December 18th, 2022

A thrilling final day, Sunday, December 18, saw the race track shaken and stirred as the Melges 24 and J/70 teams battled for leaderboard glory at the opening event of the 2022/2023 Bacardi Regatta Series on Biscayne Bay, Miami.

Despite mixed fortunes for some, the overnight leaders after Saturday’s three races continued to serve up their best, with victory going to Drew Freides and crew on ‘Pacific Yankee’ in the Melges 24, whilst Richard Witzel’s ‘Rowdy’ team came out on top in the J/70.

From distant lightning and thunder in the morning, the weather eased to a steady breeze of 7-11 knots for the opening race, before veering to the north-northeast and building to 12-14 knots and a choppy sea for the final two, to complete the 6-race series.

With points close, talent high and lots of opportunity for a podium punt, plenty of action unfolded across Sunday’s three races.

Melges 24 
It was game on and a battle to the end amongst the eighteen teams in the Melges 24 fleet. The race track was thick with expectation and pressure as the top three went into race 4 to break their 3-way tiebreak, with the rest of the pack intent on ascending the leaderboard.

Richard Witzel’s ‘Pacific Yankee’ came out on top in race 4, with their unstoppable win placing them ahead by 5 points over     Chris Larson’s ‘Raza Mixta’, whilst an 11th place finish from Laura Grondin’s ‘Dark Energy’ gave them a mountain to climb to return to contention. 

Fresh from a silver medal at his first Melges 24 Worlds in September 2022, Harry Melges’ team on ‘Zenda Express’ found something new to switch the power on in race 4, finishing 2nd to establish the team’s credentials for a podium finish. UFD penalties went to four teams, including Richard Reid’s ‘Zingara’, who dropped down the leaderboard to 9thoverall.

“The guys I am sailing with sailed really well,” said Harry Melges IV. “We do quite a bit of sailing back home at Wisconsin so I think that helps keep us up towards the top.”

Reflecting on their bounce back from yesterday, he continued, “You just have to go into every race fresh and forget about the last race and keep going, keep racing hard.”

‘Pacific Yankee’ again controlled the fleet in race 5, winning the pin end and tacking across the fleet about two minutes into the race, to score another win. ‘Zingara’ bounced back from their UFD to finish 2nd, with ‘Zenda Express’ keeping the pressure on to finish just behind.

Laura Grondin edged further down the leaderboard after an incident at the start of race 5 left the team playing catch up. Fortunately, or unfortunately, her closest rivals in contention for third on the podium had similar scores, so there was still a chance going into the final race 6. 

Onto race 6 and ‘Pacific Yankee’ looking assured for the event win, but the plot was thick. In theory, if ‘Zenda Express’ won the final race and ‘Pacific Yankee’ finished 8th or worse, the leaderboard could switch. ‘Zenda Express’ also needed to outsmart third placed ‘Raza Mixta’ to hold onto second overall, whilst behind a points minefield for the seven teams placed 3rd to 9th who had all had a shot at chasing third overall. 

There was no doubting the superiority of the teamwork on ‘Pacific Yankee’ as they led to the first windward mark, before being overhauled by ‘Zenda Express’ who claimed the race 6 win to secure 2nd overall. Their 4th place finish assured ‘Pacific Yankee’ of glory.

The current team on ‘Pacific Yankee’ has only recently come together, as Alec Anderson explained, “It’s an old programme, but a new group and we are working towards doing the World Championships in Denmark next year, and this is one of the steps on the road. 

“We had a good day yesterday and kind of survived day 1 and went out today and had a 1,1,4 and took it down. So we are really happy with how it went, but mostly we are just focused on the process of coming together as a new team.”

A recovery for ‘Dark Energy’ with a 2nd in race 6, but it was not enough to put them on the podium, as a 3rd from ‘Raza Mixta’ rewarded them with third overall and 4th to ‘Dark Energy’.

The top Melges 24 Corinthian team was Chuck Lamphere’s ‘Entente’ team in 14th overall.

Melges 24 Final Top 10 results – after 6 races
1. Drew Freides/Nic Asher/Charlie Smythe/Alec Anderson/Mark Ivey (USA 865) – 11 pts
2. Harry Melges IV/Jeremy Willmot/Fin Rowe/Ripley Shelley/Cooper Del Bridge (USA-866) – 15 pts
3. Chris Larson/Victor Diaz de Leon/Erik Shampaign/Patrick Wilson/Norman Berge (USA 829) – 22 pts
4. Laura Grondin/Taylor Canfield/Rich Peale/Cole Brauer/Rob Scrivenor (USA 864) – 25 pts
5. Peter McClennen/Anthony Kotoun/Mike Marshall/Allie Grey/Wilson Stout (USA 811) – 32 pts
6. Richard Reid/Serena Vilage/Ian Sloan/Bill Gooderham/Brian Kamilar (CAN 853) – 33 pts
7. Travis Weisleder/John Bowden/Mike Buckley/Federico Michetti (USA 858) – 34 pts
8. Michael Goldfarb/Chris Rast/Jonny Goldsberry/Dave Hughes/Matteo Ramian (USA 825) – 35 pts
9. Peter-David Karrié/Alessandro Franci/Niccolò Bianchi/Saverio Cigliano/Alessandro Saettone (GER 673) – 36 pts
10. Andrea Pozzi/Andrea Pozzi/Matteo Ivaldi/Stefano Ciampalini/Carlo Zermini (ITA 830) – 42 pts

With back-to-back race wins from yesterday, Richard Witzel’s ‘Rowdy’ was the team to beat, if indeed anyone could. They briefly let John Heaton’s ‘Empeiria’ and Fernando Perez Ontiveros’ ‘Black Mamba’ get ahead in race 4, before ‘Rowdy’ netted another win in race 5 to make their dominance clear cut, securing event victory without needing to sail the final race.

A thrilled Carlos Robles, tactician on ‘Rowdy’, said, “We had a great weekend, we sailed well and most of the times went the right way and had good speed, so it was good for us. 

“I think mainly this year we have done a lot of sailing as a team together, so we have been training a lot and as a team we are sharp and that showed. Each one of us has our own roles and we work well together. It’s a good start to the year. We see it as a new season and it is always good to start strong.”

Speaking on the team dynamic, Robles continued, “It is great to sail with these guys. Obviously, a legend like Jud Smith is always great to be around, you always learn something so I am lucky to be part of that. And also with Tommy trimming, he did a great job this weekend, and obviously Rich making everything happen, it is always good to work with him.”

A particularly emotional outcome for ‘Rowdy’s’ trimmer Tomas ‘Tommy’ Dietrich from Argentina, who wore his nation’s football shirt today and crossed the finish line to victory literally at the same time as Argentina won the FIFA World Cup 2022. 

‘Empeiria’ also put on a stunning delivery, finishing 2nd in race 5 as they sought to defend their second overall. Now holding a 15-point margin over the third placed team, their silver spot on the podium was assured, leaving the tussle for third between John Brim’s ‘Rimette’ and ‘Black Mamba’, who were separated by just 2 points going into race 6. 

David Jannetti’s ‘Very Odd’ led race 6 for the first half, before Black Mamba took a smart tactical call and geared up from third place in the fleet, to overtake, win the race and carve out third place on the podium.

Fernando Perez Ontiveros, owner of ‘Black Mamba’, commented, “There were a lot of changes in that last race. We ended up rounding third for the last upwind and then our call was to do an early gybe and wing. We managed to sustain a very good lane all the way downwind. There were three boats that were to weather of us and in the end we were very happy to win the last race.”

Robert Hughes’ team on ‘Heartbreaker’ crossed the line in 2nd, with ‘Very Odd’ dropping to third.

A nod to the teenagers on ‘Grom Squad’, who continued to perform phenomenally on what today marked their sixth time in a J/70. They were stoked to count two top 10 finishes and wrap up their first ever J/70 event in 14th overall.

The top J/70 Corinthian team were Henry Filter’s ‘Wild Child’ in 15th overall.

J/70 Final Top 10 results – after 6 races
1. Richard Witzel/Jud Smith/Carlos Robles/Tomas Dietrich (USA 1562) – 7 pts
2. John Heaton/Will Felder/Zeke Horowitz/Zac Mason (USA 169) – 10 pts
3. Fernando Perez Ontiveros/Gonçalo Ribeiro/Bernardo Freitas/River Paquin (MEX 1152) – 21 pts
4. John Brim/Ian Liberty/John Wallace/Greiner Hobbs (USA 1150) – 22 pts
5. Robert Hughes/Marc Gauthier/Willem Van Way/Manu Weiller (USA 353) – 27 pts
6. David Jannetti/Travis Odenbach/Chris Warner/Andy Horton (USA 1513) – 29 pts
7. Zachary Segal/Dillon/Blake Cabassa/Ashton Hamerlin (USA 1154) – 38 pts
8. Callisto Racing/James Murray/Will Howard/Steven Leuck/Bill Hardesty (USA 152) – 39 pts
9. Daniel Goldberg/Tomas Hornos/Patrick Norris/Fernando Gwozdz (USA 84) – 42 pts
10. Trey Sheehan/Brad Boston/Curtis Florence/Orrin Starr (USA 389) – 44 pts

Celebrations continued ashore at the Bacardi Happy Hour, followed by the Prize Giving at Shake-A-Leg-Miami (SALM). Thanks to SALM who hosted the Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 and Coconut Grove Sailing Club who provided the race management team.

Bacardi Winter Series Event 2 takes place from January 27-29, 2023, followed by the concluding event of the series, the Bacardi Invitational Regatta from March 8-11, 2023.

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Text Credit: Luissa Smith
Photo Credits: Hannah Lee Noll 

December 18, 2022 Press Release, WS1, WS2