Challenging Light Wind Opening Day at Bacardi Winter Series Event One

December 17, 2022 - Miami, FL, USA -  The two-day Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 for the thirty-eight boat J/70 and Melges 24 fleets opened today, Saturday, December 17, on Biscayne Bay, Miami, in a light and shifty breeze.

After three races, the day wrapped up with a top-three tiebreak in the Melges 24 between Drew Freides on ‘Pacific Yankee’, Chris Larson on ‘Raza Mixta’ and Laura Grondin on ‘Dark Energy’, and three straight victories to Richard Witzel’s team on ‘Rowdy’ in the J/70.

The day kicked off with a morning weather briefing sponsored by Quantum Sails with Sail22 and SailFlow, before teams headed to the race track for the first of the day’s three races. Racing started on schedule in a tricky 6 knot breeze and overcast sky, with the Melges 24 off first at 1100 hours, followed by the J/70s at 1105, with the wind disappearing by race end to leave a mirror-like Biscayne Bay.

As per the weather briefing forecast, the breeze shut off after race 1 and spun 180 degrees to south-southeast. With just 2-3 knots, PRO Mark Foster and his Coconut Grove Sailing Club Race Committee delivered well timed race calls, postponing on the water until the afternoon breeze kicked in. Race 2 got underway in around 8 knots and clean starts under a warm Miami sun, with more of the same for race 3.

Bacardi Winter Series Event 1 is the first of a three-event series for the J/70 and Melges 24, which culminates at the 2023 Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta, 8-11 March 2023.

Melges 24

Eighteen teams from across the USA were joined by international entries from Canada, Germany and Italy for this first event. Predictably close racing saw three different winners and a tie-break top three on 13 points each in a finely balanced battle. Drew Freides’ team on ‘Pacific Yankee’ hold the advantage on count-back after their race 3 win.

Pacific Yankee USA865 of Drew Freides with Nic Asher, Charlie Smythe, Alec Anderson, Mark Ivey at Bacardi Winter Series 2022-2023 Event 1
Pacific Yankee USA865 of Drew Freides with Nic Asher, Charlie Smythe, Alec Anderson, Mark Ivey at Bacardi Winter Series 2022-2023 Event 1

In race 1, it was no surprise to see last year’s Event 1 winner Laura Grondin and her team on ‘Dark Energy’ claiming the first mark rounding, pushed hard by Travis Weisleder on ‘Lucky Dog’, ‘Pacific Yankee’ and Chris Larson on ‘Raza Mixta’. Close tactical racing in the light breeze ended in a super tight finish, as the two leading boats gybed just before the line. With just half a boat length separating them, the win went to ‘Raza Mixta’, second to ‘Dark Energy’ and third to ‘Lucky Dog’.

“The boat is going well,” said Victor Diaz de Leon, tactician on ‘Raza Mixta’. “The team did a good job around the track with the manoeuvres, and we had a couple of shifts and puffs go our way and we were able to come back from 5th at the top mark and win the race. In the end it was very close. We have a great line-up onboard and we are having fun,” he continued in appreciation of the teamwork by Chris Larson, Erik Shampain, Patrick Wilson and Matt Pistay.

Onto race 2, where Peter-David Karrié’s ‘Nefeli’ played their fast card off the line, controlled the fleet from start to finish and took the win. Behind, there was some shuffling, with ‘Dark Energy’ stepping up to 2nd and Canada’s Richard Reid and team on ‘Zingara’ finishing in third. 

Larson, veteran of the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, and multiple world championships, was not able to repeat his team’s form in race 2, dropping from 3rd at the second windward mark to finish in 5th, an outcome which also saw the overall lead go to Grondin’s ‘Dark Energy’ from her back-to-back 2nd place finishes. 

All change in race 3, with ‘Pacific Yankee’ controlling the pack at the first leeward mark and going on to take the win, chased by Richard Reid’s ‘Zingara’, Harry Melges IV on ‘Zenda Express’ and Peter McClennen’s ‘Gamecock’.

“It was a good day, it was challenging,” said Freides“It was really shifty, really puffy and the breeze was all over the place. The race committee did an amazing job in getting three races in those conditions. We just kind of hung in there. Actually, we had a terrible first start and had to dig back and finish 4th in that race, with some great upwind tactics and good boat speed. Second race we had our issues and the third race we finally got our act together, so it was good.”

Freides is an aficionado of competing at Bacardi events in Miami, adding, “It is just fun. The weather for the most part is warm, the water’s warm, the sailing is great, the people are fun. It is a fun event. We are always here.”

Melges 24 Provisional Top 10 results – after 3 races

1. Drew Freides/Nic Asher/Charlie Smythe/Alec Anderson/Mark Ivey (USA 865) – 13 pts

2. Chris Larson/Victor Diaz de Leon/Erik Shampaign/Patrick Wilson/Norman Berge (USA 829) – 13 pts

3. Laura Grondin/Taylor Canfield/Rich Peale/Cole Brauer/Rob Scrivenor (USA 864) – 13 pts

4. Travis Weisleder/John Bowden/Mike Buckley/Federico Michetti (USA 858) – 15 pts

5. Richard Reid/Serena Vilage/Ian Sloan/Bill Gooderham/Brian Kamilar (CAN 853) – 17 pts

6. Harry Melges IV/Jeremy Willmot/Fin Rowe/Ripley Shelley/Cooper Del Bridge (USA 866) – 19 pts

7. Peter-David Karrié/Alessandro Franci/Niccolò Bianchi/Saverio Cigliano/Alessandro Saettone (GER 673) – 21 pts

8. Peter McClennen/Anthony Kotoun/Mike Marshall/Allie Grey/Wilson Stout (USA 811) – 23 pts

9. Andrea Pozzi/andrea pozzi/matteo ivaldi/stefano ciampalini/carlo zermini (ITA 830) – 23 pts

10. Michael Goldfarb/Chris Rast/Jonny Goldsberry/Dave Hughes/Matteo Ramian (USA 825) – 26 pts

Bacardi Invitational & Winter Series 2022-2023

Bacardi Winter Series 2022-2023 -Event 1 in Miami

Pacific Yankee USA865 of Drew Freides with Nic Asher, Charlie Smythe, Alec Anderson, Mark Ivey at Bacardi Winter Series 2022-2023 Event 1