2015 Jaguar Series Piana Cup

Sailed December 6-7 2014

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Report by John Payne (on Scuttlebutt)

The beloved Etchells class winter circuit, a four event safe haven in Miami known as the Jaguar Series, kicked off this past weekend with the Louis Piana Cup Regatta (Dec. 6-7). This year’s edition attracted 46 boats to Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, and while the numbers were down over last year, there were still plenty of former world champions sprinkled throughout the fleet, guaranteeing spirited competition.

The day began under mostly sunny skies with a light northeasterly breeze. As Shannon Bush put it so succinctly, “Biscayne Bay is like a fruit salad, you never know what you’re going to get.” The first race started with a bearing of 055 in a fairly steady 8 to 10 knots. At the top of the 1.7 mile first leg, Tony Rey, Sailing George Andreadis’s EFYRA 3, was the first boat around, and he never looked back, winning the race wire to wire. Second and third went to Jay Cross and Argyle Campbell, respectively. 

According to Tony, “Sailing in pressure was the key.” He went on to say that having two-time Star world champion Phil Trinter calling tactics made his life easier. “Phil kept finding the pressure, and we followed his call.” He added, “Chris Cantrick was his usual self doing the bow.” When asked what it was like not having Bill Bennett as part of the crew, he said, “It was a bit tough, but we decided to act as if he was still with us and continued to bust his balls. I’m sure we made him roll over a time or two.”

By the second race the wind, though still patchy, was up to 12 knots. First to the weather mark was Tom Carruthers with a very narrow lead over Argyle Campbell in second. On the downwind, Campbell fell back several places while, Scott Kaufman, taking the left side of the course squeaked into the lead. It was a lead he’d hold for the rest of the race, winning by 30 boat lengths. Campbell sailed a great second downwind leg to regain second place. Carruthers held on for third. 

By race three, the breeze was back down in the 8 to 10 knot range. PRO Davey Brennan set a Course 5 (five legs) with a bearing of 060 and a distance of 1.5 miles. As the race progressed he shortened each leg. First to mark one was Phil Lotz on Arethusa. Following close behind were Jeff Nehms and Ernie Pomerleau. At the first gate Lotz and Pomerleau were neck and neck rounding opposite marks. In the end Pomerleau won the race with Lotz settling for second. Third went to Shannon Bush who made a nice comeback from mid-fleet.

Shannon elaborated on the ‘Fruit salad’ comment, “We check the weather. We check the tides. We lay out a strategy with the Pros on the boat. Then the gun goes off, and it’s total chaos. On Sunday’s second race we were over early, and sailed a header right up the middle of the course because there was more pressure, and climbed back to the top half of the fleet. It was crazy.”

On Sunday, the race committee decided to get an earlier start due to a forecast that called for diminishing winds by early afternoon. Even with that, the fleet was postponed on shore for half an hour until enough breeze filled in to make it possible to sail to the racing area.

Race four was started in a light northwest breeze of 6 knot. The winds were super patchy and one really had to work to find the pressure. At the gun a few boats went hard left, led by Tom Carruthers went left. At the top, it was John Podmajersky in first, followed by Skip Dieball driving John McClean’s boat, and Carruthers was in third. By the time the fleet got back up for the second weather mark rounding, Dieball/McClean held a slight lead over Buddy Cribb and Tom Carruthers. As the wind began to die, that order held on to the finish. 

Now came the tough part. As predicted, the wind was beginning to subside, and as it did, it became all the more shifty. PRO Brennan did a great job adjusting the course and start line to try for a fair, fifth race. It was important because many of the leaders were carrying big double digits finishes that a fifth race would allow them to drop. He posted a Course 3 at 250 degrees in a dying 5 knots.

The fifth race was won by Michael Gavin with David Franks in second and Andrew Cumming in third.

Carruthers, who was in a pretty good position to win the regatta about halfway through the race, saw it slip away. He said, “We had everyone, right up until that last upwind. I guess we picked a side and guessed wrong. It had become very light and shifty. You can leave the ‘f’ out of that last word. Still, we did pretty well to get back to 19th after being called over early.”

Winning the Etchells Louis Piana Cup was Scott Kaufman on America Jane II, with Taylor Canfield, Jesse Kirkland and Austen Anderson as crew. Finishing second was Argyle Campbell on USA 1375, with Michael Menninger, Nick Morgan, and Victor Diaz de Leon as his crew. Third place went to Tom Carruthers on Elizabeth, with Chris Busch and Andrew Palfre as crew. Fourth place was Andrew Cumming on Blackadder, with Brian Kamilar, Nicole Popp, and Alex Sachs as crew. And finally, fifth place went to Jay Cross on Skanky, with Lauren Gilcoly, Mike Buckly, and Marcus Spillane as crew.

Scott Kauffman attributed his success to the crew. “I didn’t do much. We had a bunch of kids right out of college. They’re terrific sailors. It was more about them than me.”