By John Dane III
David Bolyard, Ullman Gulf Coast Loft Owner, and my son Schaeffer Dane returned to Miami where we had sailed together for the first time last year in Viper No. 135 that Pass Christian Yacht Club had purchased as part of the Gulf Yachting Association’s move to replace the Flying Scots as their Association boats.
Knowing that last year’s competitors from Britain and Ireland were returning, along with all the US teams, we decided to get to Miami early and practice our teamwork and work on boat speed since I had been sidelined for 7 months after rotator cuff surgery.
We arrived on Friday, March 3rd to allow rigging and practice on the 4th prior to the March 5-6 EFG Winter Cup warm up regatta. Regrettably, when we went to the sailing center on Saturday, it was blowing 25knots and gusting to 35; We decided to not sail that day to save the sails and equipment. Then Sunday morning, it was still blowing but a few Vipers went out sailing. Regrettably 2 of them lost their masts while sailing downwind with boat speed over 18+ knots. The lesson learned was it is harmful to your mast if you ease the mainsheet out too far in 20+ knots. In other words, you need the main leech to support the mast from breaking forward over the bow.
Both Sunday and Monday had similarly strong winds, so we again stayed ashore and no races were sailed at this point in the EFG Winter Cup Regatta.
Finally Tuesday, the winds lightened up and the “Scorch” fun race across the bay to Key Biscayne’s “no name Harbor” was held with 7 Vipers attending. The rest of the fleet drove to the Harbor and had a wonderful lunch together. The race back to Miami was interesting since it had a “Lemans” type start with all crew aboard and sails down when the starting gun went off. Then the winner would be the first boat whose one crew member chugged a beer first at the outside bar at the Coral Reef Yacht Club. The beer chugging was very close with the team of Matt Harden (Houston, TX) finishing first and Bill Abbott’s (Sarnia, ON) team with Buttons Padin chugging finished second.
Wednesday was scheduled to be a lay day, but with us being blown out for 3 days, Buttons spoke to all the teams and found out that a few teams wanted to practice Wednesday and have some practice races and have it count as the EFG Winter Cup. The comradery was evident as 18 Vipers participated in the 8 knots of wind and another 5 VX Ones sailing in the area accepted the invitation to tune-up with the Vipers.
Regrettably on the 3rd practice start, I misjudged a duck and ended up putting a 2 inch hole in the bow of our new Viper No. 258, and had to retire. Fortunately, the boat I hit, who had the right of way, had zero damage. Thanks to Schaeffer being a boat builder we got the boat repaired in a few hours and were in the water by dark Wednesday night.
Buttons kept score on the EFG Winter Cup warm-up one-day regatta and Lawrence Crispin’s (Stone, UK) team was awarded the EFG Cup trophy at the Thursday night Viper Dinner.
Thursday, March 19th was the scheduled first day of racing in the EFG- Pan-Am Championship/Bacardi Miami Sailing Week.
Day 1 of racing was a learning day for us against the 22 boat fleet in 10-12 knots of wind. We had good speed both upwind and downwind, but were having trouble getting off the starting line. Part of this could be attributed to us not having sailed together since last year’s Bacardi. At the end of 4 races this day we were in 3rd place behind Geoff Ewenson, who dominated the day, in first and Bill Abbott in 2nd. We were feeling confident, since we passed many boats after my poor starts and had 2,6,4,4 finishes.
Day 2 of racing produced lighter winds in the 5-8 knot range and while 4 races were scheduled, only 2 races were completed. We finished with a 4, 1 and could have been better, but the race we finished 4th in, we were in the lead, but got kelp on our keel and by the time we got it cleared we dropped back to 6th. Fortunately, great downwind speed with the new Ullman shape chute helped up pass 2 boats on the final run. At the end of the day, we notched a 1st place in race 6 and moved up to 2nd with 15 points while Ewenson had only 7 points and Abbott now had 24 points. My crew was happy since I told them any day we won a race, they would be treated to stone crab. One good point on the day was that Ewenson had a 17th as his worse race and we had a 6th as our worst race, so if he had another bad race we could possibly close the gap.
Day 3 had winds that started fairly light with race No. 1 being shortened to 3 legs due to dying winds. We again had kelp issues and finished 5th while Ewenson finished 9th. At that point we had closed the gap and were hopeful for a good last 2 races.
As things would happen, both Ewenson and I had poor starts in the next race and we tacked up the middle while Geoff went far to the right. At the first mark, Ewenson was 2nd and we were dead last. Fortunately we had great boat speed and passed 16 boats to finish 6th while actually overlapped with the boats that finished 4 and 5th. We were flying again downwind sailing a little lower than competitors near us while going the same speed.
In the last race we were in 2nd place upwind when Kelp again got us and we dropped back to 6th, but again our downwind speed helped us move up to 3rd at the end. Ewenson was 4th and therefore nailed down the victory with him having 21 points to our 29 points and Abbotts finished 3rd with 35 points.
We certainly congratulate Geoff, Paul and Skip for sailing such a strong regatta.
Interestingly, Travis Yates won the last day, as one of the only other boats using a complete set of Ullman sails with finishes of 1,4,5.
In summary, we always had great boat speed around the course in all wind conditions with Ullman sails and were especially proud of the fact that our worse race was 6th place in such a competitive field. As someone pointed out, had there not been a throw out race, we would have been first.