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10 March 2008, 11:28 am
Hot Competition At Acura Miami Grand Prix
Friday's racing
Great conditions in Miami

Acura Miami Grand Prix 2008
Miami, USA

Barking Mad took boat of the week, whilst Michael ILLBRUCK, Colm BARRINGTON and Andy FISHER also triumphed as the Acura Miami Grand Prix came to its conclusion over the weekend.
There was no slam dunk choice for the Boat of the Week honoree at the 2008 Acura Miami Grand Prix. That's because all four classes were hotly contested throughout the regatta.

Colm BARRINGTON and his crew aboard Flash Glove counted all first and second place finishes and did not need to sail the final race en route to winning IRC 1 class in convincing fashion. Andy FISHER skippered Bandit to a hard-earned victory in IRC 2, which had four different leaders over the course of the four-day regatta. Michael ILLBRUCK and the Pinta team led at the end of each day in Melges 32, an amazing feat considering it was the German skipper's second regatta in the highly-competitive class.

Ultimately, the three-part criteria that officials with Premiere Racing use to select the Acura Trophy winner favoured the Farr 40 Barking Mad, owned by Jim RICHARDSON of Newport, won three of ten races and overcame some double-digit results to capture what proved to be the closest, most competitive class at Acura Miami Grand Prix.

Barking Mad was one of three entries to hold the daily lead in the 28-boat class. RICHARDSON's team was second after day one, fell to fifth after day two then regained the overall lead after day three.

Barking Mad had to work right up until the bitter end to hold that lead, clawing its way back from 25th to 17th in the last race in order to secure a four-point victory over Mascalzone Latino. Warpath, sailed by the father-son team of Fred and Steve HOWE, took third just one point behind Mascalzone.

The Italian entry, skippered by Vincenzo ONORATO, put the pressure on by placing second in race 10 and was winning the regatta when Barking Mad rounded the last downwind mark at the tail end of the fleet.

"Going down the last run I told the team 'We're not winning" and I ask [trimmer] Skip BAXTER what he thought I should do," Barking Mad tactician Terry HUTCHINSON said. "Skip said 'If I were you, I'd get some leverage to that right side. We went hard right, passed about seven boats on the last beat and breathed a huge sigh of relief."

RICHARDSON and company are hot, having won all three winter regattas in Farr 40 class. The part-time Boston resident got a gorilla off his back by winning both Key West and Miami for the first time in 11 trips to capture the Acura Grand Prix Championship in Farr 40. That trophy goes to the boat with the best combined score at the two international events organized by Premiere Racing.

"We have been on a bit of a roll and hopefully it will continue through the worlds," said RICHARDSON, referring to the Farr 40 World Championship being held off Miami in mid April. "I've been second in Key West and Miami several times so this is a bit of vindication. We've been knocking on the door so it feels good to finally open it and walk in."

ONORATO, the two-time defending World Champ, said following Saturday's racing that Barking Mad was the most "mentally tough" team in the fleet. HUTCHINSON agreed with that assessment after the crew shrugged off an 18th in race 4 by winning race 5.

"From the front of the boat all the way back to Jim, everyone focused on their job and did a great job of sailing the boat. There was never a lapse in concentration," he said.

ILLBRUCK is a newcomer to the up-and-coming Melges 32 class, taking delivery of his boat just prior to Acura Key West 2008. The German skipper did not steer as Pinta placed seventh in that regatta. He made his debut as helmsman in Miami and performed admirably, winning four races and second or third in five others in totalling 16 points - ten better than runner-up New Wave.

"We learned a lot in Key West that we were able to apply to this regatta. It was a challenge because of the heavy air and high seas, but the crew did an outstanding job," ILLBRUCK said.

John KOSTECKI, who skippered ILLBRUCK's victorious entry in the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race and is now with the BMW Oracle America's Cup syndicate, called tactics aboard Pinta. Ross HALCROW of BMW ORACLE and Dan COWIE of Emirates Team New Zealand served as trimmers.

"In my biased opinion, John KOSTECKI is the best sailor in the world. He is incredibly competitive and always puts you in the right spot," ILLBRUCK said. "However, it takes more than one man to make a boat go fast. This was a team effort and every member of the crew did a fantastic job. We're all good friends who enjoy each other's company and that is very important for chemistry."

New Wave, co-owned by Michael CARROLL and Marty KULLMAN of Clearwater, took home the Acura Grand Prix Championship for Melges 32 after placing second at both Key West and Miami.

BARRINGTON was runner-up in IRC 1 class at Acura Miami Grand Prix last year, placing three points behind the TP52 Samba Pa Ti. The good-natured Irishman was sailing a Ker 50 named Magic Glove at the time and could not prevent being covered by the faster Samba Pa Ti in the last race.

"I decided after that regatta that I wasn't going to have a boat that was slower than my competition," said BARRINGTON, who had Judel/Vrolijk design a TP52 then modified it to fit the IRC rating rule. "We were very disappointed by what happened here last year, but we are delighted to come back and win it this year. It was a measure of redemption."

Volvo Ocean Race veteran Rob GREENHALGH helped optimize Flash Glove to IRC and served as tactician onboard while boat captain James HYNES oversaw the alterations. BARRINGTON had high praise for the two men who have combined to manage his programme.

"Rob and James did a terrific job of getting the boat up to speed. There were a lot of phone calls and e-mails back and forth with the designer to see how we could squeeze more speed out of her."

BARRINGTON's victory coupled with a second-place result at Acura Key West earned him the Acura Miami Grand Prix trophy for IRC. He clinched the regatta after nine races and returned to shore to rest an aching back, knowing that a discard would still give him a healthy nine-point victory over Doug DEVOS' TP52 Windquest.

IRC 2 class wasn't decided until the final leg of the last race when the Aerodyne 38 Thin Ice played spoiler by winning on corrected time. That assured the Swan 42 Bandit of the overall victory by the narrowest of margins. Skipper Andy Fisher steered Bandit to six finishes of third or better in totalling 25 points, a mere half point ahead of the J/122 Teamwork.

Teamwork, owned by Robin TEAM of Beaufort, needed to win the last race in order to win the regatta and wound up placing second - just nine seconds on corrected time behind Thin Ice.

"This was a very interesting and competitive class. We had a varied bunch of boats that were all well-sailed and performed differently depending on the conditions," FISHER said.

Teamwork grabbed the lead on the opening day while the J/44 Gold Digger (James BISHOP) held the lead entering the closing day. Bishop's team wound up third overall - one point behind Teamwork and one point ahead of the Swan 42 Tiburon (Mark WATSON).

"You couldn't ask for closer racing. Any one of four boats could have won going into the last race. It was a very fun and exciting regatta," said FISHER, who loved the venue off Miami Beach.

"I thought the race course was terrific. We had a mix of conditions with light, medium and heavy air from different directions so the race committee had to set a bunch of different courses. I felt it was fascinating racing," FISHER said.

Results - click here
Bill Wagner
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