Regatta Reports
Final Reports for North American Championship
By Horton/Nichol and Lynn Fitzpatrick
Nov 16, 2006, 17:38

North American results to date:
Day Three Reports
Day Two Reports
Day One Reports
Preview and Measurement Days

Final Day Report by Lynn Fitzpatrick
As went the Worlds, so went the North Americans. Hamish Pepper and Carl Williams stayed on land today and packed up their boat, while the rest of the fleet took to Biscayne Bay under overcast skies and 8-10 knots of breeze. When the racing was over Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada managed to pass Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau to take second place in the regatta. The three teams finished 1,2,3 at the World Championship in San Francisco last month.

Two boats up from the pin, Peter Bromby and Bill McNiven stole the start, had clear air all the way up the first beat, and rounded the first weather mark with a 5-boat-length lead. They were followed by Matthias Miller and Manuel Voigt, Robert Schiedt and Bruno Prada, James Spithill and Magnus Liljedahl, Augie Diaz and Phil Trinter, Rick Merriman and Eric Munroe, and Henry Filter and Will Wagner.

The wind lightened on the run John Dane and Austin Sperry took the lead away from Bromby and McNiven. A big left shift came through after the first couple of boats rounded the left gate. James Spithill, with local Olympic gold medal crew, Magnus Lilijedahl, capitalized on the shift and scooped the lead during the second beat. Bromby/ McNiven, Merriman/Munroe were behind them.

Never giving up, John Dane and Austin Sperry recaptured the lead on the run and rounded the right leeward gate 200 yards ahead of Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. The next dozen boats followed around the same gate before the downwind parade thinned out enough for boats to start to round the left gate. The wind continued to back and the fleet spent nearly the entire final leg on port.

Dane/Sperry got the gun, followed by Scheidt/Prada, Spithill/Lilijedahl, Bromby/McNiven, and Merriman/Munroe. The biggest disappointment for the day was the former Star World Championship team of Rohart and Rambeau. They had to keep their throw out going into the final race, a 26th, after their 28th place finish for the day. They dropped to 3rd in the series, as a consequence.

The top four teams in the series were eager to be reweighed once they hit the docks, so that they could eat, shower, put away their gear and start to celebrate. (I’d already had a chance to take a second look at Carl Williams’ tattoos in the morning, when he and Hamish Pepper asked to be weighed before the rest of the fleet sailed out for the final race).

The top North Americans were Ross MacDonald and Mike Wolfs of Canada, who finished 5th.

Final Report from Horton/Nichol:
The final day of the 2006 North American Champs was no easier then the previous three. The 80 boat fleet was as aggressive as ever and it took three starts to finally get all the boats off the line. The wind was out of the NNW and very shifty again. Andy and I did not have the best start and once we were behind the leaders, we have no clear air to tack in the whole first leg.

By the time we got to the weather mark we had fallen to the back of the 80 boat fleet and had a lot of work to do. By the end of the 4th leg of the race we had clawed our way up to 18 place and were in position to make a move into the top ten with a solid last upwind leg.

In Miami the wind typically likes to go to the northeast for a few days after a cold front passes and the NNW direction was really unusual. We had made good gains down wind by playing the increased pressure on the right side of the course and late in the day the wind often goes right. We decided to play the right and were in good company with Ross MacDonald (CAN), Xavier Rohart (FRA) and Mark Reynolds (USA). When we rounded the leeward mark our heading on port was 040, by the time we got to the finish the biggest port tack lift that we saw was 000 (the wind went 40 degrees to the left!). Fifteen boats that went the other way passed us pushing us down to 33rd in the last race.

One of our major goals for the regatta was to improve our downwind speed in our new boat. We had figured some things out in our previous regattas and put a new mast step in the boat and made big changes to our set up. We were very fast down wind all regatta and passed boats on nearly every run.

Another goal was to improve communication on the boat and Scott Ikle (head coach for the national champion Hobart-William Smith Sailing Team) had worked with Andy in the past and was able to contribute a lot to what we were doing on the water. It also helps to keep getting a fresh perspective on the water bringing new ideas to the program.

It was excellent to work with so many talented people this week from Olympic Gold Medalists Keven Burnham and Magnus Liljedahl to James Spithill and Etchells World Champion Bill Mauk, it was truly an all-star team and we learned a tremendous amount going forward.

Day Three Report from Sail-World
The New Zealand crew of Hamish Pepper and Carl Williams have won the North American Star Championship with a race to spare.

Williams and Pepper won the World Championship six weeks ago in San Francisco, having been sailing for just eight months in the class. They won today's race sailing against a very classy 79 boat fleet in Miami, Florida, and are in an unbeatable points position.

The second placed crew of Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau (FRA) the 2004 Olympic Silver medalists have 20 points on the table with the Kiwis on top with just six points after the discard has been counted. Their worst placing is seventh in the Race 4, and even if they had to count this place they would still have 13pts, compared to Rohart and Rambeau's 14 points - should they win the final race of the regatta.

The third placed crew of Olympic Gold Medalist and seven times world champion in the Laser class, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA) are on 20 points and can't look at Pepper and Williams.

The victory caps off an amazing year for the Kiwi crew, who have risen from zero to be #3 in the ISAF rankings and will probably top that feat when the latest rankings are announced in a couple of weeks.

Pepper and Williams have completely dominated this regatta winning three of the five races sailed to date, and with their two worst placings being in the top seven.

The other New Zealand crew of Rohan Lord and Peter Fox are lying in 15th overall having been scored as an OCS (early starter) in today's race. They were previously in eighth place overall.

Hamish Pepper spoke to Sail-World after their series win in the North American Star Championships in Miami.

"We certainly had great speed upwind. The breeze here wasn’t totally tricky (as it was in the Worlds in San Francisco) and was readable.

"We started off well with two good wins on the first day, followed by the third and seventh on the second. The seventh should really have been a third.

"Although we didn’t get off the start line as well as some, we were sailing very fast.

"In the fifth race we opted for a conservative start to stay out of trouble, and then looked for good clear water. We were second for much of the way to a Canadian crew, then we passed them and went on to win by 40 to 60 seconds."

Day 3 Report – 5th Race by Lynn Fitzpatrick
Only one race was scheduled for the 3rd day of racing at the Star North Americans. Despite light conditions, the sailors were more exhausted following racing than had they sailed two heavy air races. After a ½-hour postponement on the water, and two general recalls the fleet coasted up wind. A big left shift caught most of the fleet off guard. Those on the left could fetch the weather mark, those on the right were nearly a mile behind at the first mark. As Robert Schiedt and Bruno Prada approached the leeward gate, the committee signaled an abandonment.

The line was shifted several hundred yards to the east and the race was restarted. Ten boats, including two of the top ten contenders (Lord and Szabo) were OCS. Canadian Grand Master Hans Fogh and Dave Caesar rounded the weather mark in the lead with Hamish Pepper and Carl Williams close behind. The two boats rounded the offset mark before any of the other boats reached the weather mark.

Pepper/Williams stole the lead going up the second beat as the wind shifted left and Fogh protected the right. At the top of the second sausage, Pepper was 1:20 minutes ahead of Fogh and Mark Reynolds was 4:00 minutes behind. The last boat rounded 20 minutes behind the leaders.

While Hamish, Carl, Hans and Dave continued to extend, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada and Peter McChesney and Todd Hiller quietly picked off boats to move from 16th and 17th to 4th and 6th, respectively.

Competitors saw the most breeze during the end of the final beat. In many cases, they were able to stretch their backs, get out of the hunched and squatting positions that they had been in for hours, and actually hike. Mark Reynolds and Skip Dieball and Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada ended the marathon day in a photo finish for 3rd and 4th.

After 6 races and a drop, Pepper and Williams have 3 bullets and 6 points. They are far enough in front of Rohardt and Rambeau so that they do not have to sail the final race of the series. They’re on an amazing run. Scheidt and Prada are in 3rd with 20 points. Ross MacDonald and Mike Wolfs are the top North Americans with 30 points.

Day 3 Report from Horton/Nichol:
Today turned out to be another long day on the water. It was a tough day for the race committee and even tougher day for us. The breeze was light and really shifty. It was blowing from the city, which in Miami means anything can happen. It was so shifty the race committee had to abandon the first attempt at a race when it was nearly half way over. The wind had swung so far around on the first leg that it wasn't a fair race so they blew it off. This was a great decision by the RC.

The wind settled down a few minutes after we all made it back to the starting line and the race finally got under way. Unfortunately for us the fleet was not as well behaved today as it has been all week. There were a bunch of boats over the line early at the start and two of them were directly in front of us. So, it was a pretty tough place to start.
Since we were back a bit compared to the boats over the line, we were flushed out pretty early and spent the rest of the race playing catch up. In the end we finished 22. This puts us in 6th overall. With a good race tomorrow we can make up to 4th, so that's what we're shooting for.

At this point I'm not quite sure how the rest of the scores look. One of the boats scored OCS protested the race committee and asked to be reinstated in the race. The individual recall flag went up a little late when the race was finally started. I believe the protest committee has decided to give all 6 of the OCS boats their average points, but the scores are not out yet. So it sounds like the two boats who started early right below us and kept sailing will not be disqualified, even though they started early.

Tomorrow looks to be another tricky day with light winds out of the northeast. With a good race we can move up to 4th place but Hamish Pepper has already won the regatta with one race to spare. He has sailed an amazing regatta and our congratulations go out to him.

Day 2 report following 4 races from Lynn Fitzpatrick:
Carl Williams is still smiling after the conclusion of the second day of racing. He and skipper Hamish Pepper are sitting one point in front of Rohart and Rambeau. Freddie Loof and Anders Ekstrom redeemed themselves by taking a 1, 2 for the 3rd and 4th races of the series.

The weather stole the show during the second race of the second day. The race was started in 9-10 knots at about 240 degrees. The sky was overcast and cumulus clouds with very dark bottoms marched their way from the Everglades to Biscayne Bay. The anvils grew higher as the fleet sailed back upwind in light chop toward a dirty grey wall that swallowed the shoreline behind it. Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau rounded the weather mark first. They rounded the offset mark just as the first lightning bolt hit. Freddie Loof and Anders Ekstrom were a thunder clap behind them. The first 10 boats bore away and took off on a plane on the leading edge of the front. Those who followed had a hard time handling the 30-knot gust that came through. Clean up crews dodged lightning bolts as they followed the fleet toward the finish line and Coconut Grove.

At the end of four races Pepper, Rohart and Scheidt have 12, 13, and 23 points, respectively. Andy Horton and Brad Nichol are the leading North American contenders, sitting in fourth with 42 points, George Szabo and Mark Strube are in 6th, Andy Macdonald and Brian Fatih are in 9th and John MacCausland and Robert Schofield are in 10th.

Day Two Report from Horton/Nichol:
Andy told me he would kill me if I said, "It was an electrifying day on the water." Well, at least it was not shocking! Everybody was on the look out for the cold front to come through Miami, this is the same front that brought tornados to the mid western US yesterday. It finally came as the fleet reached the last weather mark of the day bringing blinding rain, heavy wind and plenty of thunder and lightning. Star sailors are a bunch of tough guys so we continued to race.

We were having a tough race at that point after a bad start threw us off our game plan but at the offset mark we nailed a jibe and took off on a plane. It was raining so hard that we could not see 100 ft but we pointed our compass on the finish line and let 'er rip. These were fire hose conditions (we were going so fast that the spray felt like a fire hose) and we were able to pass quite a few boats. As the storm cell passed the wind got a bit lighter and we had trouble making the transition from reaching to running and lost four boats to finish 13th. We were not exactly happy but it was good to be able to claw back from 38th at the first mark.

There was a first race of the day, which seems like a blur at this point with so many tacks and jibes between the Swedes, French, Kiwis and ourselves. All I know is at the finish we were able to hold off the attack to finish second.

With a 2, 13, today we move up into 4th place with two races to go. We hope to drop the 25 from yesterday after tomorrowâ?Ts one race. As the front has passed tomorrow should bring light wind out of the north and cold (70 degree) temperatures. The regatta will finish with the sixth and final race on Saturday.

Day One Report from Lynn Fitzpatrick:
2006 Star North American Championship – Day 1

Following several days of light air, Biscayne Bay finally gave Star sailors what they came here for – enough breeze to race (8-10 knots). The first race for the 78-boat Star North American Championship fleet went off without a single general recall, however that other flag, the individual recall went up, and no one went back. The individual recall flag went up after the start of the second race also. Rather than finding themselves at or near the top of the leader board at the end of the day, former Star World Champions Fredrik Loof and Anders Ekstrom were sitting in dead last, 158 points behind the leaders, this year’s world champions Hamish Pepper and Carl Williams.

The first weather mark roundings have been tight and it’s pretty noisy down at the first leeward gates. Whether they take the lead on the run or on the second beat, once they have it, Peper and Williams extend. They finished both races with convincing leads. When I asked Williams how many seconds had elapsed between them and the second place Frenchmen, Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau, he grinned. “What does it matter?!”

The only smile that was bigger than Williams’ came from the back of the pack. Beaming from ear to ear and sailing her first regatta on salt water was Becca Ruhm, 12, from Racine Wisconsin. Her grandfather, Tony Herrmann made a deal with her earlier this year – once she reached 100 pounds, they would sail Star boats together. The other deal that they made was that they wouldn’t sail when it was blowing more than 12 knots. The 2.6-mile beats took their toll on Becca, who doesn’t wear a harness, and after the first leeward leg of the second race of the day, she and her grand dad sailed in.

Becca is having a blast. She’s amazed by all the Star power here, loves the warm weather, and can’t understand why more “girls don’t sail Stars. It’s fun.” Becca is a very special person – the youngest, lightest and least experienced of everyone here and one of less than a handful of females having a great time among this galaxy of talent. Home schooled and living with her grandparents, she is having one of the most memorable learning experiences of her life.

After two races, the only North American team in the top five is Ross MacDonald and Mike Wolfs, in 3rd. Andy MacDonald and Brian Fatih, Mark Reynolds and Skip Dieball, John Dane III and Austin Sperry, Andy Horton and Brad Nichol, hold seven through tenth place.

Report from Andy Horton and Brad Nichol:
It was a tough day on the water due to the tremendous competition in nearly perfect conditions. We sailed two races in 10-12 knots out of the southeast, sunny skies and warm water. As the city of Miami has pointed out on a banner at the US Sailing Center, "the best venue for dinghy sailing in the world!"

In the first race we were pretty convinced that the left side would have more pressure and a bit of left shift at the top. We were the second boat from the pin with plenty of room to work but some wankers were not set up well and reached down on top of us taking our wind and finally forcing us to tack. Once we were forced into the pack, life got difficult with many boats tacking on us and taking our wind. We rounded the first mark in the middle of the fleet and jibed early, making good gains on the lead pack.

Up the second weather leg we played the middle of the course working hard to hit every shift. We gained a lot of distance on the lead pack but not enough to get in contact with them. Down the run we did our best to make gains but were only able to fight our way to 25th place. World Champion Hamish Pepper won the race after leading at every mark.

In between races we reassessed our tackticks and our boat set up and made some good changes. On the first attempt at a start of the second race we felt much faster. We decided to start more in the middle and work the shifts. We had a great start and executed our plan, rounding the first mark in first. The wind built as we sailed downwind and the lead pack made it to the leeward gate at once.

Upwind, Mark Reynolds went hard left, Hamish Pepper went hard right and we went up the middle. At the top of the course, Pepper had made huge gains and was able to cross us and round the mark in first. Down the run we decided to hold with the pack of boats closest to us. Pepper, jibed out early, sailing downwind all alone in the lead. We continued to work the left and were the first in the pack to jibe out. We made great gains on Pepper but in the end Hamish Pepper was able to hold us off.

With a 25th, 2nd, we are in 10th place with a lot of racing remaining. Tomorrow will be interesting with a cold front coming through Miami that will bring more wind for the end of the week.

"Stars in My Eyes" by Lynn Fitzpatrick
We’re going into the second day of measurement for the Star North Americans in Miami, and I never would have anticipated what my involvement would entail!

The Star Class can be a pretty intimidating Class. It’s not only full of hulking giants, it’s loaded with sailing legends. As a competitive female sailor living in Miami, I’ve grown accustomed to the Star sailors spending a good part of the winter at Coral Reef Yacht Club and the US Sailing Center. Whether I sailed against them while I was at school, ran into them at big boat regattas or bumped into them at yacht club social gatherings over the years, I recognize many of the North Americans and know most of them by name. Yet the international, talent assembled here this week is nearly incomprehensible.

Schoonmaker Trophy was sailed last weekend. This annual regatta was used as a tune up by over 40 of the 80+ boat fleet that is registered for the NA’s. Light air was forecast for the weekend, and late Friday afternoon a local fleet member asked me if I wanted to crew. What a treat! I suited up in a droop suit and a harness that could never be made snug on me and went out with the big boys! For the first three legs of Saturday’s race, we were rounding marks with Olympic Star, Finn, Soling, Laser, and FD medalists, not to mention all of the America’s Cup skippers and crew!

As if racing against these guys wasn’t fun enough, I had to pinch myself when I was invited to dinner with Hans Fogh! For years I had read and heard stories about Fogh. This living legend had just added another world championship title to his impressive list by winning the Soling Worlds in Annapolis a couple of weeks ago. Among his many accomplishments, Hans has represented two countries at the Olympics and has won medals in two classes. He holds the Olympic record for being a medalist over the longest period of time. I never would have thought that this incredibly good natured and engaging sprite was the superhero that I had pictured in my head. How wonderful to hear him talk about hip replacements, cataract surgery, hearing aides, doing sit-ups and loving life!

On the first day of measurement, I was concerned that there may not be enough volunteers to accommodate everyone. Before I knew it, I went from handing out measurement forms to weighing everybody in. There are four women sailing in the regatta and 160 guys. Nearly 70 of the 80 all male teams are concerned about being within 100 grams of the weight maximum. After they have starved themselves, worked out and relieved themselves, their last resort is to strip down to everything from tighty whities, to Brooks Brothers boxers, to Speedos – in front of me! I had these model specimens (well, not all of them) from all over the world strip down and let me order them around while I took my time sizing them up as I adjusted the weight on the balance back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

If that wasn’t enough, I ended up at dinner with John MacCauland, Phil Trinter and Eric Doyle as they reminisced about tightly contested Star regattas, pre-start match racing against Mark Reynolds, and countless trips to Valencia.

I can’t wait for the rest of the week to unfold. The youngsters, James Spithill, Hamish Pepper and Robert Scheidt have already weighed in, ou la la. I’m still waiting for Xavier Rohart. They’re all very friendly. Not that I’ll tire of the young rock stars, but I’m looking forward to spending some time with Ding Schoonmaker and Star Class Commodore, Sir Durward Knowles, both of whom will attend the mid-week trophy presentation. If it weren’t for Ding’s philanthropy, the US Sailing Center in Miami would not exist. Sir Durward is nearly as well known in the Bahamas for his philanthropic efforts as for being the first Bahamian to ever win an Olympic gold medal in 1964. In a 32-year period, he competed in a record eight Olympics. Sir Durward is filming his memoirs and is paying us a visit because he wants to include some of the close friends that he has made over the years in the documentary. Sir Durward is right. There is certainly a galaxy of talent here!

© Copyright 2007 by