Monday, February 9, 2009

Etchells Jaguar Series race report

Photo credit: Becky DaMore/
Etchells Jaguar Series 2nd Day upset by San Diego based Bill Hardesty.
By Paige Brooks, NA Etchells Class Correspondent

The Etchells Jag Series, packed with amateurs and professionals in this 58 boat fleet, proved again what a challenge it is to win an Etchells regatta on Biscayne Bay. The initial forecast for the 3rd of 4 race weekends was for anywhere from 15-25kts out of the ENE. On Saturday it never hit 20 kts, and instead blew 13-16 essentially the sweet spot for Etchells racing. Race 1 breeze held a consistent 90 degrees with slight ups and downs, but finding the pressure proved to be the most important for Jud Smith, sailing with Dirk Kneulman, Darby Smith and Tim King. The over cast day in races 2 and 3 created some challenge, especially a huge 30 degree lefty and then swinging back right. Bill Hardesty found the pressure and caught the shifts to win race 2 and Jud Smith managed the huge changes of race 3 to win again, and win the day.

Aside from the wind challenges, the day had it's share of unfortunate collisions including one with a wayward cruiser. The cruising sailboat, and Islander 33 (or possibly 38), found herself in the middle of the beat, went upwind to try to get away, then rounded the windward gate mark. After some 'discussion' with an Etchells skipper, he pushed the helm, causing his mighty transom to crush into the transom of that skipper. Frustrated but ok, they were still able to finish.

Sunday morning started with Hardesty in third with 23 points and Jud Smith with 9 points. The day ended with Chamber of Commerce weather: 12-15, flat water and partly cloudy skies; and Bill Hardesty managed to eke out a 1,2 to win the regatta.

I sat down with Bill Hardesty who said that looking for pressure was the name of the game this weekend. Yesterday the pressure was in the rare moments of clear sky, and today with clouds to the left and right, sailing to the clear sky again seemed to work. Bill is sailing with one new crew this year, Vince Brun, who is handling the middle for him as they prepare for the season in Etchells and Melges24s. In the Etchells, the team works well sailing 4up with Eric Shampain and Jennifer Wilson . The key to their success is to divide responsibilities and holding that team member responsible for that job. So the procedures of communication come in a specific way after a rounding: find the mark, find the breeze, then clean the boat up. They put a lot of effort into getting where they are with practice, including at least one day before the race, never getting complacent, always open to changing rig tune, and never afraid to try new things as the fleet constantly improves.

Local Miami sailor Frank Atkinson brought in Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Jeff Linton of Davis Island, FL and Jamie Stewart from Seattle to take 5th. Atkinson said the team gelled quickly and Jeff’s a fantastic driver. Their greatest challenges were the 58 boat starting line. He said they were able to make the right choices 70% of the time and then capitalize on good luck.

In third place London-based Ante Razmilovic sailing with Stuart Flinn and Chris Larson, said they didn’t have as good of a day as yesterday. Going into Sunday they were in second, but finished the day with a 10, 11. Larson said picking the shifts was the challenge and Jud Smith did an amazing job at that. They dropped back mid race and managed to claw their way back up to Jud, but nevertheless ended tied for third at 23 points with Tony Rey, sailing GRE 1368.

This particular race has a special trophy that goes to the top Florida fleet skipper. This weekend, Bryon Ehrhart beat out the other locals with 27 points.

The top 7 boats are below. Take note of the tight scoring.

1. Bill Hardesty, Vince Brun, Eric Shampain, Jennifer Wilson: 12
2. Jud Smith, Dirk Kneulman, Darby Smith, Tim King: 13
3. Ante Razmilovic, Stuart Flinn, Chris Larson: 23
4. Tony Rey, Billy Bennett, Ched Proctor: 23
5. Jef Linton, Frank Atkinson, Jamie Stewart: 24
6. Marvin Beckman, Tim Banks, Andrew Lee :24
7. Bryon Ehrhart: 27

Results are posted here: