhile Benjamin led the race to the finish allowing him to leap over Lotz who finished the race 19th.

Winning the overall Etchells Biscayne Bay Series was Steve Benjamin on the strength of three and one in the first and third of the series, and a second in the Midwinter Championship. He was followed by Phil Lotz in second and Peter Duncan in third.

Lawrie Smith won the Midwinters Regatta and the Schoonmaker Cup. Second went to Steve Benjamin. Rounding out the top three was Jay Cross sailing with Stephanie Roble, Michael Buckley, and George Peet.

The award for top Corinthian team went to Ante Razmilovic, Andrew Mills, and Brian Hammersley who finished an impressive 17th overall.

Phil Lotz was also awarded the Dr. Steve Horowitz Memorial award for most improved team.

A special shout out to the excellent Biscayne Bay Race Management Team! Speaking to PRO Childerley after Sunday’s racing he said, “On Friday morning, looking at the forecast, I would have bet a lot of money that we wouldn’t get in the scheduled races. Well done to the BBYC race committee members!”

2017 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series
Louis Piana Cup Regatta – December 10-11, 2016
Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta – January 7-8, 2017
Florida State Championship – February 4-5, 2017
Mid-Winter’s East Regatta – February 24-26, 2017

Series Details: To qualify for the overall 2017 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series prizes, boats must include 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 the 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 overall winner of the 201 7 Biscayne Bay Series.

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