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Bacardi Cup History - 1995 Report by Tammy Rubin
Plenty of Wind and Excitement at the 68th Bacardi Cup
1995
By Tammy H. Rubin


    As in any pre-Olympic year, a larger-than-usual number of boats was expected for the 1995 Bacardi Cup Star class regatta in Miami which sailed from March 5-10. Organizers of the event, which originated in Havana, Cuba, in 1927, knew that with Savannah looming closer that several American teams would be vying for the sole Star class position on the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. They figured that international sailors would want to compete against the highly competitive Americans, and train in U.S. waters under an American race committee. They also knew that the historic event, famous for its hospitality and nearly flawless setting would, as ever, draw no-Olympian Star sailors from across the country and around the globe. So why were they surprised when a record breaking 97 boats registered for the six day event? Maybe because it was a 67 percent increase over the previous year’s 65 entries.

    With that many boars, event organizers knew that they would have enough rum to go around, but were more concerned about running out of wind particularly on the starting line. “There’s nothing worse than sitting on a starting line with nearly 100 other boats just blanketing each other and there’s not enough wind,” was common concern of some of the 184 Star sailors from 18 countries. It sees that a few people may have wished a bit too hard for sufficient wind as the sailors got a bit more than they bargained for during the six-day event.

    From the very first day of the regatta it was clear that this was a world class event as the international teams made their presence known. Top ten results looked more like that of a European Championship than a Miami-based regatta which is essentially open to anyone. The Swedes, Danes, Australians and Irish seemed right at home that first day, and proved to be factors throughout the series.

    With fairly steady winds at 15-18 knots and a punishing bay chop, Sweden’s Hans Wallen and crew Jonas Barkman survived the carnage of broken masts and other equipment fatigue during Sunday’s first day of racing and won handily. The pair were in good company off the line on the left side of the course with 1992 Olympic Gold medal winners Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel. Reynolds tacked early on a wind shift and Wallen stayed the course. The risk paid off for the Swedes who gained as much as a two-minute lead over the rest of the pack which was somewhat diminished, but never threatened. Reynolds and Haenel, like twelve other teams that day, retired from the race with a broken headstay while in second place.

    Australia’s America’s Cup skipper Colin Beashel and crew David Giles took what proved to be an ominous second place as they began their quiet attack. Current European Star Champion Michael Hestbaek and crew Soren Kaestel of Denmark took third and the Scandinavian domination of the top ten continued with seventh place finishers Cristian Rasmussen and Kasper Harsberg (the second of just two Danish teams), and with two of the three remaining Swedish teams Anders Lundmark and Fredrik Beck, and Mats Johansson and Mattias Frode finishing in ninth and tenth, respectively. Also in the top ten that first day were international teams Mark Holowesko and Myles Pritchard from the Bahamas in fourth and Ireland’s Mark Mansfield and Owen Dennis in sixth. Mansfield and Dennis would ultimately take seventh place in the regatta. The Americans were well represented nonetheless by two teams from San Diego – 1993 Star world champions Joe Londrigan and Phil Trinter in fifth place and former world champion and five-time Bacardi Cup champion Vince Brun and Mike Dorgan in eighth place.

    The wind was failry steady at about 15 knots, but the bay was less damaging on the second day of racing. Reigning Star world champion, 1992 Olympic Bronze Medal winner and defending Bacardi Cup Champion Ross Macdonald proved just how capable and adaptable a sailor he is by winning the second day’s race with a crew who started sailing Stars just one day prior to the start of the regatta. His crew, Kai Bjorn, a nationally ranked Canadian Finn sailor, but a Star novice, proved a thing or two about this sailing skills as well when he and Macdonald followed up their first day’s twelfth place finish with a strong win.

    “As far as mechanics go, we’re not the best team out there and we know it,” explained Macdonald, whose modesty both on and off the water is as well-known as his sailing skills. “The biggest challenge for us is being sure that we communicate properly because the Star is so new to Kai. But he is such a good sailor he knows what I’m thinking,” adds Macdonald. “We probably would have had a bigger lead if I hadn’t made so many mistakes,” admits the equally modest Bjorn. “I have a lot to learn, but when you have the world champion with you…,” added Bjorn, a 6’5”, 270 pounder, who has a promising career with the Canadian Football League.

    Following the trend begun in day one by the Sweded, both teams from Denmark – Hestbaek/ Kaestel and Rasmussen/ Harsberg – continued the Scandinavian streak by neatly taking second and third place, respectively. As for Sweden, they would be back on top in the third day of racing. The Swedish Sailing Team had been training on Biscayne Bay for two weeks out of each of the four months prior to Bacardi Cup and the apparent “home field advantage” paid off.

    The wind starting out between 15-18 knots and eased somewhat toward the end of the third race, and the competition on Tuesday was as close as it had been all week. A tacking duel in the last leg of the race resulted in Sweden’s Johansson and Frode closely edging out Reynolds and Haenel at the finish. The Olympic champions were coming back from their disappointing first two days of equipment failure and an eighteenth position, respectively. Macdonald and Bjorn moved up from fifth position to lead the pack after taking third place in the third race.

    A welcome rest from the week’s strong winds (and additional recovery time from Wednesday night’s midweek awards and party) came, not when the weather subsided but, when it got worse. With severe thunderstorms and gusts of over 25 knots expected, race committee chairman William H. Smoak decided to postpone the fourth race until Thursday. Two of the remaining three races would be attempted the next day. But the weather was doubtful for Thursday as well and it looked as though two races might be planned for Friday. If that happened, the series would be scored with one throw-out race after just five races, and not six as originally planned.

    Wedneday’s weather was severe and by Thursday morning the skies still looked threatening and the wind was still fierce. Silence fell upon the usually boisterous breakfast crowd as William Smoak approached the flag pole, the warning horns were sounded, and the postponement flag was raised. Smoak and other members of the race committee went out to the race course to assess the situation. Evidently, the bay waters and winds were calmer than they expected and there would be a race, but just one.

    The conditions were a puffy, shifty 15-17 knots for the fourth race. The previous day off from racing didn’t seem to break the rhythm of Reynolds and Haenel or Macdonald and Bjorn as the two teams battled it out. The lead changed quite a few times with Reynolds and Haenel ahead for most of the race. Ultimately they won what was the tightest race yet and with finishes of RET-16-2-1 had 117 points for a 22nd position overall before the discard. Howerver, the discard put in sixth position overall. That left the Canadians with second and a comfortable first place position with finishes of 12-1-1-3-2 for 18 points before the discard.

    Going into the final day of racing the international strength and presence was apparent. True to his character, Beashel had quietly moved into second place almost without notice. With the discard, his and Giles’ finishes of 2-7-9-6 put the Australians just behind the Canadian leaders and tied them with Danes Hestbaek and Kaestel who had finishes of 3-2-12-10. Again, considering the discard, Swedes Johansson and Frode followed in fourth position, just one point ahead of the other Danish team of Rasmussen and Harsberg.

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