Start of race 6
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Final Day: Szabo/Monroe defy rig failure and ominous start to win Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship
Despite an inauspicious beginning – when George Szabo/Eric Monroe took 42 points for an OCS (over early start) in the first race – the San Diego duo went on to win the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship in a tightly-fought battle.
The four-day regatta came down to the final race on the final day, and a battle between several top contenders hailing from coast to coast.
The California Yacht Club Race Committee had to wait until the fog cleared– as well as the overly-eager racers who prompted a general recall – to begin Race Six just after 1:00 p.m. PST Sunday August 21.
John Dane III, sailing with his son-in-law Austin Sperry, was in fourth place going into today’s race and noted, “We saw on the way out that the wind was shifting 20 to 25 degrees and decided that, instead of picking one side, we would play the shifts.“
Dane said they were following frontrunners like Olympic Medalists Mark Reynolds/Hal Haenel, and regatta leader Szabo/Monroe, when they tacked out on a lift. “The others kept going right, because the thought is, ‘You go right here.’ But we sailed on starboard away from them, then got a big header and a puff, and the next thing we knew we were in first place.”
Dane/Sperry’s only heat on the 10.5 nm course came from Argentines Julio Labandeira and Enrique de la Torre, who caught up on the runs. “But we were much quicker upwind,” Dane told, and he triumphed to win Race Five, as well as the Masters Champion trophy for sailors age 50-59.
Szabo was still in contention for first overall though, and he admitted to “a bit of math and discussion” throughout the race.
With a slight three-point lead over world-class competitors, Szabo conceded, “The weather was pretty shifty and that made it even more stressful.” Adding to that, on the last downwind run the fitting that held the lower shroud on, broke. “We had to jury rig something for the last beat [to the finish] to hold it together. A broken mast isn’t going to come down right away – but we had to figure out how to fix it and get some speed.” On the last beat Szabo noted that rivals Merriman/Peters took “a huge flyer to the left.”
“We considered covering him but we had to keep this race … if it didn’t work, we had to worry about our place in the regatta as well, about the fleet,” Szabo said. “It could have worked for him … but fortunately not quite well enough.”
Merriman/Peters finished third and Szabo/Monroe sixth. With equal points – 16 – it came down to Szabo/Monroe’s two bullet record of 1-2-1-6-6, over Merriman/Peters’ 3-3-4-3-3.
Szabo/Monroe were named Star Class North American Champions for 2005 at the Sunday evening prize-giving at California Yacht Club. Dane/Sperry’s first place finish in Race Six shot them to third overall in the 41-boat fleet, acing out close contenders Eric Lidecis/Michael Marzahl, who earned fourth place with 29 points; and Iain Murray/Andrew Palfram -- fifth, with 39 points.
George Szabo and Eric Monroe
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Day 3: Toss-out tosses up standings on next-to-last day of Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship
George Szabo and Eric Monroe took the lead in the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship after the fifth and penultimate race of the four-day series, when California Yacht Club race organizers threw out each team’s worst finish.
Szabo humbly noted he had discarded a score of 42 – the result of an OCS (over early) on the first day of the regatta. That left the San Diego team with a record of 1-2-1-6 and a three-point lead over their closest rival.
“We don’t have the luxury of a throw-out going into tomorrow,” Szabo revealed. “It makes it a little harder … a lot harder and we will just have to get off the line well, but conservatively.” As the frontrunner in a highly competitive fleet, Szabo admitted, “I hope they don’t come after us!”
But second place Rick Merriman, sailing with Rick Peters, felt the competition was too tight to target any one competitor. “I think there are still enough guys that are so close, you can’t just go after one. We’re going to have to watch a couple of people and just try and win the race.”
Merriman/Peters had been leading the regatta with a steady performance of 3-3-4-3 before Saturday’s last race, where they took 10th place: their throw-out. Now, with 13 points overall, they trail Szabo/Monroe by three points, and hold a slender three point advantage over third place Erik Lidecis/Michael Marzahl.
Following a promising start to the day – Lidecis/Marzahl logged a close second in Race Four after sparring up and down the course with Szabo/Monroe – their luck turned. Lidecis, who underwent back surgery in December, said, “I had a tough time with two races and just wasn’t physically ready.”
“I was in pain and couldn’t get the groove; I couldn’t get off the line.” After that, Lidecis noted, “we were chasing all the time, going the wrong way.” A disappointing finish put them in third place overall with 16 points, but still the will to duke it out.
“Tomorrow we’re going to sail our race and try to win it and hope George [Szabo] has a bad one,” Lidecis said. “If I try to take him out then we can push ourselves back and lose third, and I don’t want to do that: I wouldn’t mind being third: this is our first North American championship.”
Principal Race Officer Bill Stump noted that in some regattas, after five races the winner might be determined and not have to sail the last race. “But that’s not true in this one. It’s all going down to the last race: there are quite a few in contention here.”
In Race Five, Stump remarked, “The top 10 boats changed quite a bit around the course, and were different at the finish than they were at the first mark. It’s a long course [2.6 nm legs] and in the middle of the racecourse a lot can change, particularly when it’s light or shifty.”
Stump, a “retired Star crew” reminisced about “when I used to race with Benny [Benny Mitchell, currently in 15th place in this event] and we used to love days like today … shifty and light enough that is wasn’t just a drag race; and we’d go out there and pick the shifts and go fast.”
Those conditions have a produced a regatta which is “very exciting” he said, with the majority of the fleet very close – as evidenced by the close finishes on the 10.5 nm courses, and volatile result page. His one suggestion for competitors going into the final race of the regatta -- which takes place Sunday August 21, 2005 on Santa Monica Bay -- was: “Nobody has been over early after the first race and they don’t want to be over early in Race Six. That would be very painful!”
Consistent performance has put the San Diego team of Rick Merriman/Rick Peters at the top of the fleet after two days of racing in the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship. “The Ricks” lead the 41 contenders with a steady 3-3-4 record, at the California Yacht Club event. Merriman said the team has relied on “pretty good boat speed” and “staying out of trouble,” but admitted, “our starts haven’t been our strong point this week.” That’s a daunting hurdle considering this competitive fleet is laced with Star Class world champions and Olympic medalists.
It is imperative to get a good start and find your lane early, according to Eric Doyle, 1999 World Champion. Sailing with crew Brian Sharp, Doyle logged his best finish of the regatta today, putting the duo in fifth place with 24 points.
“You need quite a big lane too,” Doyle added, “with the chop and the puffs and the lulls: a big lane you can maintain for a long period of time because the legs are so long.”
Today’s course was a 10.5 nm windward/leeward course with an average of 12 knots of westerly breeze. Erik Lidecis hopes those conditions continue. “We love this stuff,” said Lidecis, who took the bullet in Race Three with crew Michael Marzahl. At 6’9” Lidecis has an inimitable ability to hike his body out, and said, “We can keep the boat flatter and keep it in power longer than anybody else.” Lidecis was breathing a sigh of relief today too, after a mishap yesterday that busted the pole, bent the mast – and knocked them to 12th place in Race Two.
They buried the pole in the water and “bent the crap out of the mast,” Lidecis confessed. “It was bent at the bottom, which is really hard to get to. We were going to switch rigs but it would have taken too long to set up.” He credits Jorg Westerheide -- another competitor – with helping work the kinks out. “Jorg sat there and worked with it and we finally got most of it out. We had to tune it in and were a little concerned about the bend,” Lidecis added. “To be honest, I didn’t sleep last night.”
But Lidecis/Marzahl persevered, saying they got a good start and immediately went right, “grinding down” the competition, including George Szabo/Eric Monroe -- who were making a comeback of their own after a disappointing OCS in Race One and ended up taking second place in Race Three.
Lidecis/Marzahl follow frontrunners Merriman/Peters in second place overall with a 1-12-1 record and 14 points; tailed closely by John Dane/Austin Sperry in third, with 14.1.
Races Four and Five will run Saturday August 20 beginning at noon, after which time the crew will throw out their worst finish and the leaderboard is expected to transform. Stay tuned for more exciting action in the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship, which concludes Sunday August 21 at California Yacht Club.
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Day 1: August 18, 2005
Aggressive starts and hard-won finishes mark first day of racing at Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship
It wasn’t just a weather postponement that delayed the first race of the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship. Eager racers swarmed over the line early triggering two general recalls. The third, and successful, start saw eight of the 48 teams on course side (OCS). It’s a fine line between an aggressive start and an early start, pointed out Erik Lidecis, who won the first race. “We went right to the committee boat and went right,” said Lidecis, sailing Michael Marzahl. “We felt the right was going to fill in eventually and we were just waiting for it. And when it did come in, it was huge. It paid off and we were gone.”
At the recent King of Spain Regatta, Lidecis said he was hampered by conservative starts. Although they led after the first day of races, on Day Two, “we got hosed,” Lidecis admitted. “Our starts killed us. I decided I’m going to get a lot more aggressive on the starts: stop that conservative game and just go for it.”
Go for it, they did. Lidecis/Marzahl – Olympic hopefuls – led the fleet around the course in Race One today, fending off a last-leg rally by Australia’s Iain Murray/Andrew Palfram. “We just covered and stayed inside,” said Lidecis, holding on to win the first of six races in the four-day event.
As Race Two began, the breeze built to nearly 12 knots and chop increased. Star 2001 North American champion George Szabo said they had “pushed too hard” in Race One, learning of their OCS and disqualification at the windward mark. “We had a sneaking suspicion,” he said, “It was too good of a start.”
But a clean start in Race Two paid off. “The wind picked up and we were able to be in the right place at the right time,” said Eric Monroe, crew, earning them a bullet in the second race of the day.
Leading the regatta overall with a 3-3 record are San Diegans Rick Merriman/Rick Peters; followed by John Dane/Austin Sperry – who won the tune-up regatta for the King of Spain; and Murray/ Palfram.
Lidecis/Marzahl, who started deep in Race Two, broke their pole at the top mark of the second run and watched six boats inch by, to place fourth overall so far. Marzahl, who ended up being a ‘human pole’ on that last run, declared, “We work real hard together and never give up.”
“We have three more days here and we’re just looking for four perfect races.”
Preview of North American Championship:
Tight racing in the recent King of Spain Regatta heralds the tough competition anticipated for the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship, which begins here Thursday at California Yacht Club.
“We’re excited, but the problem is: when you win this one, it’s like you have a bulls-eye on your back,” explained Dane. “We’re happy to win the tune-up regatta, but it is just the tune-up regatta.”
Forty teams competed in the two-day event which serves as a foretaste of the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship, where more than 45 international entrants are expected to compete on Santa Monica Bay.
Noted Dane, “You’ve got a number of North American, Hemisphere and World Champions coming here … It’s a very, very deep and talented fleet.”
Although it was Dane’s first King of Spain competition, he was sailing with his newlywed son-in-law Austin Sperry, who won the trophy in 2001 with George Szabo. Dane used the weekend regatta to tune in a new boat, admitting he and Sperry hadn’t sailed since April, when they took second place in the Western Hemisphere Championship in Nassau, Bahamas.
The King of Spain title came down to a duel between Dane/Sperry and Olympic medalists Mark Reynolds/Hal Haenel, when Dane struck the first weather mark and the penalty turn put them in Reynolds’ wake.
“He [Reynolds] was leading us all the way around,” Sperry said; “when they jibed, we jibed. We passed him in the last 400 yards to go, to win the regatta by one point. It was pretty intense.”
But Sperry recognized the portent of winning the King of Spain trophy: “Everybody says it’s bad luck to win the first one.” Since 1929, only three King of Spain victors have gone on to triumph in the North American Championship.
Reynolds/Haenel took second while Erik Lidecis/Michael Marzahl, of nearby Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, took third.
“I know we had an advantage the first day,” with regard to local knowledge about prevailing weather conditions, said Lidecis, who captured the King of Spain trophy in 2003. “But after the first day everyone catches on to what’s going on.”
Regatta Chairman Alex Benson said conditions are expected to be superb for the Star fleet, which is a perennial favorite at host California Yacht Club. “We have always had a great, close relationship to the Star Class. An old-time member Owen Churchill was one of the original Star sailors in the 1920s and a lot of our members have continued to race in the Class.”
The Star is an Olympic Class boat, first built in 1911, that requires physicality and fine tuning on the part of the two-person team. It has a sleek, lightweight hull and powerful sail plan, which combine for exhilarating and competitive racing. Several thousand Stars have been built and are raced today on four continents.
“We have a very active local fleet with Star boat races every Thursday, and the group likes to compete against the higher-level people,” Benson noted. Hence California Yacht Club has vied for several North American Championship regattas in the past, and in 2002 hosted the World Championship.
Supporting the event is Keane, Inc., a premier business and IT services firm and decade-long sponsor. “There are striking similarities between competitive sailing and the values we at Keane try to embody,” noted President and CEO Brian Keane, citing, “a passion for challenge, a love of competition, and driving commitment to achieve world-class performance. The level of performance that racing inspires, combined with the teamwork required to win, creates an experience that is second to none.”
Racing for the Keane 2005 Star North American Championship title commences Thursday August 18 and continues through Sunday August 21. Six races will determine the North American victors, to be announced at a Sunday afternoon prize-giving at California Yacht Club.
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