An up and down breeze of 10-15 knots in a choppy sea and tropical temperatures on Biscayne Bay, Miami presented a whole new set of race conditions on the final day of the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta 2018. It was another day of reading the wind shifts or reacting to pressure to make the gains, and even top sailors get caught out when breeze spotting. Make one mistake and you pay.
The Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta and 91st Bacardi Cup came to an end late Saturday night, but not before huge celebrations for the Star and J/70 sailors who once again descended on Coral Reef Yacht Club for the final Bacardi experience at the Bacardi Cup Regatta Prize Giving dinner and closing ceremony. The final after party of superb Bacardi cocktails, dinner and socializing marked a tremendous finale to six days of racing presented by the eminent Bacardi brand.
In the seventy-six boat Star fleet, Diego Negri / Sergio Lambertenghi managed to maintain the lead they opened the day with, retaining pole position as the battle heated up behind, with three teams neck and neck on 14 points apiece.
Robert Scheidt (BRA) / Brian Fatih (USA) led the final race off the starting line, with Negri / Lambertenghi languishing back around 7th place at the first mark - giving the title to Scheidt at that point in the race. A determined fightback unfolded from Negri / Lambertenghi, accelerating in the first downwind to 3rd and ultimately crossing the finish line in 4th, whilst Scheidt / Fatih lost ground and dropped back to 2nd in the final leg; in an unbelievably close finish to the 91st Bacardi Cup.
Negri / Lambertenghi make history by becoming the first ever Italian team to win, with Negri's name added to the list of sailing icons on the Bacardi Cup Trophy, and Lambertenghi added to the crew names on the Tito Bacardi Cup. Scheidt / Fatih upgraded to second, with Melleby / Revkin picking up third over Lars Grael / Samuel Goncalves (BRA) in fourth.
"Today has been a great race", said an overjoyed Negri. "It has been perfect conditions up to 15 knots. We had a good start, played the left and some other boats played the right. We were very close with another three boats for winning the Bacardi Cup, so we were sailing close to Melleby, and we knew that Scheidt and Grael were windward to us, so we were playing leeward side of them, and arrived at the top mark not far from them. We arrived at the top mark around 7th to 8th but with a good call of judgment soon after the windward mark we succeed to recover in the first downwind, and rounded in 3rd so pretty safe for us, as we just needed to be in the top four".
The pair held their position and could afford to be overtaken by Paul Cayard / Mark Strube in the final downwind leg, knowing they had victory in the bag.
"It is a very good result and an amazing week and consistent, and I think we did a great job together," said the super-talented Negri who, together with Lambertenghi, has claimed medals at each of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Star World Championships. But it has taken thirteen years of competing at the Bacardi Cup, since 2016, for Negri to climb the mountain to victory.
"The fleet was amazing and we won. It is a good feeling and will be a good memory for all our life that is for sure. Maybe there will be a next one in the future but this 91st edition is to us", Negri laughed.
"Winning the Bacardi, for me at least, I came here the first time in 1995 so more than twenty years ago, I have always been dreaming to win it," said a delighted Lambertenghi. "Being able to do it, thanks to my helmsman Diego, is super, super, super satisfying. The last leg until the end was just shaking, looking at the wind, looking at the other boats".
Great Britain's Iain Percy and his Swedish crew Anders Ekstrom made their mark known by winning the final race, to finish in 7th overall. A formidable partnership, with three Star Class Olympic medals between them, the pair didn't compete in race 1, then a non-fault collision and virtual sinking forced them out of races 3 and 4, before claiming the race victory their pedigrees would predict.
Prizes were also presented to winners in the Master's (skippers age 50 through 59), Grand Masters (skippers age 60 and above), and Exalted Grand Masters (skippers age 70 and above) divisions, which went to Arthur Anosov / David Caesar (USA), Augie Diaz (USA) / Bruno Prada (BRA) and Alessandro Pascolato / Henry Boening (BRA) respectively. The Tammy Rubin Rice Trophy was presented to Eric Doyle / Payson Infelise (USA).
Star Class - Final Overall Results after 6 Races:
1. Diego Negri / Sergio Lambertenghi (ITA) - 16 pts
2. Robert Scheidt (BRA) / Brian Fatih (USA) - 22 pts
3. Eivind Melleby (NOR) / Joshua Revkin (USA) - 24 pts
4. Lars Grael / Samuel Gonclaves (BRA) - 24 pts
5. Paul Cayard / Mark Strube (USA) - 28 pts
6. Eric Doyle / Payson Infelise (USA) - 23 pts
7. Iain Percy / Andres Ekstrom (GBR) - 32 pts
8. Xavier Rohart / Sebastien Guidoux (FRA) - 26 pts
9. Luke Lawrence (USA) / Pedro Trouche (BRA) - 47 pts
10. Jack Jennings (USA) / Frithjof Kleen (GER) - 51 pts
Same faces inside the J/70 top 10 leaderboards at the end of the day as at the start, with just a few ups and downs in position after races 7 and 8. Featuring the best J/70 sailors in the world, racing was always going to be tight with multiple teams in a leaderboard position to claim victory on the final day. The strategy for most was to sail to win the first race, and then focus on opponents in the second.
Victory in the J/70 fleet went to Joel Ronning and his team on 'Catapult', successfully converting third overall at the beginning of the day with super consistent scores of 4,4, whilst their closest rivals notched up double-digit results. Going into the decisive race, Ronning held a 5 point lead with Jud Smith and Brian Keane tied for the second and third place on 25 points each.
Teams knew exactly how close today would be, as commented Keane before racing, "It's very tight. To win, there is one throw-out and you've got to be out there and aggressive. You can't sail to lose, you have to go out there to win and we intend to be aggressive right from the start. We feel confident in our boat speed and if we can get off the line we should do well. It's a tremendous regatta, I haven't seen competition like this in a long time".
Unfortunately, this year, Keane's strategy did not quite unfold as planned, as he and his crew on 'Savasana' were knocked out of the lead they held before race 7 to end the series in third overall from scores of 13,7. Smith, the 2017 J/70 World Champion, and his team on 'Africa' held onto second overall. J/70 stars, defending and former World Championship title holders and medal holders battling it out for the podium showcased spectacular racing and genius talent.
Ronning won the 2016 J/70 Worlds from the team's consistent performance, counting no finish worse than 5th, as their 13th from rave 4 was discarded.
Patrick Wilson, trimmer on 'Catapult', reflected on their achievement, saying, "Going into today there were four teams who were all phenomenal and anyone could have got it. It was cut-throat out there and somehow we ended up winning. It came down to the last shift in the last race. It was amazingly close competitive sailing".
Talking about their solid performance, Wilson continued, "We just sort of ground it out and stayed in good spots, did well and the whole team sailed really well together".
A standout performance from Timothy Healy, who won the inaugural J/70 World Championship in 2014, and his crew, who won both races to move up from 8th overall to 5th.
Heather Gregg and her crew on 'Muse' won the Corinthian category, with Mallory Loe and team on 'Dime' in second and Nancy Glover and her team on 'WinterWind' in third.
J/70 Class - Final Overall Results after 8 Races:
1. Joel Ronning / Christopher Stokey / Patrick Wilson / John Kosteki (USA) - 24 Pts
2. Jud Smith / Will Felder / Marc Gauthier / Cindy Smith / Lucas Calabrese (USA) - 30 Pts
3. Brian Keane / Brian Keane / Thomas Barrows / Charles Swanson (USA) - 32 Pts
4. Peter Duncan / Victor Diaz Deleon / Willem Van Way / Massimo Bortoletto (USA) - 33 Pts
5. Timothy Healy / Reed Baldrige / John Mollicone / Paul Abdullah (USA) - 49 pts
6. John Brim / Collin Leon / Taylor Kenfield / Scott Ewing (USA) - 51 pts
7. Vincenzo Onorato / Matteo Savelli / Flavio Favini / Paul Goodison / Giulia Elba Masotto (MON) - 52 pts
8. Renato Faria / Kadja Brandao / Alfredo Rovere / Henrique Pellicano / Caroline Atwood (BRA) - 58 pts
9. Thomas Bowen / Martin Kollman / Alex Shafer / Jacklyn Wetmore (USA) - 68 pts
10. Heather Gregg / Stuart Johnston / Shawn Patrick Powell / Patrick Norris (USA) - 75 pts
The fleets will congregate again next year for the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta and 92nd Bacardi Cup from March 3rd - 9th 2019.
Over one hundred and twenty teams from 20 nations are competing in the Star and J/70 fleets: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Ukraine and United States.