There are times when a venue doesn’t show its best. When it is cold, rainy, the wind won’t cooperate or other adverse weather conditions make for a tough weekend of sailing. There are also times when a venue shines and you feel lucky to experience it. For the first event of the 2017/18 Melges 20 Winter Series, Miami was about as near perfect as a sailor could want with breeze in the 10-13 knot range, smooth water and sunny, warm temps. Throw in an ultra-deep fleet with eight awesome races and it was easy to see why Melges 20 sailors wore satisfied, sunbaked smiles at the awards ceremony.
After two days and six races, Drew Freides’ Pacific Yankee led a fleet with several teams ready to pounce on the final day. The wind direction was similar the first two days, however the velocity was in the 6-8 knot range and flat water; perfect ‘blue groomer’ conditions for the last two races. With a stronger northerly gradient fighting a building Northeast seabreeze, it was a toss-up as to which side would pay in the first race.
In typical Melges 20 fashion, two-thirds of the fleet split into one direction putting their chips in the right side, while the other third went hard left doing their best to make that side pay.
Halfway up the first beat, Alexis Michas on Midnight Sun, Rob Wilber on Cinghiale, Vladimir Prosikhin on Nika and Freides worked the left side and early on it looked like they would have a healthy lead at the top mark. However a vein of right handed pressure caused the left side to cave, and it was Paul Reilly’s Red Sky Sailing Team and Jason Michas’ Midnight Blue that positioned themselves well and rounded the mark in the lead.
On the ensuing run, Reilly showed a steady hand and solid patience to extend all the way to the corner and take advantage of breeze filling across the course to build a nice lead and hang on for the race win. Jason Michas battled it out for second place.
Third place was decided after Wilber, Freides and Oleg Evdokimenko’s Kotyara all shot the finish line. Wilber edged out Freides and Evdokimenko to win.
With a fourth place finish, Freides locked up the regatta win, however the top ten were still to be decided. Once again the fleet split hard left and right, and the right side paid, just barely this time over the left. Wilber did a great job of balancing both sides in the middle of the course to lead around the top mark with 2017 Melges 20 World League leader Igor Rytov on Russian Bogatyrs and Achille Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino, Jr. just behind.
On the ensuing run Wilber maintained his lead, however a gaffe at the bottom mark cost them dearly allowing Onorato to sneak by. Wilber and Onorato would battle the final lap with ultimately Onorato grabbing the win.