gold cup turned black

gold cup turned black

Some excellent work (both on the course and on the plane with his laptop writing this) from Sam Rogers at the Melges 32 Gold Cup.  Be sure to check out Sam’s 42Marine site for more of his work.

After 5 years of participating in the Melges 32 Gold Cup and putting up a big "donut" for victories in every attempt for myself thus far, it was looking like the 5th time might be the charm and 2010 edition was going to be the real thing. Going into the event, I felt we had a reasonable shot at the title since the Volpe is the current National Champ and we have a very well run program with talented sailors, but like any Melges 32 regatta on the circuit, just when you start to feel comfortable, you better start looking around, because a change in the standings is just a tough start away.

Headed into the final day of the event with 3 races remaining, we managed to carve out a nice 12 pt lead after 5 very challenging, shifty, tough races.  Our team up to this point had battled back from tough situations that could have turned ugly, and through solid driving by Ryan DeVos and sure, low-risk tactics provided by Ed Baird, we were able to put up a nice score line of all top 5 finishes.  With a strong front pushing through on Sunday and a 12-18 mph westerly providing even more, flat, shifty conditions than days 1 and 2, we knew it was going to be tough to hold off our nearest competitors on Ramrod and Warpath headed into the final day.

Due to the deep water that is just a few miles offshore of Ft. Lauderdale, and a westerly breeze that was coming directly off the Port Everglades beach, the RC had no other choice than to set our weather mark a few hundred yards from land which made an already shifty breeze even more of a minefield towards the top end of the windward leg. And if you did not get a front row start, you immediately found yourself out of phase and playing a game that was not chosen by you, but instead dictated by lane management and the boats around you.  In the first start of the day, we got shut out at the boat-end by 2nd place boat Ramrod and did our best to hang in a thin lane, but eventually had to tack, only to watch the boats that were able to continue on starboard off the line step into a left shift and put distance on us, making the first race a tough battle with the middle of the fleet that we could not escape from.  With both Ramrod and Warpath having good races, we donated our 18th place as our throw out and took our fifth from earlier in the event as our result for Race 6.

After seeing our nice overall lead get cut in half, spirits were a bit down on the Volpe, but we were still leading, and after a few energy drinks and fist pounds, we regrouped and knew that we were one good start away from securing the event.  With the shifts boiling off the beach at a very fast rate, it was important to keep a fluid starting position on the line to put yourself in-line with the best pressure.  Seeing that the middle might be the place to be, we got into our hole around a minute and it looked promising to get off the line cleanly.  After a big left shift and watching our nice 2-3 boat length hole dissipate into nothing, we quickly got sawed off and luckily, we were able to get a clean lane on port tack and it looked like we were going to be playing in the front group.  Just as we started to feel ok, the boats in front of us started to wind up, and the pressure they had was clearly not getting to us, and thus began a slow, painful 1st mark rounding.  The top 3 boats extended from leeward and ahead to clearly in front of us, the boats on our left hooked into huge left pressure, and the boats that we had put away on the right side came screaming in on right pressure that once again put us in the middle of the pack, leaving us to catch the boats that were catching us for the Gold Cup title.

After rounding the 2nd top mark in the high teens with Warpath in the top 3, and Ramrod a few boats ahead us, we continued to fight hard and were able to have a nice set, gybe in pressure, pick off Ramrod and finish 11th to maintain a 4 pt lead over both Ramrod and Warpath who were tied for 2nd headed into the last race.  Sure, it wasn’t pretty, but none if this would matter if we could hang on to win.  After 2 tough races, we felt ok that we were still leading and according to the law of averages, a few of us quietly assumed we were going to get a good start, get off cleanly and get the job done.  We were soon going to find out that who ever wrote the Law of Averages was a pretty average lawmaker.

With a 2pm time limit to get off the final race, the RC quickly reset the starting line and sounded the warning signal at 1:20.  We managed a nice clean start at the pin end and our biggest challenge of the day looked conquered, until two horns sounded and the RC came over the radio, "General Recall."  The line was reset, competitors hurriedly re-pinged the line, and the next warning was sounded at 1:30…another clean start for us at the pin end, and another general recall. With no restraint shown by the fleet and the time limit fast approaching, the RC hoisted the black flag with the next warning at 1:40.  The pin end was once again wide open and as the time ticked down, we turned up later than the nearest boats around us just to be conservative and off we went, fighting hard to save our lane with the boats to leeward and to windward.  The RC came over the radio to announce the boats that would be DSQ’ed due to being over early…."Bow 32…(pause for 15-20 seconds)….Bow 18."  "That’s us," said our tactician Ed.  Surprised and a bit miffed, I replied, "What. No way.  Check our bow number.  Are you sure we are bow 18?" After a quick check in vein at our bow number, we asked the RC for confirmation of the numbers hailed, than slowly eased out sails, tacked behind the fleet and continued a long, frustrating sail back to the Bahia Mar.  Rod Jabin and his team on Ramrod would hold off Warpath by 1 pt to defend their title from 2009 as Gold Cup Champs.

There wasn’t much that could be said on the way in.  We had put ourselves in a great position to win headed into the last day, and even after 2 tough races, we still had a chance to win going into the last race, and at the end of an event, that is what you hope for.  We can look at the bright side and know that this will be a good lesson learned for an up-and-coming program with a good, young driver, but there is nothing that can take the sting away from having the event in your sights, and watching it slip away.  Thanks to the team on Volpe (Ryan DeVos, Scott Nixon, Ed Baird, Drew Wierda, Mike Hill, Marty Kullman and Adam Burns) for a great weekend of sailing and good times.  Thanks also to John Taylor on Ninkasi for free Heineken and Heineken Light all weekend, and to the CT and the Bronco team for the nice tailgate party on Saturday afternoon.  Melges 32 racing is seriously fun.

Reports and photos can be found at Melges32.com as well as a bevy of photos and videos. Thanks to Sara Proctor for the top shot.

TOP TEN RESULTS (FINAL, After eight races)

  1. Rod Jabin | Chris Larson, Ramrod; 4-2-1-12-8-2-[18]-3 = 32
  2. Steve Howe | Morgan Larson, Warpath; [8]-8-1-5-4-8-3-4 = 33
  3. Ryan DeVos | Ed Baird, Volpe; 3-2-3-1-5=14=11=[22/BFD] = 39
  4. Joe Woods | Paul Goodison, Red; 6-[11]-5-9-6-5-6-7 = 44
  5. Jeff Ecklund | Harry Melges, III, STAR; 15-6-8-8-7-1-1-[22/BFD] = 46
  6. Dalton DeVos| Chris Rast, Delta; 11-9-12-3-[12]-7-2-2 = 46
  7. Lanfranco Cirillo | Michele Paoletti, Fantastica; 7-19-4-2-14-[22/OCS]-4-1 = 51
  8. Alex Jackson | Rob Greenhalgh, Leenabarca; 1-7-7-15-1-12-[17]-11 = 54
  9. Joel Ronning | Bill Hardesty, Catapult; 5-15-13-6-10-4-9-[17] = 62
  10. Jason Carroll | Dave Ullman, ARGO; 10-10-6-7-9-[18]-12-8 = 62