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great?

race report

great?

Not everyone is as sarcastic and cynical as we are. While we find almost nothing interesting or appealing about the RC 44’s and its accompanying circus, Bill Wingate, who wrote this report about the 44’s in Miami, sees it in a completely different light. We think it’s just another example of rich guys and their paid escorts on tour, in a dumb and overpriced boat, and we’re never wrong…

Having been offered a chance to go to Miami with the opportunity to receive a media pass, the decision to attend this event was a no-brainer. On scene would be a core of the AC34 participants; Larry Ellison, Vincenzo Onorato, Russell Coutts, James Spithill, and Paul Cayard. Along with these guys you had many of the top pro and amateur sailors in the world.

Great races
After a match-race series which saw a range of breeze from 20-25 knots to a day lost with no breeze, Team Aqua had survived to win this part of the event, and on Friday came out of the blocks still hot by winning the first of the fleet race series. Another team that started strong this first day was Artemis, with Sarah Gunderson posting strong finishes and a win to end-up 1 point behind Doug Douglas helming 17. 17, Oracle, and Mascalzone Latino had a slow start, posting most finishes close to the middle of the pack, with 17 being the best of the group with a better average than others whose results were less consistent.

On Saturday only two races were completed, with the third race being dropped after three attempts at a start with an aggressive fleet pulling two general recalls before Peter ‘Luigi’ Reggio pulled the plug and sent the fleet home. Numerous guest 9th ‘man’ crew were disappointed at not getting a full ride around the course, having to make-do with enjoying the joust of the three aggressive pre-starts. Doug Douglas/James Spithill were called over early in the second race, and after working hard up the middle right of the course on both upwind legs of the 4 leg windward/leeward courses, rallied to pull-off the win. With consistent top finishes they took a commanding lead of almost 20 points into the final day. Larry Ellison with tactician Russell Coutts gained with a better mix of results, moving into second place on the leader board. Also posting solid results to move into third place was Vincenzo Onorato and the Mascalzone Latino team.

Sunday brought a return of the strong breeze as a front was working its way down the Florida peninsula, creating a strong southwesterly wind starting in the 16-18 knot range, building to over 20 knots by the finish of the first race and on into the final two races of the event. All opportunities for a 9th man ride were eliminated by this condition as the race officials deemed it too risky to have the additional personnel on board. Mascalzone Latino had a strong day, posting top finishes to secure their third place in the fleet race, along with a third in the match racing this gave them the overall win for the regatta.

Along with the excitement of the racing and close overlapped finishes were the logistics of the running of such an event. There was much running around with lists and schedules to be met. Crews were working to prepare the boats, meetings for both organizers, sailors, and team managers made the dockside and race base area a beehive of activity. The docks were open for those that wanted to get a close-up view of the preparations, and dock-side interviews that happen before the boats leave the dock and head to the course to tune and prepare for the start. Fortunately the race area was a short ride out of Government Cut and a quick hitch to the north along Miami ’s South Beach.

A great time
In all this madness, I arrived Friday morning to seek-out the media office and Bernard, who was in charge of the media and scheduling the allotment of slots on the press boats. Upon being greeted, given a media wristband ID, and offered space with computer connection in the media trailer, all assistance was given to aid in being able to take photos. Being introduced to
‘Steve’, whose son is a grinder on the Oracle boat, I was off to get on the water and take-in the sights and sounds of RC 44 racing. Three of us were assigned to the boat with Steve. He was very helpful in getting us in position to get really great shots, being close enough to hear everything happening during the mark roundings to where it was very close to what you hear from the on-board audio. At one start, Puerto Calero and 17 were called over early. Puerto Calero made the first turn back to the start, and being at the pin-end we were right in line with their turn. As we moved to clear them here comes 17 making the tight circle to get back and clear. As a result Steve ended-up splitting between the two, with a few kind four-letter words sent our way.

The next day one of the drivers had to leave, making Bernard one driver short for the number of boats. Steve was re-assigned to drive the boat for Onne van der Wal. Bernard was not sure what he could do to help me, but then turns back and asks “can you drive a boat?” Does a duck take to water? I answer to the affirmative and he hands me the key and asks me to drive the boat for the day. As it turned-out all the photog ’s had been assigned and I had the boat to myself.

On Sunday I again arrived at the compound and wondered if my luck would hold-out. Looking around I was not able to find Bernard, but Steve was on hand and we talked about events, and ended-up discussing Key West, as there are 5 boats attending this year. He indicated that his team from back home was looking to charter a Farr 395 for the event, and it came about that one they were looking at was from my home club. In the middle of our conversation he stops me and remembers that an organizer named Hubert was indicating that there were openings on the VIP boat and spots to be the 9th man. After introducing me, I am accepted for a spot on the boat and listed to go on one of the RC44 boats. Also in the time leading-up to the docking-out I was able to introduce myself to Tom Ehman, who remembered giving a tour of the San Diego compound and taking pic ’s of my brother. After getting selected for the boat, I was able to spend some time with Tom and he was kind enough to introduce me to Kimball Livingston and others on board.

A great bunch
Overall my opinion of the RC44 class is very positive. Everyone I came in contact with was very polite and as accommodating as they could be. Bernard, Steve, Hubert, Tom, along with Russell Coutts, Dee Smith, Paul Cayard, and Vincenzo Onorato were very kind to this
‘unknown’ media rep. Each were gracious to take a minute and exchange pleasantries, with all the demands of the event, media, and preparation to race. It was interesting to see these people together at the awards ceremony. If you did not know who they were, and the positions they hold in business and the sailing world, the conversations and animation as they discussed the events of the races, positioning their hands to make a point about actions on the racecourse, it would look like any yacht club where the various competitors do the same. Even Larry Ellison ragging Peter ‘Luigi’ Reggio for calling him over early in one race (“there’s no way we were over…”) was just like it happens around the world between helm and PRO.

Great things ahead
So the guys were getting-up early Monday, in the cool wind of a post front morning, to pack-up the circus and prepare the boats for transit to San Diego and the first event of the 2011 season. The five boats competing in Key West will stay for a while until it is time to head that way. ‘Ironbound’, David Murphy’s new boat, was being towed to their Ft. Lauderdale base, and then to the Keys for the event. Their boat captain indicated that some wanted to sail the boat along with the Miami to Key West race (the RC44 is not legally able to compete since it does not meet ORR regs) but without sufficient crew the decision has been made to tow her down. Hubert was on his way to San Diego to set the organization for the event there in March, then getting a much deserved trip home for a few weeks until having to depart and start the ball rolling again next year. Very little rest for the weary. With the announcement that the class will return to Miami next year, I am already making plans to attend. . – Bill Wingrove