Duncan wins battle, Benjamin wins war

Published on March 4th, 2018

The 2017-18 Etchells Biscayne Bay Regatta Series wrapped up with the 3-day Midwinters East Regatta for the Schoonmaker Cup on March 2-4 in Miami, FL. Forty-four boats came out to beautiful Biscayne Bay for the scheduled 8-race regatta, under the auspices of Etchells Fleet 20 and Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.

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 Midwinter Championship Regatta.

Going into the finale, three teams were separated by two points. Jim Cunningham on Lifted was sitting on top with two points. British Olympic Medalist Lawrie Smith, on Alfie, was in second with three points. Reigning Etchells World Champion, Steve Benjamin on Scimitar sat in third position with four points. They were all primed to duke it out for the crown.

On Friday (Mar 2), the chamber of commerce was back in charge of the weather. Partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the upper seventies, and a nice breeze of nine knots were a welcome respite to those here from northern climes and Europe.

PRO Stuart Childerley got the first four leg race off on time at a bearing of 320, with a first leg distance of 1.4 nautical miles.

Scott Kaufman on American Jane II, sailing with Lucas Calabrase, Austen Anderson, and Jesse Kirkland, were the quickest out of the gates, winning the first race wire to wire, an impressive achievement in the shifty winds. Second went to Andrew Cumming with Ante Razmilovic in third.

The second race saw the same shifty breeze in the 9 knot range from the northwest. This race also saw a boat lead from start to finish with Lawrie Smith taking the horn on Alfie. Sailing with Lawrie were Richard Parslow, Joao Matos Rosa, and Goncalo Riberio. Second and third went to Scott Kaufman and Michael Goldfarb, respectively.

A five-leg course was set for race three at the same bearing of 320, although the wind was getting more and more shifty. The fleet was greeted by a 20 degree right shift at the top mark favoring those who chose the right side. Marvin Beckman, the 2013 Etchells World Champion, rode the shift to round first. He gave back a few spots on the downwind with newly minted U.S. Sailing Yachtsman of the Year, Peter Duncan, taking over the lead. He was joined on Raging Rooster by Andrew Palfrey, Victor Diaz de Leon, and Sasha Ryan. Reigning Etchells World Champion Steve Benjamin finished second and George Francisco finished third.

After racing Benjamin commented, “The wind in race three was one of the shiftiest I’ve ever seen. A huge righty came in just before the second gate and it really helped us. We took the left gate, looking downwind, and by the time we rounded we were looking at a reach to the finish. I told the guys to get the spinnaker pole ready, and they laughed at me. After a minute or two, up went the kite, and we kept it up right until the finish. I think we passed 17 boats to finish second.”

The big shift led to a bit of last second chaos on the signal boat. The 180 degree shift didn’t reach the finish line until the first boats were just a few hundred yards from the line. The signal boat swung 180 degrees on its anchor, leaving the finish line flag on the wrong side of the boat, and the pin in the wrong position. Only the quick work by PRO Childerley and the BBYC race committee staved off a crazy finish.

As PRO Stuart Childerley, a former Etchells World Champion himself, said, “The shift happened at a good time in the scheme of things, so the fleet didn’t invert. It did make for some interesting tactical calls on the last leg.”

Sitting in first after day one was Scott Kaufman with 13 points. He was followed by Peter Duncan with 16, and Robert Alderdice with 23. Series leaders Cunningham, Smith and Benjamin were in 25th, 13th and 6th respectively. The battle for the Series Championship was opening up.

Saturday’s weather forecast was for more of the same, and it was once again accurate. In fact it turned out nicer than Friday. Clear skies and 70 degrees welcomed the fleet to the bay. Winds were 9 knots from the north, with some stronger puffs. A four leg course was set, and they were off.

Ante Razmilovic, Jim Cunningham, Kevin Grainger, Mark Watson and Robert Alderdice, battled it out, changing places throughout the race. Ante, sailing his Swedish Blue with Andrew Mills and Phillip Carlson aboard, held on for the gun. Kevin Grainger took second about a boat length ahead of the next three. Mark Watson just nosed out Jim Cunningham and Corinthian Craig Mense for third, with less than a boat length separating the three.

Race 5 was pretty straight forward though the breeze was starting to show signs of going right. Jose Fuentes on Caramba with Luke Lawrence and Ian Coleman aboard led the race start to finish. Steve Benjamin took second with Andrew Cumming finishing third.

The wind did continue to swing right and Race 6 went off at a bearing of 050 degrees with a wind speed if 14 knots. After a big surge of boats in the middle of the line led to a General Recall, The PRO switched to a “U” flag. Two boats got caught, including race 5 winner Jose Fuentes.

William Douglas on Goombay Smash, a newcomer to the fleet, won the race, leading nearly all the way. He had Chris Larson and Mark Andrews as crew. Finishing second was Jim Cunningham with Michael Goldfarb taking third.

The end of day two, and six races (with one drop), saw Peter Duncan in first with 24 points. He was followed by Kevin Grainger with 26 points and Andrew Cumming with 27 points. The Midwinter Championship would come down to the last day. Steve Benjamin in 4th and Lawrie Smith in 6th were set to battle for the series championship.

Après racing featured a free keg of Heineken under the sea grape trees, and a delicious Cuban food buffet laid out by Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.

Speaking with Peter Duncan back on shore he said, “We had pretty good starts, even on race 4 where we didn’t do very well. In that race we had some trouble and made a couple of errors at the top one-half of the course.” He continued, “We sailed conservatively, and it was kind of patchy so we just tried to stay in the breeze.”

Sunday proved to be a bit chillier than the previous days with temperatures in the 60’s. Still Chamber of Commerce weather with sunny skies and winds in the 11 knot range. Race 7 got started on time but had to be abandoned when the breeze wouldn’t stabilize.

The re-start had a bearing of 040 degrees and a velocity of 11 knots. Steve Benjamin was in first wire to wire. The win coupled with a 33 by Lawrie Smith, assured him the win for the 2017-18 Etchells Biscayne Bay Regatta Series, with one race to spare. Michael Goldfarb took second with Jose Fuentes in third.

Race 8 was, again, a five leg test. After a “U” flag start, the fleet headed off at a bearing of 040 degrees into a 13 knot breeze. The race was a back and forth between two Peters with Peter Rogers edging out Peter Duncan for the horn. Rogers was sailing his boat Highlife with crew Ian Cooper and Neil Harrison. (Rogers wound up taking a scoring penalty, leaving him with 10 points). Scott Kaufman finished third.

Winning the overall Etchells Biscayne Bay Series was Steve Benjamin on the strength of two seconds in the second and third regattas of the series, and a second in the Midwinter Championship. He was followed by Lawrie Smith in second and Peter Duncan in third.

Peter Duncan won the Midwinters Regatta and the Schoonmaker Cup while the award for top Corinthian team went to Craig Mense and his crew of John Harford and Fred Strammer who finished a 22nd overall. Jose Fuentes was awarded the Dr. Steve Horowitz Memorial award for most improved team.

Final Results (Top 10 of 44; 8 races, 1 discard)
1. Peter Duncan/ Andrew Palfrey/Victor Diaz de Leon/ Sasha Ryan, USA – 11-4-1-[30]-4-4-5-2; 31
2. Steve Benjamin/ Michael Menninger/ Ian Liberty/ Johnny Goldsberry, USA – 21-9-2-[25]-2-6-1-6; 47
3. Kevin Grainger/ Mark Mendelblatt/ Chuck Norris, USA – 4-5-[21]-2-6-9-15-17; 58
4. Andrew Cumming/ Brian Kamilar/ William Felder/ Nikki Medley, CAN – 2-[30]-7-8-3-7-19-19; 65
5. Scott Kaufman/ Lucas Calabrase/ Austen Anderson/ Jesse Kirkland, USA – 1-2-10-12-21-17-[30]-3; 66
6. Robert Allardice/ Tomas Hornos/ Josh Revkin, USA – 6-12-5-9-[29]-19-7-10; 68
7. Lawrie Smith/ Richard Parslow/ Joao Matos Rosa/ Goncalo Riberio, GBR – 19-1-27-6-10-8-[32]-4; 75
8. Ante Razmilovic/ Andrew Mills/ Phillip Carlson, GBR – 3-13-11-1-[24]-24-6-21; 79
9. Peter Rogers/ Ben Cooper/ Neil Harrison, GBR – 22-[26]-6-11-7-13-13-10; 82
10. Jose Fuentes/ Luke Lawrence/ Ian Coleman, USA – 9-20-13-34-1-[46]-3-7; 87

Series informationEvent detailsResults

Series results … click here.

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
Midwinters East Regatta – March 2-4, 2018

Source: John Payne

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