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Sail Scene - Long Island Sound

Northeast boat rules the Miami Grand Prix

There was no slam-dunk choice for the Boat of the Week honoree at the 2008 Acura Miami Grand Prix, held March 6-9. All four classes were hotly contested throughout the regatta.

Colm Barrington and his crew aboard Flash Glove counted all first- and second-place finishes and did not need to sail the final race en route to winning IRC 1 class in convincing fashion.

Andy Fisher skippered Bandit to a hard-earned victory in IRC 2, which had four different leaders over the course of the four-day regatta.

Michael Illbruck and the Pinta team led at the end of each day in Melges 32, an amazing feat considering it was the German skipper’s second regatta in the highly competitive class.

Ultimately, the three-part criteria that officials with Premiere Racing use to select the Acura Trophy winner favored the Farr 40 Barking Mad, owned by Jim Richardson of Newport, R.I. They won three of 10 races and overcame some double-digit results to capture the closest, most competitive class at Acura Miami Grand Prix.

Barking Mad was one of three entries to hold the daily lead in the 28-boat class. Richardson’s team was second after Day 1, fell to fifth after Day 2, then regained the overall lead after Day 3. Barking Mad had to work right up until the bitter end to hold that lead, clawing its way back from 25th to 17th in the last race in order to secure a four-point victory over Mascalzone Latino. Warpath, sailed by the father-son team of Fred and Steve Howe, took third just one point behind Mascalzone. The Italian entry, skippered by Vincenzo Onorato, put the pressure on by placing second in Race 10 and was winning the regatta when Barking Mad rounded the last downwind mark at the tail end of the fleet.

“Going down the last run I told the team ‘We’re not winning’ and I ask [trimmer] Skip Baxter what he thought I should do,” Barking Mad tactician Terry Hutchinson said. “Skip said ‘If I were you, I’d get some leverage to that right side.’ We went hard right, passed about seven boats on the last beat and breathed a huge sigh of relief.”

Richardson and company are hot, having won all three winter regattas in Farr 40 class. The part-time Boston resident got a gorilla off his back by winning both Key West and Miami for the first time in 11 trips to capture the Acura Grand Prix Championship in Farr 40. That trophy goes to the boat with the best combined score at the two international events organized by Premiere Racing.

Trade winds blow at IRR in the USVI

After completing a single distance race on the final day, eight class leaders nailed down overall victories at the 35th annual International Rolex Regatta, held March 28-30 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The trade winds that made the prior two days so exciting delivered once again as sailors on 90 boats completed the Pillsbury Sound course, set between the east end of St. Thomas, where host St. Thomas Yacht Club is located, and its smaller sister island of St. John. The two IRC classes, as well as Spinnaker Racing 1, Spinnaker Racing/Cruising and Beach Cats sailed a longer version of the race, while the remaining two classes — Spinnaker Racing 2 and Non-Spinnaker Racing — stuck to the more straightforward shorter course. In all cases, however, the key to victory lay in playing the second windward leg of the course correctly.

“After rounding Turtle Rock Buoy, the boats headed upwind into a northbound current, which you had to play for relief and back eddies,” says local sailor Ben Beer, who crewed aboard fellow St. Thomas sailor Peter Holmberg’s Farr 40 OnDeck Bandit and finished second overall in IRC 2. Bandit headed straight to the St. Thomas shoreline and hugged it while tacking to windward, rather than sailing eastward toward a string of cays that marked more open water.

Had the strategy been Bandit’s alone, it would have worked beautifully, but Tortola’s Christopher Lloyd, sailing his Beneteau 44 Three Harkoms had the same idea and won the race on corrected time. Three Harkoms also won the class overall.

Using the same inshore tactics to win the day and the regatta in IRC 1 was Sam Fleet’s Swan 601 Aquarius of East Greenwich, R.I. Fleet, who had been following his closest competition, Bill Alcott’s Andrews 68 Equation of St. Clair Shores, Mich., until the moment when Equation “went left and we went right,” gained 20-25 boat lengths on his competition and rounded ahead at the next mark.

“In the end, however, Equation beat us boat-for-boat (by about two boat lengths),” says Fleet, “but they still owed us time, so we won. It was a really exciting race.”

Winning Spinnaker Racing 2 was Gilberto Rivera’s J/24 Urayo from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, which also won in 2006.

Jens Hookansen of Middletown, R.I., steered Robert Armstrong’s J/100 Bad Girl to win Spinnaker Racing 1.

Non-spinnaker Racing class was won by Juan Moline’s J/24 Medalla Light from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, while Spinnaker Racing/Cruising class was won by James Dobbs’ J/122 Lost Horizon from Antigua.

In the IC-24 and Beach Cat classes, San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Fraito Lugo and Enrique Figueroa continued a show of dominance to win their respective classes.

Distance Challenge regatta returns

MysticRiver Yacht Club’s Second Annual Distance Challenge, a regatta intended to test the mettle of crews, navigators and tacticians alike, will be sailed May 31. The regatta will feature a “pursuit start,” with higher-handicap boats starting first, followed by the speedier craft. The start and finish lines will both be in the vicinity of Sea Flower Reef at the eastern end of Fishers Island Sound and north of Race Rock.

Organizers will choose from seven pre-selected courses depending on prevailing wind and weather conditions and may range anywhere from 50 to 100 miles. One of the 50-mile courses takes racers from Sea Flower on to Montauk Racon 5, back through Watch Hill Passage and to the finish at Sea Flower. The 100-mile course extends from Sea Flower to Stratford Shoals and back.

The regatta is open to monohull sailboats holding a valid Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association PHRF certificate and to multihulls with a valid NEMA certificate.

Race to Mackinac turns 100 this year

For the 100th time since 1898, sailors will gather in Chicago July 19 to begin the 333-mile sailing race to Mackinac Island, Mich. The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is one of the oldest and most prestigious freshwater sailing races and attracts some of the best sailors in the world.

“The Mac,” as the race is affectionately known, will host 460 boats — a record number of entries — with about 5,000 sailors competing. Although the Mac remains primarily an amateur event, the race has a proven track record of attracting some of the finest sailing talent in the sport.

Record holders include renowned sailor Roy Disney with his monohull Pyewacket at 23 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds in 2002 and famous adventurer the late Steve Fossett, on Stars and Stripes, which set the multihull record of 18 hours, 50 minutes, and 32 seconds in 1998. Disney will serve as honorary chairman this year and Stars and Stripes, Fossett’s former boat, will compete again, skippered by the vessel’s new owner, Don Wilson of Chicago.

In addition to the record number of entries and the promise of exciting competition, all 460 boats will be tracked by GPS satellite technology this year, the largest offshore sailing fleet on record ever to be tracked.