Bacardi Shot

I start with a sincere apology. Well, as sincere as I can manage. If you read this blog and don’t like Stars, it’s going to be a long week for you. Sorry about that. I just can’t help it. I made my confession earlier and the next few days are going to be one long celebration of Starboat excess but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. You’ll also hear the names ‘Mateusz’ and ‘Bruno’ quite a bit and we can all try and figure out the exact pronunciation of ‘Kusznierewicz’ although ‘Prada’ is familiar to millions.


©Martina Orsini / Bacardi Invitational Regatta

Well the opening day out on Biscayne Bay was as close to perfection as the wind Gods can muster. The planet is a beautiful place through a Miami lens with a Bacardi mixer in your hand but even better hooked over the gunwhale of a Star or tweaking that Stradivarius rig from the relative safety of the cockpit.

Watching the brief clips of the first start of the week on Instagram you’d be forgiven for thinking that sailing was an easy sport. Coming into an unusually vacant coffin corner on the most perfect timed-run, the 1996 Finn Gold Medallist oozed class, dialled up on the line, stuffed a boat to windward with sheer pace and point and then had the patience to sit it out until the left started to pay. I’d have tacked into oblivion three minutes after the start. Kusznierewicz, who makes his living from motivational courses aimed at handling pressure, didn’t and it’s his level headedness that marks out this true champion of our sport.


©Martina Orsini / Bacardi Invitational Regatta

Seventh around the top mark and with unusual reaching legs throwing a spanner in the works of the upwind/downwind norm, it was Mateusz and Bruno that adapted the best and took the lead at the first leeward mark – six places in two short legs? Come on. This was demonstration stuff by a team at the very peak of their powers and going for three-in-a-row Bacardi Cups. With the wind gusting to just below the 20 mark and the usual Biscayne chop making crew dynamics all important, it was the muscular Polish/Brazilian team that was just electric. Watching them ooching and Bruno straight-leg hiking is something from another world but the devil’s in the detail as he opines:

“The wind was super challenging because it was a good wind, a strong wind,” reflected Bruno Prada, who is racing his sixteenth Bacardi Cup, “but especially on the downwind reaches it was a little bit less wind, so the crew movement in the boat – forward and backwards, leeward and windward – trying to balance the boat was super challenging, trying to keep the boat with a lot of power, especially releasing the back stays. There were a lot of little details that I think was our success.


©Martina Orsini / Bacardi Invitational Regatta

And an opening bullet puts down a marker that has the rest of the fleet groaning at the expectation in this season opener. Kusznierewicz and Prada have come out smoking and left a 58 boat fleet of superstars in their wake. Impressive stuff and with the conditions set for more of the same pretty much all week, the local engraver has started checking and double-checking his Polish spelling…(hint: just copy the two names above).

But what of the rest? Well Paul Cayard had a nightmare start with a broken outhaul but hauled his way up to a respectable 10th, climbing through the fleet with pace, power and sheer talent. He’ll be in the conversation come Friday. The current world champions from Italy, Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertegni are sitting pretty in fourth whilst past world champ and gold star wearers Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin are in sixth. The USA’s Eric Lidecis sailing with Greg Smith had an absolute glamour of an opening beat, picking a nice lane off the start and then dialling into a leftie that saw them cross the fleet and round out the top mark looking like rockstars. What a feeling that must be in this fleet. It wasn’t to be, however a 7th is not to be sniffed at.


©Martina Orsini / Bacardi Invitational Regatta

Meanwhile, the Laser silver medallist from Tokyo, Tonci Stipanovic sailing with Tudor Bilic scooped a ninth place to stay in the hunt on a day when they would have liked so much more. But I ignore so far the podium places so let me correct that as it was a duel to the very death between double Olympian for Ireland Peter O’Leary sailing with his brother Robert and the USA’s perennial Star class winners Eric Doyle and Payson Infelise. Tack for tack it was nip and tuck up the final beat with a cigarette paper’s width separating the two with every nuance of the Biscayne breeze and short, sharp chop making a difference. By the gun, the Irish eyes were smiling after an unforgettable beat that makes one-design racing so life affirming.

I guess if you didn’t like today, you are never going to like Star sailing.” laughed Peter. “It was good to be back in the boat after two years. We ended up reaching on the first lap and that’s a fun thing to do in the Star.”


©Martina Orsini / Bacardi Invitational Regatta

All round there’s smiles for miles. The Bacardi Cup is an event that competitors truly love and us casual observers are deeply fascinated by. It’s a mythical regatta. It’s a bucket-list jamboree of everything that’s good in our sport and the Stars are the epitome of cool, chic and class. On yesterday’s form it’s looking like a classic could unfold. This is no cakewalk event – there’s too much talent all down the fleet to accurately predict but Mateusz and Bruno are looking imperious and ominous. Fabulous to watch – even better to be there.


©Martina Orsini / Bacardi Invitational Regatta

Tell me again – why did they drop the Star from the Olympics? If this isn’t ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ then I don’t know what is…



 

2 thoughts on “Bacardi Shot

  1. Woo boy, those are some beautiful pics! Can’t wait a few weeks until we can get out on the water here in DC!

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  2. So, the American Magic core roster was just released, the phrasing seems to indicate Terry Hutchinson’s role may be onshore despite having the “Skipper” title, like Max last time. (And, alas, what a great missed opportunity that a roster announced on International Women’s Day is all-male…)

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