|District 20 Regatta Report|| |
Thu Jan 9th, 2014 through Sun Jan 12th, 2014
Winners Paul Cayard and Rodney Hagebols
| Event Website|
Flawless Performance Lands Grael In First Place
Coconut Grove, FL (January 9, 2014)- Brazilian Star skipper Lars Grael and crew Samuel Goncalves continued their winning ways today, taking two wins in two races to open the 2014 Star Midwinter Championship. Grael leads the most talent-heavy fleet in the history of the Star Winter Series Presented By EFG since its launch in late 2012; on hand are competitors from 8 nations, including multiple world champions, America's Cup stars, and Olympic medalists.
Grael says one of the keys to his performance was switching to a different mainsail than he used to eke out a victory over Miami's Augie Diaz in last weekendÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â’s Levin Memorial Regatta. "We went to a fuller sail for the lighter conditions, and that helped us reach the top mark first in both races today," said the Brazilian celebrity. Grael may have led early, but overall series leader Diaz pounced on him during the first downwind leg. "Augie was able to protect the right on the first run and get inside us at the mark, trading tacks with us all the way up the beat as he rounded just inside us at the final top mark as well," Grael explained. Diaz, Grael, and CaliforniaÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â’s Jim Buckingham traded positions down the final run, with Grael pushing into the lead in the final 100 meters and taking the win.
In the second race of the day, Grael started later than the front runners, but his positioning was perfect. "We felt the right side would be strong, so we did what we needed to in order to win the boat end," he said. The Brazilians were first to tack off to the right, and the ten-degree shift that followed translated to an instant lead for Grael and Goncalves. "We found ourselves with a small gap back to the second place boat, and in such a tricky race course, that enabled us to increase our lead at each mark," he said. Grael would go on to win the five-leg race by more than 8 boat lengths, with Diaz once again coming behind. "Two wins in two races doesn't happen very often in a regatta at this level so we are quite happy, but it is important to remain conservative and avoid any big scores, and that will be our focus going forward."
The Star Winter Series Presented By EFG welcomes back 2012/13 Series and Midwinter podium finisher Brian Cramer, who escaped the bitter Ontario winter for another week of Florida sailing here at the 2014 Midwinters. At a sprightly 60 years young, Cramer now counts himself as a "Grand Master" in the Star Class, a division he leads after two races while sitting sixth overall. "I'm always glad to be back on Biscayne Bay ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â– it's a special place to sail," Cramer said. "As for the Grand Master award, IÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â’m sure they're going to ask me for my birth certificate," he joked.
The battle for the Junior Midwinter Champion continues where 2013 left off, with 25 year-old Thomas Hornos tied on points with 23-year old Swede Philip Carlson. Hornos took last year's title by a slim 5 points after trading positions with Carlson the entire event, and this year, Carlson's out for payback, with long time Miami fleet captain Chris Lanza as crew. "We've got the boat speed we need, but we kept putting ourselves on the wrong side of the shifts today," said Carlson. "We're confident we can pull it together if we can just get our boat in decent position on the course."
Day Two: Grael Falters As Diaz Claims Championship Lead
Coconut Grove, FL (January 11, 2014) Â– Shifty Easterly breeze continued to frustrate many in the Star Midwinter Championship fleet on Biscayne Bay on Friday, though Miami local Augie Diaz and crew Arnis Baltins picked their way around the course to grab a tenuous 1-point lead over day 2 standout Jack Jennings. A win for Diaz during this week'’s double-points scoring Midwinters would clinch his overall championship for the Star Winter Series Presented By EFG; he would become the first and only two-time winner of the Series title in its two-year history.
Things didn't look good at all for Diaz halfway through the second race; both he and yesterday's leader Lars Grael caught themselves out on the far right as Jack Jennings and Brian Cramer led on the left side with more pressure and a slight shift. "We stayed with Lars out on the right side for a while as we kept seeing Jack and Brian moving forward through the mainsail window," said Baltins. "It was great to see those guys doing so well, and ultimately we chose to leave Lars and get back in touch with the fleet." Diaz/Baltins were in double digits for much of the race, though they would ultimately claw back to 4th in the performance of the week, giving them a one-point lead over Chicago's Jennings, with one further back to San Francisco's Paul Cayard.
Jennings and crew Brian Sharp were the clear standout on Friday with a 3,1 scoreline, including a near 'horizon job' victory of more than one minute over the rest of the fleet, led by second place Vasyl Gureyev from Ukraine. "We were lucky that Brian Cramer gybed out from directly behind us on the first run," said Jennings. "That really freed us up, and with such a tight fleet with so much disturbed air, having a little freedom can translate into some real gains." Jennings says heÂ’s a little surprised to be battling up with multiple World Champs and Olympians like Augie Diaz and Paul Cayard for the Championship lead, but explained that he's been working hard in the Star class for a full five years now. "Having good starts helps and having great crew and a good line sight is imperative," said Jack. "We just need to keep managing our expectations and sailing conservatively with solid results Â– you don't need to hit one out of the park to do well."
While Jennings did indeed 'hit one out of the park' in Race 4, America's Cup/Volvo Ocean Race/Olympic skipper Paul Cayard quietly continued to perform well with Aussie crew Rodney Hagebols, scoring a 2,5 on Friday and closing to within 2 points of leader Diaz. "We worked on our rig a little last night and found a little more boat speed, and had a pretty good one today," said Cayard.
California's Jim Buckingham avoided a dire result in the final race of the day, clawing back from near last to take 6th place, while Brazil's Grael could never quite dig himself out of the teens in Race 4. Grael finished 14th, dropping him back to 5th overall. 25 year-old Thomas Hornos had another consistent day, and leads the Junior championship over Philip Carlson by 5 points.
Day Three: America's Cup Legend Moves Into Controlling Lead With One Race Remaining
Coconut Grove, FL (January 11, 2014) – Paul Cayard may be a seven-time America's Cup veteran, two-time Olympian, Whitbread (Now Volvo Ocean Race) Round The World Race winner, and Nationals Sailing Hall of Fame inductee but he has always treasured his Star World Championship (Buenos Aires, 1988) above all else. And after a difficult America's Cup last summer in giant catamarans in San Francisco, Cayard is back in the Class that helped launch his legendary career - the International Star.
One of America's most famous and decorated sailors, Cayard took a few days to find his pace in the star-studded Star Midwinter Championship fleet – the fourth of five Miami-based events comprising the Star Winter Series Presented By EFG – and today, he vaulted into an 8-point lead over Newport, California's Jim Buckingham. Miami's Augie Diaz sits one point adrift of Buckingham in third place after a tough Race 8 this afternoon despite seeming untouchable throughout much of the season; the multiple world champion couldn't find a break through the light and shifty Biscayne Bay breeze, scoring an uncharacteristic 16th place in the 26-boat fleet - his worst result of the year. "I had my head down, focused entirely on going fast up the first beat," said Diaz. "I knew all of the competition was on the left but we stayed out on the right; they had a shift and better pressure and we were never able to get back into it." Diaz, with crew Arnis Baltins, clawed back to 11th at the final mark, but again, found himself on the wrong side of a shift on the final leg, dropping back to 16th.
Australian Olympic coach and professional racer Rodney Hagebols joined Cayard as crew for the first time last month, and he says the key at the Star Winter Series is to stay focused and avoid just the kind of trap Diaz fell into. "The scoring system here makes it essential to keep from having a really bad race; with no discards, no lead is safe," said Hagebols. The no-drop system puts a premium on consistency, as Cayard found today. When asked if he prefers it to more conventional scoring, Cayard smiled. "Ask me again tomorrow," he said.
Buckingham, with Miami local and Olympic gold medalist Magnus Liljedahl as crew, leapfrogged Diaz with a 3,7 on the day – while Cayard's late entry into the Star Winter Series means he won't be a factor for the season championship, Buckingham can jump into the overall series lead with a win over Diaz tomorrow and a win or tie in February's Walker Cup. It won't be easy for either of them, or for Cayard either; a rare Northwesterly forecast means extremely fickle winds that can mean disaster for any sailor in a fleet of this caliber. Hagebols summed up the tactical considerations well: "It’s hard to sail defensively when it's really shifty, so we’ll keep one eye on the competition and sail where the pressure is, and take it as it comes." Light air specialists Peter McChesney and Shane Zwingelberg excelled in today's conditions, which mimicked their native Chesapeake Bay in the summer. "We took a big gamble on the right side at the end of the last race and that helped us get second place for both the race and the day," said McChesney. "Sometimes you just have to roll the dice."
The battle between Philip Carlson and Tomas Hornos for the Junior (under 25 years old) trophy continues to rage; Hornos jumped out to a big lead after Race 7, only to see all but one point of that lead disappear with Carlson's blinding pin-end start and eventual 5th place finish to Race 8. Carlson's crew Chris Lanza says regardless of which 'kid' wins, their participation is a win for the class. "What’s great about these guys is that they both have a great attitude, they both love competing, and no matter what happens, it seems like they're always right next to each other at the end of the regatta."
Day Four: America's Cup Skipper Cayard Takes Miami Championship With Final Race Performance
Coconut Grove, FL (January 13, 2014) – America's Cup skipper and Sailing Hall of Fame member Paul Cayard has returned to the class he loved, and it showed today; the 55-year old San Franciscan stayed calm, cool and collected in the hot Sunday sun as he sailed to a solid second-place finish in today's only race. Cayard and Australian crew Rodney Hagebols' performance was enough to give them a 9-point victory over California’s Jim Buckingham; 2-time Olympian Cayard earned the second-ever Star Midwinter Championship title despite a tough start to the 7-race series. This was only Cayard's second regatta since returning to the Star Class last month; after failing to break the top ten at last month's Star Sailors League final in the Bahamas, Cayard has finally 'come home' with a regatta win at the fourth event in Miami'’s Star Winter Series Presented By EFG. Cayard was all smiles as he accepted the Star Midwinter trophy. "Wherever my voyages take me, I'm always happiest when I'm back in the Star Class," he said.
Race Officer Rich Raymond tried three times to get the final race off in just 6 knots of wind from due North on Sunday morning, finally hoisting the black flag in an effort to rein in some of the more zealous Star skippers. The fleet finally started clear of the line, with 25 year-old Tomas Hornos winning the boat end and sailing straight into increasing pressure and a massive right shift, allowing Hornos and crew Josh Revkin to nearly lay the top mark on their first tack. With 23-year old Philip Carlson and crew Chris Lanza at the opposite end of the starting line, the first shift ended the battle that had been raging all week between the two Junior (25 or under) skippers. "We decided to sail our own race rather than going for Tomas at the start, and we were down with some of the leaders, including Diaz, so we felt OK about our decision," said Carlson. That decision would put Carlson, Diaz, and quite a few other front runners at the back of the pack by the first windward mark. Hornos was excited to claim the Junior trophy. "It's great to have these battles between the young skippers like Philip and me; we want more 20 and 30 year olds to step up to the challenge of competing in the Star Class, and we're both proof that you don't need to be old, rich, or heavy to do well and have a great time in one of the world’s legendary racing boats."
Caught out on the wrong side of that first shift, Diaz was frustrated with his start. "We had two goals going into the last race: Protect the left, and stay near our competition," said Diaz. "We accomplished the first goal, but not the second." Both second place Jim Buckingham (sailing with Olympic medalist and local sailing hero Magnus Liljedahl) and Cayard sailed away to the top right side while Diaz fought for a top 15 position at the mark. Buckingham would trail Hornos in second place for much of the race, but it was Cayard who fought from 8th position at the first mark all the way past Buckingham to claim second by the finish. "We really thought we'd get Tomas, but when we gybed into the center of the course on the final run, he and Cayard both found a little more pressure and a little more current, dropping us back to third," said Buckingham. Buckingham's third place locked up second for the Midwinter Championship, but more importantly, it gave him a one-point lead over Augie Diaz/Arnie Baltins in the all-important Star Winter Series overall points score with just one event to go. "We won’t have the luxury of dropping any results since we missed the last event [the Series Score is the sum of the top 4 of the 5 schedule regattas], but with the Midwinters counting double, we're in a good position going into the final regatta next month," said Buckingham.
It will be winner-take-all between Buckingham and Diaz; Augie won the inaugural Series Trophy by a landslide last year, but those days are over according to 'Buck'. "Augie's already got his name up there, and we can't have the Star Winter Series being the “Augie Diaz Perpetual Trophy!" he joked.
Brazilian standout Lars Grael had a memorable week in Miami, despite giving up the lead he had after a double-bullet performance on day one and eventually failing to reach the podium by just one point. The new Star Class President accepted the ceremonial flag from outgoing President Bill Allen at Friday night's banquet dinner, and he said that the Miami series bodes well for the future of the class. "Olympics or no Olympics is not an issue; for sure there are changes ahead, but with events like this one and others around the world, it is a very exciting time to be at the head of the Star Class," said Grael. Stu Hebb was equally enthused. "Each event has seen growth this year, not just in number but especially the level of competition, with 8 nations represented here by some of the best sailors in the world," said the Miami-based founder of the Star Winter Series. "One thing is for sure: If you want to test yourself against the best keelboat racers in the world, the Star Class is still where you come."
The overall series title will be decided during February 8-9’s Walker Cup, the final event in the Star Winter Series Presented by EFG, when another star-studded fleet will descend on Miami for the 2-day, 5 race regatta.
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