Coconut Grove

Coral Reef Yacht Club is hosting the 2016 Star World Championship this week.  75 boats from 13 countries are competing with 8 former World Champions in the lineup.

The format is one race a day with a lay day mid way through the week. Today was the first race.

The wind was blowing 16 knots from 085 at 11:30 which is start time.  We had two general recalls and then the black flag came out for the third start.

The starting line is divided into two section for this event.  There is a race committee boat right in the middle of a very long line.  The two halves are actually two separate lines.  Brian and I started just to windward of the “midline” boat about 3 seconds late.  There was a bit of action around us at the start…namely Torben Grael who sailed over the top of the mid line race committee boat 6 seconds before the start.  Torben was not a problem for us because we were late, but we had a tough time squeezing up around the mid-line boat and almost got rolled by the boat to windward of us.   Once we got clear, we were able to bear off a bit and get up to speed.

We were then pinned to the left by the boats to windward but the left side turned out to be ok. We battled George Szabo all the way up the first leg, both of us tacking on the shifts as this breeze came off Key Biscayne.  At the first mark we were leading with Brian Cramer in second and George Szabo third.

As we rounded the mark, Rick Burgess, crewing for Brian Cramer, was yelling at us that we were over early at the start.  At a boat near the windward mark, there were 7 numbers posted as premature starters.  Brain and I were shocked to see our bow number listed.

We retired immediately as that is what is required by the rules, but we knew we were not over the line early so it was tough to leave the race course while leading.  George Szabo went on to sail well and win the race. Two great young sailors who said with me on Rosehearty a couple of weeks ago in St. Barths, Luke Lawrence and Ian Coleman finished second and the King of Miami, Augie Diaz, moved up well throughout the race to finish 3rd.

When I got back to the dock, I asked for a hearing with the jury to query the race committee on what they saw.  I also had two witnesses of my own; skippers of two boats who started just to windward of us.  Both of my witnesses stated that they could see the race committee boat and line flag in front of our bow at the instant of the starting gun.  Neither of these boats were called over early.

The final witness was the race committee official calling the line from the mid-line boat.  There were several inconsistencies in his testimony, the most alarming of which was that he could not see the other end of the line that he uses to identify the line, from 15 second prior to the start because his sight was blocked by other boats.

After hearing the entirety of the line callers testimony, coupled with the witness that I called, I was certain we would be exonerated.  The decision by the jury was short: everything was done properly by the race committee and my request for redress was denied.  None of the testimony by any of the witnesses was included in the jury’s findings.

This obviously leaves Brian and I in a very difficult position for the championship.   The good news is that Brian and I seem to have good speed.  The forecast is for more of the same, maybe a touch lighter in the 15 knots range still out of the east.

For complete results go to www.yachtscoring.com

Paul