In an exciting final day of competition, John LOVELL (New Orleans) and Charlie OGLETREE (Houston, Texas) have successfully defended their claim to the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy by defeating Enrique Figueroa and Jorge Hernandez (PUR)
After going ahead on a score of 3-1 yesterday, the American pair needed to win only one match today to hold on to their title in the first-to-four point series sailed in F18HTs on Lake Pontchartrain and hosted by Southern Yacht Club.
But the win did not come easily. In the first do-or-die match for the Challengers, Lovell and Ogletree replicated the mastery they've displayed all week in match racing, controlling the Puerto Ricans in the pre-start and leading around the first mark by several lengths. And while the 9-12 knot southerly breeze was the most promising all week for match racing, there
were not only opportunities to speed away in the puffs but also pitfalls to die in the lulls over the 2.5-mile course. Soon after their rounding, Lovell and Ogletree gybed away to protect their lead only to fall into a hole while Figueroa and Hernandez sped away to a spectacular three-minute lead, the largest of any match of the week.
"Thanks for the mulligan," quipped Figueroa to a disappointed but smiling Lovell between matches. "We lucked into that one." Even with a long-standing rivalry between these two, going back to their Olympic Tornado competition the sailors have maintained their good nature and camaraderie both on and off the water.
The sixth and deciding match was the last opportunity for the Challengers to even up the score, and they showed more aggression than in any match of the week. Pushing the Americans hard just seconds prior to the start, Figueroa 22and Hernandez thought the Defenders had not kept clear and signaled for a penalty. Umpires Dobbs Davis (Annapolis, Md.) and Dwight Le Blanc (New Orleans) disagreed, and green-flagged the incident which threatened to put Lovell and Ogletree over at the start. As in several prior matches, the Defenders effectively controlled the Challengers all the way to the port tack layline, this time guarding their lead more carefully to sail to victory by 27 seconds.
"That was really hard," said a relieved Lovell while sailing back to the harbor. "There were plenty of holes and puffs we felt could close the gap. We're just glad its over."
According to ICCT Trustee John Dawson of Sea Cliff Yacht Club (Long Island, N.Y.), it will again be up to Southern Yacht Club to organize the next Challenge and Defense of the event. "We hope to see this event held again on an annual basis," said Dawson, "and provide more eligible competitors the opportunity to sail for this prestigious trophy." The announcement of the dates, venue, and catamaran class to be used in the next event will be made in January 2005.