Etchells World Championships Day 1 Racing Abandoned

Miami, FL – (April 17, 2023) Live to sail another day at AON 2023 Etchells World Championships.

That was the philosophy taken by organizers of the AON 2023 Etchells World Championships, which were scheduled to get underway Monday on Biscayne Bay. However, principal race officer Dave Brennan convened a meeting of the on-water management team first thing in the morning to review and discuss the daily forecast provided by class meteorologist Chelsea Freas Carlson.

After careful consideration, the Race Committee agreed the wise decision was to abandon racing on Monday to ensure none of the 63 boats or sailors sustained injury due to severe weather. “The long and short of it is the first thing we need to be concerned with is the safety of the competitors. With the line squalls coming through and lightning strikes, having everybody out on the bay as all this comes through is not prudent. It’s just not safe to send out 400 sailors with the chance of getting hit by lightning,” Brennan said after announcing the decision to the sailors on the front lawn of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.

Brennan spent several hours Monday morning tracking the approaching cold front and getting some analysis from Freas Carlson. Most alarming was the threat of severe thunderstorms with plenty of electricity and even the threat of waterspouts.

“Conditions are going to be severe with huge wind shifts, so even if there was no lightning our ability to deliver fair sailing would be challenging,” Brennan said. It’s just not worth going out for two reasons — the safety of the competitors would be put in jeopardy and quality racing would likely be poor.”

Factoring into the Race Committee’s calculus was a long-range forecast that is very favorable. Winds are predicted to be blowing 15 to 20 knots from the north on Tuesday then slowly clocking east as we go through the week.

“For the balance of the week, the forecast looks very strong. We’re not going to have any more severe weather and with the predicted wind velocity and direction we can control our destiny,” Brennan said.

Some sailors took the news in stride with one crew member declaring to his skipper “I guess this means we’re going to the pool.” Naturally, many competitors were disappointed as the AON 2023 World Championships in Miami had been highly anticipated for a year.

Steve Benjamin, the 2017 World Champion and a member of the class Board of Governors, expressed the opposing viewpoint.

“I’ve spoken to several competitors and we have a slight difference of opinion. My view is that we should have gone out and given it a try. I’d always prefer to sail than not sail,” Benjamin said. “I certainly recognize the weather risk; however, I often find the forecasters are often wrong. You never know what’s really going to happen, so you go out and try.”

At the same time, Benjamin took a diplomatic approach and professed respect for the decision-making of Brennan and other regatta organizers. “I see both sides of the coin. I think we all recognize the dangers and understand the Race Committee’s desire to keep everyone safe,” he said.

As the two flags signaling abandonment were raised from the yardarm at Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, Race Organizers were already convening a plan to adjust the schedule to still try to get in nine quality races this week.

The Sailing Instructions have been amended to add a third race to Wednesday and Thursday. That would aim for seven but at least be likely to produce the seven-race series that would allow for a throwout.

At the time of writing, a Marine Weather Advisory was still in effect by the National Weather Service and a strong 1pm rain squall did pass through Coconut Grove. While the feared conditions did not pass through the racing area, severe thunderstorms were observed just a few miles north and south of the course.

Two races are scheduled for tomorrow starting at noon on Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.

State of The Class with Chairman of the IGC, Jim Cunningham

Due to the cancellation of races today, we had time to sit down Cunningham to take a look at where the International Etchells Class is today.

“I think the Etchells class is in good shape and headed in the right direction,” Cunningham declared.

Read the Full Interview

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