Etchells Worlds Day 2 – Champagne Sailing

Canadians take early lead in Etchells Worlds

Miami, USA – Strong winds and sunny skies ensured a successful opening day for the AON 2023 Etchells World Championships, being held on Biscayne Bay.

Principal Race Officer, Dave Brennan, completed two picture-perfect races in the exact conditions that were predicted —- north to northeasterly winds ranging from 12 to 18 knots – also known as ‘champagne sailing.”’

2023 Etchells Worlds - Photos: Nic Brunk / Etchells Class
2023 Etchells Worlds – Photos: Nic Brunk / Etchells Class

“We had fabulous conditions today. The wind was steady and the water was relatively flat,” Brennan said.

When all was said and done, skipper Luke Lawrence and his crew aboard Cruel Jane 2.0 (CAN 1501) were atop the standings with five points on the strength of second and third place finishes. Brad Boston called tactics, while Andrew Macrae worked the bowl for Lawrence, who was two points clear of second place Steve Benjamin and the Tons of Steel (USA 1511) team.

“My crew made good decisions and I tried to break my old bad habits,” Lawrence said. “I’m usually a cowboy and always try to win an end. We’ve got the boat speed, so there was no need to push it at the start.”

Lawrence used six different crews in six regattas leading up to the worlds. Asked how he settled on the crew for the regatta that mattered most, his response was “whoever was available.”

“We’ve got a great team consisting of guys I’ve spent a lot of hours with individually,” he said. “We weren’t going to do it with someone we didn’t know and love already. This is a long week.”

Some would say that no one remembers the Day 1 leader, but Lawrence countered that “I’d rather be where we are than anywhere else; We just have to keep it going.” Brennan set a four-leg course for Race 1, which started in northeasterly winds from 30 degrees. Brennan said an initial upwind leg of 2.2 miles, which he shrunk to 1.75 for the second beat.

2023 Etchells Worlds - Photos: Nic Brunk / Etchells Class
2023 Etchells Worlds – Photos: Nic Brunk / Etchells Class

Some teams were a bit anxious at the outset after Monday’s racing was canceled due to thunderstorms. After two general recalls, Brennan posted the U-flag and five boats wound up being disqualified.

Brennan was pretty proud of the first downwind leg, which set up perfectly. “It was one of the better runs I’ve ever put together,” the longtime Miami-based PRO said. “The boats were spread over about 60 degrees across the waterfront. It was absolutely spectacular.”

Tquila (IRL 1425) , owned by James McHugh of Galway, Ireland, rounded the initial weather mark in first place and never relinquished the lead the rest of the way. Spanish sailor and two-time Olympic gold medalist Luis Doreste steered Tquila, which crossed the line comfortably ahead of Cruel Jane 2.0.

“We got a good start close to the pin then found pressure on the left. We picked up a good shift and rounded the first mark in first place,” said Doreste, who normally calls tactics for McHugh, but is steering this week.

“We were fast today. We were able to extend on the first downwind then take control on the second upwind. We raced clean and tacked when we wanted.”

IGC chairman Jim Cunningham and the Lifted (USA 1504) team took third place in Race 1.

Brennan went with the five-leg course with an upwind finish that brought the fleet closer to the yacht clubs for Race 2. Both weather legs were 2.2 miles and the lengthy race finished just before the time limit.

2023 Etchells Worlds - Photos: Nic Brunk / Etchells Class
2023 Etchells Worlds – Photos: Nic Brunk / Etchells Class

There was some drama in Race 2 as well with four different Etchells hitting the safety boat that was tied to the stern of the signal boat. There were also a few collisions at the finish line.

Steve Benjamin steered Tons of Steel to victory in the second race, which got underway in northeast winds at 50 degrees. Mike Buckley is serving as tactician onboard, which rounded the first weather mark in eighth place then took the lead for good on the second beat.

“We wanted to favor the right side based on the forecast for a sweeping right shift, but as we know here on Biscayne Bay the left is often very good and powerful in northeast winds,” Benjamin said. “We chose the left and just tried to sail on the lifts upwind, the headers downwind and just connect the dots.”

Ian Liberty and Dave Hughes are also crewing for Benjamin, the 2017 World Champ. Benjamin, a longtime sailmaker and 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, had some regret about how Race 1 panned out.

“We left a little on the table in the first race. We wound up sixth and could have easily been third,” he said.

Bad Martha (USA 1195), skippered by Connor Needham of Shelter Island, New York, was the top Corinthian boat after the opening day. Alex Whipple trimmed the main and called tactics for Needham, who posted consistent results of 34th and 39th in the 63-boat fleet. Jack Lane (bow) and Katie Sudol (pit) complete the crew.

“It feels pretty good. Our goal going into the regatta was to win the Corinthian division, so we’re off to a strong start,” Needham said. “We didn’t get a lot of practice time, which showed a little bit here and there. We pushed the start line on both races and did pretty well getting up the course.”

Bad Martha made a tremendous comeback in the second race after rounding the first weather mark in 62nd. Needham was able to pass 15 boats on the run and another eight in the early stages of the second upwind leg.

“We had a really good call at the leeward gate in the second race. We avoided a lot of traffic and that got us out and away from all the bad air and chop,” Needham said.

This is the first event of the season for this particular team and Needham was a bit nervous after finishing 54th out of 56 boats at the Midwinter Championships.

“Midwinters was one of the worst events I’ve done in a long time, but it taught us a lot and we’ve applied what we learned to this regatta,” he said.

Brennan said the forecast calls for “fantastic” conditions Wednesday and said the fleet will have no problem completing two more good races.

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