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Sailing – Florida & the South

Wire-to-wire winners at Miami Grand Prix

The winners of all four classes at the Acura Miami Grand Prix went wire-to-wire at this year’s competition. Ran (IRC 1), Soozal (IRC 2), Nerone (Farr 40) and Bliksem (Melges 32) all led from start to finish despite tight competition in every class.

The final start of Melges 32 class at the 2009 Acura Miami Grand Prix

The fleet was made up of 42 boats from seven countries, but the Farr 40 was deemed to be the most competitive, earning Nerone the Acura Boat of the Week honor. The Italian entry won six of 10 races, an almost unheard-of achievement in the professional-laden Farr 40 class.

Pieter Taselaar and his crew aboard Bliksem drew serious consideration for Boat of the Week after putting forth an impressive performance in the tough Melges 32 class. Taselaar opened the regatta with three straight bullets and never looked back despite being pushed the whole way by Samba Pa Ti (John Kilroy, San Francisco) and Red (Joe Woods, Great Britain).

Jeremy Wilmot, a member of the intercollegiate dinghy team at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, called tactics on Bliksem. This marked the first Melges 32 class victory in seven attempts for Taselaar, a Netherlands native who now lives in St. Inigoes, Md. “We are extremely excited. We really focused on this regatta and put in a lot of effort. It is very rewarding to see all that preparation pay off,” Taselaar says.

Owner Dan Woolery and close friend Scott Easom spent a year gearing up to sail Soozal in the two winter regattas organized by Premiere Racing. The King 40, designed by Mark Mills and built by Summit Yachts, has proven a real rocket ship by capturing IRC 2 class at both Acura Key West 2009 and the Acura Miami Grand Prix.

Ran, owned by Niklas Zennstrom of Great Britain, won seven races and finished second or third in the others en route to victory in IRC 1. America’s Cup veteran and match racing standout Thierry Peponnet called tactics on Ran, which edged fellow TP52 Rio by five points. “We had really fantastic conditions here in Miami. It was sunny and windy every day, which made for fun and exciting racing,” Peponnet says.

Ran also captured the Acura Grand Prix championship trophy, awarded to the boat with the best combined performance in Key West and Miami. Zennstrom’s team won six of 10 races in taking IRC 1 class at Acura Key West 2009 as well.

Joe Fly, an Italian boat owned by Giovanni Maspero, earned the Acura Grand Prix championship in the Farr 40 class after finishing second in Key West and third in Miami. New Wave, co-owned by Michael Carroll and Marty Kullman of Clearwater, Fla., took the honors in the Melges 32 class thanks to a fourth in Key West and a fifth in Miami.

“It is quite an honor to win the Acura Grand Prix Championship as it speaks to consistency at three great events. The competition in Melges 32 class in Key West and Miami was the best we have ever seen, so naturally we are ecstatic,” Carroll says.

New Wave, co-owned by Michael Carroll and Marty Kullman of Clearwater, Fla., took the honors in Melges 32 class thanks to a fourth in Key West and a fifth in Miami.

Temperatures in the 80s, sunny skies and winds that never dipped below double digits made the 2009 Acura Miami Grand Prix memorable. “I don’t know if I have ever seen so many happy faces leaving a regatta,” says event director Peter Craig.

GREAT AMERICAN — Rich Wilson became only the second American to finish the Vendée Globe solo non-stop round-the-world race. Sailing Great American III, Wilson crossed the finish line March 10 off Les Sables d’Olonne, France. He finished ninth, completing the race in 121 days, 41 minutes, 19 seconds. The Rockport, Mass., sailor’s achievement came in a tough race where 19 in a fleet of 30 were forced to retire. “After coming around the second high-pressure system in the Atlantic, and we were closer to Boston than to France, [I thought] maybe I should turn left and go home,” Wilson said after finishing the race. Bruce Schwab was the first American to finish the race. He crossed the line in ninth in the 2004-’05 race on Ocean Planet.

Rolex Miami OCR crowns champions

It’s not often in a sailing regatta that a single 30-minute race decides the outcome, but that’s exactly what happened on the last day of competition for U.S. Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR, which ran Jan. 25-31.

The event hosted 444 sailors from 41 countries in 10 Olympic and three Paralympic classes. Nine of those Olympic classes participated in the finale.

“We didn’t necessarily expect to win the gold today, but thought we had as good a chance as anybody,” said Phil Trinter of Charlottesville, Va., after he and skipper Rick Merriman of New York turned in a performance that secured their spot at the top of the 31-boat Star fleet and the podium. The performance also earned the team a spot on the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics 2009, for which this regatta is the only qualifier.

There were two primary battles going on in the 30-boat Finn class: one for gold and one for bronze. In the end, it was Brit Edward Wright who took the top podium step, edging out Canada’s Christopher Cook by one point. The United States’ 2008 Finn silver medalist, Zach Railey of Clearwater, Fla., secured the bronze.

The top battle in the 41-boat Laser Radial fleet was between longtime U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics members Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, Fla., and Paige Railey of Clearwater, Fla. Tunnicliffe, a gold medalist from Qingdao who was named U.S. Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, finished third to Railey’s fourth in the medal race, leaving Railey the silver medal.

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This article originally appeared in the Florida & the South Home Waters Section of the May 2009 issue.