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atlantic cup,

atlantic cup, uncovered

We featured the erudite analysis of Mike Hennessy yesterday, and today we kick it with young gun Ben Poucher aboard Icarus Racing.

First off, if you love sailboat racing and you aren’t paying attention to this race, I am not sure what else you’d be watching!  Oh wait…there is that race that just finished another leg in Miami…Quick shout out to PUMA for their victory into Miami.  Way to go fellas!  U…S….A.   U….S….A  (well some of them, anyway).

So people keep asking me why is the Atlantic Cup creating such a following for a newly developed race in its second year? The answer is surprisingly simple. First of all, the race organizers have done a great job promoting the event, luring a strong group of international teams to good ol’ Charleston, South Cackalacky.  Those entries are dominated (like the international Class) by the French contingent, and they’re here to compete in what looks to be one of, if not the, most influential offshore racing circuit in quite some time – if ever.  

Second, the format is different enough and interesting enough to have attracted not only the racers, but a solid group of sponsors and the mainstream media.  It pulls in interest from many that might not know, or understand much about competitive sailing.

My Co-Skipper Tim Fetsch and I feel pretty lucky to be part of the great crowd assembled down here in Charleston, mostly thanks to Ralf Steitz and the USMMA Sailing Foundation who support us with our boat and program.  Ralf shares our enthusiasm for the race.  “This race and format is going to open many doors to sailors of all ages, and I think it will impact the future of the sport in so many positive ways here in the US,” he said in his thick and wonderful German accent.  “Look at dis heah – dis is soooo cool!”

Local schoolkids have been visiting the boats non-stop over the past week along with area residents with no prior knowledge of the sport and random spectators trying their best to speak French to some of the teams.  Local media have taken a hard interest in the offshore game all of a sudden, and most of the credit goes to Julianna and Hugh Pigging from organizer Manuka Sports Management.  They’ve brought extensive knowledge both of offshore racing (thanks to Hugh’s Open 60 and big boat experience) and media and event promotion (thanks to Julianna’s event management experience) to the A Cup, and they make a great team accomplishing a hard-fought goal; to provide a road for both young and old, amateur and pro, who want to get out and compete in a great class and a great style of racing.

Aboard Team Icarus, we’re feeling a little pressure as the ‘local boys’ heading out to kick some ass.  We’re both local, being College of Charleston alums, but considering the company and the age of our Martin-designed Class 40, it’s a daunting task.  Between our local knowledge and a year of hard sailing (and some nice new kit), we think we can get ‘er done – but time will tell.

The skippers’ meeting yesterday was a bit mutinous at times, with mostly the French unhappiness with the relatively high weight given to the inshore racing in Newport.  The argument was quickly diffused by PRO Anderson Reggio, who helped the group come to a decision that seems to have brought satisfaction to the group.  All legs, both inshore and offshore, will count toward the overall prize (a big pile of CASH), with up to four inshore races counting the same as the two offshore legs.  In other words, each offshore leg will be worth the same as two inshore races, and if five inshore races are sailed, one will be a throwout.  The important thing to take away from the experience was the event’s willingness to find its own way, not mirroring any other racing series, and to crown a champion with a versatile boat as well as great sailing ability.  It’s a great format and I think it has a great future ahead of it.

As much as I love my home town, one of Charleston’s big problems in hosting this kind of big event is its distinct lack of facilities and infrastructure.  If it wasn’t for Kurt Oberle from High and Dry Boatworks and Open 60 and Maxi Multihull vet Jeffery “Wazzle” Wargo, a lot of boats would never have made it to the line.  The next step toward making Charleston the kind of destination we know it can be is a proper shipyard.  <Cough, Cough…Eli Dana and Newport Shipyard…Cough, Cough…Shipyard South, maybe?>

I promised Sailing Anarchy a little taste of what is going on down on the docks and behind the scenes with the Atlantic Cup.  I won’t bore you with the every day sailing article about where the wind direction and how far we have to go to the finish, you can follow all of that info up to the minute at the race website.  They’re making sure they focus on everyone participating in the event, and the folks at  Manuka should be lauded for creating something that deserves your attention.

Please do me and the sailing community a quick favor by clicking on the sponsors that make all of this happen for our team, my fellow competitors, as well as the Atlantic Cup itself.  Go visit the team websites and check out their sponsors.  This helps us prove that people do pay attention, and that their money and time are well spent.  So here go the plugs:

A huge thanks to everyone that has helped us get to the line, including our family and friends.  Here are the sponsors, in no particular order.

Jim stone at Gorilla Rigging,
The Newport Shipyard,
The USMMA sailing foundation, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Atlantis Weather Gear, Kinder Industries,
All the guys at North Sails, Roger Martin Design 

Talk to everyone on the interweb periodically throughout the race!  Go to atlanticcup.org and vote for our team!  Friend us on Facebook and follow the race.  If we had a computer and sat budget onboard our boat, we would send cool videos and pictures, but at the current moment, it is just chart plotters…maybe next year.  We are pushing the fact that driving, trimming, and clever tactics can overcome the technology aspect of the race up the coast!
Gotta run.  Race time.

-Ben Poucher and Tim Fetsch – ‘Team Icarus’  (still no title sponsor…!)