Sunny skies, warm weather and big breeze - Chamber of Commerce conditions - greeted the 142 boats competing in Acura Miami Race Week 2006.
'It was absolutely awesome out there today. We had a lot of fun,' SHELLOW said. 'Getting to sail in 20 knot winds, 80 degrees and big waves... what more can you ask for?'
All the professional sailors in the Farr 40 certainly enjoyed the opening act of the four day regatta, organized by Premiere Racing. Division 2 principal race officer John CRAIG set long courses which made for a full and satisfying day of racing.
Skipper Eivind ASTRUP (NOR) and his crew aboard Norwegian Steam were exhausted but in good spirits after taking the early lead. Norwegian Steam stormed into the lead on the initial downwind leg en route to winning race two then followed with a second in race three. 'We are very pleased with how we sailed today, especially downwind. That is where we made huge gains,' said ASTRUP, an Oslo resident.
ASTRUP had high praise for tactician Morten HENRIKSEN (NOR), who is a high level hockey coach back home in Norway. 'Part of the game is to build a team, just like in soccer or any other sport. Morten has a good eye for how the crew works together and knows how to make adjustments.'
Norwegian Steam holds a three point lead over Wolfgang STOLZ's (GER) Opus One and Massimo MEZZAROMA's (ITA) Nerone, which are tied with 14 points.
'It is never good to lead the regatta on the first day. There is only one way to go after that,' said ASTRUP, who nonetheless was thrilled to pick up the Industry Partner Boat of the Day honour.
Twins, the Paris, France entry led by skipper Erik MARIS and tactician Phillipe MOURNIAC, is three points behind in fourth. 'Our speed is good, we were able to gain some boats in a couple races. We are in a good mood today. It's always nice to be [in contention], but there is a long way to go,' MOURNIAC said. 'The level of competition is so strong. You can be the top boat one race, the bottom boat the next.'
Mascalzone Latino, the Italian entry that won Acura Key West 2006, stands sixth - within easy striking distance of the leaders. Three-time America's Cup Champion Russell COUTTS (NZL) is calling tactics for skipper Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA). 'We didn't feel completely comfortable today,' said ONORATO, who was not complaining. 'We are still happy - it is freezing back in Italy and we are sailing in warm weather and nice breeze.'
In IRC 1, Aera (Ker 55) and Moneypenny (Swan 601) continued their remarkably close duel that began in Key West. So close were the boats that Aera won the class while Moneypenny captured the inaugural U.S. IRC Championship, which was scored by a complex formula.
It was more of the same Thursday as skipper Nick LYKIARDOPULO (GBR) led Aera to victory in two races and second in the other. Moneypenny put up a 1,2,2 line and trails by a mere point in the overall standings. 'Both boats are well prepared and well sailed. They are faster in certain conditions and we are faster in others,' said Jez FANSTONE (GBR), helmsman aboard Aera.
LYKIARDOPULO, a Greek native who lists Cowes in Great Britain as home port, has been sailing with a core crew for a decade. FANSTONE, skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race entry News Corp in 2001-2002, and navigator Hugh AGNEW (GBR) are among a handful of regulars who also raced a Swan 46 and Bashford 41 with LYKIARDOPULO. 'It's like family, really,' FANSTONE said.
There was considerable excitement on the Transpac 52 dock as the fully-professional teams prepared for a 178 nautical mile distance race that began Thursday afternoon and figures to finish between 0600-0900 local time today.
Organizers sent the eight boat fleet east across the Gulf Stream to the Ocean Cay Buoy off Bimini, north to a turning mark at Great Isaacs, west to the Hillsboro Inlet Sea Buoy then back to Miami. Patches, owned by Eamon CONNELLY of Galway, Ireland, led 2006 Rolex TP52 Global Championship going into the distance race, which was weighted more than the six buoy races held Tuesday and Wednesday. For the latest from the TP52s CLICK HERE.
Rum at Six gave a strong performance in the seven-boat J/105 class, posting a pair of bullets and a second. However, skipper Worth HARRIS (USA) cannot rest on his laurels since Kevin GRAINGER (USA) and Gumption 3 also had a good day and trail by just one point in the overall standings.
'We've sailed against Gumption a lot and they are good. It's going to be a good battle,' said HARRIS, a Beaufort resident who placed ninth at this regatta a year ago. Asked the reason behind the team's improved performance, one crew member deadpanned, 'We're drinking more beer.'
Racing on Biscayne Bay begins Friday and features the two largest classes at Acura Miami Race Week 2006. Local skippers Scott PIPER (USA) and Buddy CRIBB (USA) are among the favourites in the 29 boat Etchells fleet after placing second and third at this regatta last year. Riccardo SIMONESCHI (ITA) and his Nautica team will be a key player in the 26 entry Melges 24 class after finishing fourth in a loaded field at Acura Key West 2006.
RUBIN and SHELLOW flashed their local knowledge in getting Triptease off to a strong start. The Tripp 33 notched a bullet in race one and stands fourth overall in PHRF 3 after three starts were held on Thursday.
Scott TAYLOR's (USA) B-32 Defiance leads PHRF 3 by one point over Robert HIBDON's (USA) SR 33 Temptress.
'It's a competitive class, but I think Defiance is starting to show it's the boat to beat,' SHELLOW said.