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10 March 2008, 10:05 am
Portugal Win Bacardi Cup
Afonso DOMINGOS and Bernardo SANTOS
Afonso DOMINGOS and Bernardo SANTOS celebrate with the Bacardi Cup

Bacardi Cup 2008
Miami, Florida, USA

Afonso DOMINGOS and Bernardo SANTOS won their second Bacardi Cup title on countback after a dramatic final day in Miami.
Portugal's Afonso DOMINGOS and crew Bernardo SANTOS edged out 2002 Star Class World Champion Iain PERCY and crew Andrew SIMPSON in a tiebreaker on Biscayne Bay.

Aided by substantial gains on each of the reach legs in both races no the final day, DOMINGOS and SANTOS sailed to two second place finishes on Friday. This put them into a first-place tie with PERCY and SIMPSON, who held the lead entering the final day of the regatta, but finished fifth and ninth in Friday's two races. The teams' finishes in the regatta's final race were used to determine the overall winner of the 81st Bacardi Cup.

The 2004 and now 2008 Bacardi Cup champions, DOMINGOS and SANTOS remain the only European sailors ever to win the Bacardi Cup in the regatta's 81-year history.

"There was much more wind today than on other days, and we had some great gains on the reach legs," said DOMINGOS, who benefited from the triangle course. "We knew where [PERCY] was, but we tried not to focus on him in the last legs. Our goal was to finish in front - to go fast - and not to cover anyone specifically."

Friday's racing began with an emphatic victory for reigning World Champions Robert SCHEIDT and Bruno PRADA (BRA). No sooner had 30-year veteran French coach, Daniel DAHON, finished saying that he had never seen such a commanding lead in a Star race as the Brazilian crew's performance in the first race of the final day of the 81st Annual Bacardi Cup than he sounded an "Incroyable". The 2007 World Champions finished the heavy air race over 2 minutes ahead of the second place boat. Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) had pulled from fifth place at the first weather mark to second down the final run of the triangle, windward, leeward course in which the breeze peaked at about 20 knots from the SSE. ROHART and RAMBEAU did not cross the finish line, but rather, went to the left hand side of the line by mistake. By the time they recovered, Hans SPITZAUER and Christian NEHAMMER (AUT), DOMINGOS and SANTOS (POR), Mark REYNOLDS and Jamie GAEL (USA), John DANE and Austin SPERRY (USA) and PERCY and SIMPSON had screeched across the finish line.

The fleet set out for a 10:00 am start in a brisk sea breeze. Even before they went into the starting sequence, a rig was toppled; many more came down throughout the day. Determined to run two races, the committee hoisted the black flag for the first start of both races. SCHEIDT and PRADA were just inside Italy's leading Olympic candidates, Francesco BRUNI and Gilberto NOBILI at the weather mark with SPITZHAUER and NEHAMMER trailing by a couple of boatlengths, but BRUNI and NOBILI's cover disappeared as they sailed off the course because they were black flagged. SCHEIDT and PRADA extended their lead on every leg while their followers tried to pass one another. SCHEIDT and PRADA's straight line speed upwind, boat handling, including their gybes, were masterful.

After a rain cloud went by and the boats that had been lapped by the leaders finished, the fifth and final race was started. Competitors could throw out some deep scores once the fifth race was sailed. The leaderboard looked like many of the past season's ISAF Grade 1 regattas, this time with PERCY and SIMPSON at the top with only 10 points. SCHEIDT and PRADA had pulled into second with their victory in the first race of the day. DOMINGOS and SANTOS and SPITZHAUER and NEHAMMER had 18 points apiece.

With PERCY and SIMPSON rounding the weather mark just barely in the top ten, it looked as if it was up to them to pass some boats in order to win the regatta. However, it was SCHEIDT and PRADA's turn to peel away from the fleet before they got to the offset mark, because they black flagged the final race of the series. Robert STANJEK and Markus KOY (GER) claimed the lead and extended it to over 20 seconds by the time that the gun sounded for them. Former World Champion, Alan ADLER and Ronald SEIFERT (BRA) were second and DOMINGOS and SANTOS were third with ROHART and RAMBEAU, PEPPER and WILLIAMS, DANE and SPERRY, BRUNI and NOBILI, Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ and Dominik ZYCKI (POL) and Diego NEGRI and Luigi VIALE (ITA) beating out PERCY and SIMPSON.

The boats returned to the dock, the regatta winner remained a mystery pending protests. When the scores were posted, PERCY and SIMPSON found themselves in a tie with DOMINGOS and SANTOS with 20 points apiece. DOMINGOS and SANTOS, having beaten the Brits in the final race, won their second Bacardi Cup Regatta. There seems to be an Olympic quadrennial trend with the Portuguese. DANE and SPERRY, the 2006 Bacardi Cup winners, moved up to third with their stellar 3, 5 performance on the final day. NEGRI and VIALE cemented their bid to represent their country at the Olympic Games this summer by taking eighth place. Peter O'LEARY and Stephen MILNE (IRL), the youngest team at the regatta placed an impressive ninth, just ten points out of fourth place for the regatta.

Results - click here
Bacardi Cup - www.bacardicup.com

Lynn Fitzpatrick
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