Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT / friedbits.com
The Star sailors opened their assault on the 91st Bacardi Cup in a breeze of 12 knots and flat sea, under the beautiful Coconut Grove skies and stunning Miami city backdrop.
Before heading to the race track, the sailors paid tribute to one of the Star greats, Sir Durward Knowles (BAH) who passed away aged 100 years on 24 February 2018. Paul Cayard led the dedication and paying of respects by the Star Class family at 09:00 hours in Miami, ahead of Sir Durward’s funeral a few hours later in Nassau, Bahamas. Star Class President Hubert Merkelbach hoisted the Star Class flag joined by past Presidents Lars Grael and Jack Rickard, followed by Mark Reynolds hoisting the Bahamian flag, before lowering it to half-mast. Sailors then signed a photo of Sir Durward’s Star which will be presented to his family. Impressively, before his passing, Sir Durward was the oldest living Olympic Gold Medallist, securing gold at the 1964 Olympics.
Out on the race track, one minute before the starting procedure for the day’s race, the fleet paraded along the starting line and turned their bows to 100 degrees on the compass towards Nassau in honour to Sir Durward.
“Today the Star Class honoured Sir Durward Knowles who raced the Star for over 70 years, was Commodore of the Class for 31 years, Gold Medallist, World Champion and all around great human being,” said Paul Cayard. “It is fortunate that we are all here for the first race of the Bacardi Cup to mark this moment.”
“This is our way of honouring Sir Durward and everything he meant for this class”,continued John Vandermolen, Star Class Executive Director.
Then, it was all about the race track battle. After a postponement due to the shifty breeze, the first start got underway, albeit abandoned as a big right hand shift hit the track. Soon conditions stabilized and the fleet got off in 10-12 knots.
Racing one long race a day, the Star Class fleet is packed with the sport’s big names, and with so much depth in performance, there is simply no room to make a mistake, as there is no opportunity for a comeback.
The 2016 Star Class World Champions Augie Diaz and Bruno Prada took the opening day victory in a closely fought duel with the Norwegian team. The pair battled through on the final leg to overtake reigning Star Class World Champions, Eivind Melleby /Joshua Revkin (NOR) who had controlled the fleet for most of the race. Diaz / Prada have partnered for the past nine years, and are hugely experienced with the trickery of the Miami race track, so whilst a win doesn’t come easy in such a world class fleet, there was no surprise to see them out front.
“Today was really a hard day on the water”, grinned Diaz back ashore. “I think it was a hard day for everybody including the Race Committee. The Race Committee did a really nice job of waiting for the wind to settle. It was a really difficult race as the wind was still changing back and forth quite a bit.”
Reflecting on their performance, Diaz explained, “We were very fortunate to have a pretty good first weather leg and we arrived at the mark in like seventh or eighth and we thought that was a good situation given how hard the race course was today. We then had a really good downwind leg and we were able to round the right hand gate mark and that gave us a really nice position to go up the second leg.”
Hunting down Melleby / Revkin, Diaz / Prada rounded the weather mark in second and then made their move, clawing past the Norwegians to take the lead in the final downwind leg.
Third to Italy’s three-time Olympian Diego Negri racing with Sergio Lambertenghi. Compared to much of the fleet, the pair is considered a relatively new partnership, but have enjoyed plenty of success, winning the 2014 Star European Championship not long after they partnered up, and following up with a silver medal at the Star Worlds the same year.
Post-race, the venerable Bacardi Rum brand, the locally-headquartered ‘king of hospitality’ which has sponsored the event since its inception, greets and hosts sailors each evening. The Bacardi Cup Star Class Party headlines today’s post-race social at the Bacardi Building, featuring the renowned Bacardi cocktails and drinks, along with great food and tropical music.
Anticipating the week ahead, John Vandermolen, Star Class Executive Director commented, “The Bacardi Cup is one of the premier events in our Class. It is so much fun and we are so excited to be a part of this with Bacardi and all of the people here at Coral Reef Yacht Club. Eleven World Champions are here and gold medallists are sailing, so the competition is fierce but friendly. And that’s the way the Star Class is, so we are very excited for the first day of this wonderful event.”
Race 2 for the Star Class is scheduled to start at 11:55 hours on Tuesday, March 6th. Racing for the J/70 Class starts on Thursday, March 8th with 9 races scheduled across 3 days.
Bacardi Cup – Results after Race 1
1. Augie Diaz / Bruno Prada (USA) - 1 pt
2. Eivind Melleby /Joshua Revkin (NOR) - 2 pt
3. Diego Negri / Sergio Lambertenghi (ITA) - 3 pt
4. Paul Cayard / Mark Strube (USA) - 4 pt
5. Eric Doyle / Payson Infelise (USA) - 5 pt
6. Peter O'Leary / Robert O'Leary (IRL) - 6 pt
7. Robert Scheidt / Brian Fatih (BRA) - 7 pt
8. Thomas Allart / Arthur Lopez (NED) - 8 pt
9. Peter Vessella / Phil Trinter (USA) - 9 pt
10. Luke Lawrence / Pedro Trouche (NED) - 10 pt
Seventy-six teams from 17 nations are competing: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Ukraine and United States.
A special thank you to this year’s event sponsors and supporters: North Sails, Coral Reef Sailing Apparel, Hatuey, S.Pellegrino, Gubinelli, Tuuci, Nautical Channel, Sun Orchard, Regatta Gingerbeer, Ocean Navigator, Jaguar therapeutics, Coco Walk and the City of Coconut Grove.