The Etchells Biscayne Bay Series has been one of the major Etchells regatta series since 1994, attracting competitors has from all over the world. The 2019-20 edition got underway with 47 boats for the Louis Piana Cup Regatta on December 7-8 in Miami, FL. Steve Benjamin and Scott Kaufman led the only two teams to post all top ten scores in the four race series, with Benjamin taking the win by two points over Kaufman.
Event report by John Payne:
Saturday began with a postponement on shore as PRO Stuart Childerley decided that there wasn’t enough wind to run competitive races. Once the breeze began to fill in, Childerley sent the fleet out at noon. The fleet was welcomed to beautiful Biscayne Bay by sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. After all the snow up north, I know many on the race course were very happy to break out the sunblock.
Setting a race course proved difficult as the light pressure led to large oscillations. After a general recall, race one got under way using a “U” flag, on a course of 145 degrees, with 5 knots.
First to the top mark was Australian Graeme Taylor on Magpie. He was followed closely by Jim Cunningham on Lifted and Kevin Grainger on Gumption 3.
After two laboriously slow laps in the light air, Jim Cunningham managed to climb over Graeme Taylor to take the bullet. Graeme held on for second place with Marvin Beckmann easing into third.
At this point PRO Childerley threw in the towel and sent everybody back to the docks. At least there was a free keg of Heineken and plenty of snacks to enjoy under the seagrape trees. The after-racing dock parties, thrown by the fleet and Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, are one of the best parts of the Biscayne Bay Series.
A decision was made to get a one hour earlier start on Sunday to try to get in as much racing as possible.
As forecast, on Sunday morning a nice ESE breeze of 10 knots greeted the fleet. Since it looked like every race was going to count, the fleet was pressing at the start. After one general recall, Race 2 started with a “U” flag, on a bearing of 110 degrees, and a distance of 1.5 miles. Unfortunately, the outgoing current pushed a few unlucky competitors over early.
By the time the fleet reached the top, the wind had gone a bit left and dropped to 7 knots. First to the weather mark was perennial Biscayne Bay champion Steve Benjamin on Stella Blue. He was followed by Jim Cunningham and then Peter Duncan, on Oatmeal.
At the gate the wind had shifted a few more degrees left and dropped to 6 knots. PRO Childerley called for a “C” flag and adjusted the bearing while also shortening the leg to 1.2 miles. Peter McClennen on Gamecock 30 had pushed past Steve Benjamin dropping him to second. Rounding out the top three was Jamie Hilton’s MB III.
Back at the top, the fleet had been shuffled a bit, and a new leader was the first around. Scott Kaufman led Steve Benjamin with Hilton in third. The breeze was still holding at 7 knots as the fleet headed for the finish. Benjamin, always fast on the downwind, managed to pass Kaufman to take the horn, with Hilton holding on for third.
The start of race 3 featured more pushing and shoving forcing PRO Childerley to once again haul out the “U” flag. A better behaved second try saw only two boats over early. The fleet headed east towards the weather mark with the wind oscillating between 85 and 105 degrees at 4 to 7 knots.
Scott Kaufman led Steve Benjamin to the weather mark with Richard Kaiser on Ninkasi in third. By the time the fleet reached the gate, the wind had settled in on a bearing of 104 degrees at 5 knots. Kaufman and Benjamin held their positions with Peter Duncan sliding into third, and that order held the rest of the way.
After a short delay waiting for the wind to settle down, Race 4 got under way just under the time limit. Course 4 with a bearing of 070 degrees went off in 7 knots under a “P” flag.
First to the top was Kevin Grainger on Gumption 3. He was followed by Steve Benjamin in second and Andrew Macrae on Cruel Jane in third. By now the wind had clocked a bit to 075 and freshened a bit to 8 knots.
At the subsequent gate, the top three stayed the same with Benjamin and Macrae trading positions. The wind was still building a bit and was now at 9 knots as the fleet headed back up wind. Back at the top, Grainger held a slight lead but Gramae Taylor had moved into second, dropping Steve Benjamin to third, and Andrew Macrae to fourth.
At the finish it was Grainger taking the horn, taking the race wire to wire. He was followed by Taylor and Macrae. Steve Benjamin finished fourth.Winning the 2019 Louis Piana Cup was Steve Benjamin who graciously agreed to carry on the brilliant Biscayne Bay Series tradition of opening up the bar for everyone to enjoy a free libation or two. Steve’s team included Michael Menninger, Ian Liberty, and Joe Morris.
Finishing second was Scott Kaufman on Rebel, with his crew of Lucas Calabrese, Austen Anderson, and Gonzalo Ribeiro. Third went to Australian Graeme Taylor on Magpie with his crew of James Mayo and Richard Allanson. Fourth went to Peter Duncan on Oatmeal, with his crew Andrew Palfrey and Ben Lamb. Rounding out the pedestal in fifth was Jim Cunningham on Lifted, sailing with Steve Hunt, Erik Shampain, and Serena Vilage.
Final Results (Top 10 of 47; 4 races)
1. Stella Blue, Steve Benjamin/ Michael Menninger/ Ian Liberty/ Joe Morris, USA- 9-1-2-4; 16
2. Rebel, Scott Kaufman/ Lucas Calabrese/ Austen Anderson/ Gonzalo Ribeiro, USA- 8-2-1-7; 18
3. Magpie, Graeme Taylor/ James Mayo/ Richard Allanson, AUS- 2-13-4-2; 21
4. Oatmeal, Peter Duncan/ Andrew Palfrey/ Ben Lamb, USA- 11-10-3-8; 32
5. Lifted, Jim Cunningham/ Steve Hunt/ Erik Shampain/ Serena Vilage, USA- 1-7-7-20; 35
6. Gumption3, Kevin Grainger/ Chuck Norris/ Mark Mendelblatt, USA- 12-14-14-1; 41
7. Blackadder II, Andrew Cumming/ Brian Kamilar/ Will Felder/ Nikki Medley, CAN- 24-5-8-6; 43
8. Gamecock 30, Peter McClennen/ Tony Rey/ John von Schwartz, USA- 7-4-26-17; 54
9. MB III, Jamie Hilton/ Rob Scrivener/ Mike Toppa, USA- 20-3-22-11; 56
10. Goombay Smash, Chris Larson/ Tom Lihan/ Kimo Worthington, USA- 6-26-15-10; 57
2019-20 Etchells Biscayne Bay Series:
Louis Piana Cup Regatta – December 7-8
Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta – January 11-12
Florida State Championship – February 8-9
Mid-Winter’s East Regatta – February 28 – March 1
The Etchells Biscayne Bay Series has been one of the major Etchells regatta series since 1994, attracting competitors has from all over the world. For the Etchells Biscayne Bay Series prizes, a boat’s score will be her score from the Mid‐Winter’s East Regatta added to her lowest total scores in two (2) of the other three regattas (Piana Cup, Doren Memorial, or Florida State Championship).