by Frank Ustach
Jensen Beach, FL USSCMC (January 1-3, 2008) This years U.S. Team Racing Association (USTRA) Midwinters championship, like most, saw a mix-n-match of members from the US’ top team racing teams, along with a strong collegiate presence. With a cold front approaching and temperatures expected to reach record lows and winds expected above 20kts, the Race Committee was eager to get racing underway on day 1. With 23 teams registered, the events largest attendance since I have participated in 2001, the format for the event was a modified Swiss-league, used at events, like Hinman, Charles River Open, and Wilson Trophy, where a large number of teams are present and a round robin format is unlikely to be finished. Teams are preseeded and split into even groups and then are awarded points for wins in those groups, with the higher level groups earning more points for a win. After each round the groups are reseeded based on record, not points, allowing teams to move up brackets and have a chance to earn more points. The final standing are based off which team has earned the most points.
At the end of Day 1 we had completed round 1 and half of round 2, with most teams having sailed 7 races. Teams Holiday Sideshow and Sexual Chocolate were tied on top of the leader board, both undefeated, but scheduled to sail each other on Day 2. Team Holiday Sideshow, the team to beat at this event, was a Hobart William & Smith alumni team composed of Silver Panda’s Colin Merrick and Amanda Callahan, ICSA’s 2007 College Sailor of the year Trevor Moore, and twice All-American John Pearce. Team Sexual Chocolate, another title contender, was composed of 2005 Hinman Champion Matt Allen, 2006 Midwinters runner-up Charles Higgins, and Woonsocket Rocket team member Frank Ustach. Closely behind the leaders was another mix-n-match team that has been on the rise since this summer, One Night Only, composed of Bowdoin Bear Mark Dineen, BU Terrier Bobby Martin, with guest team member and URI Ram Craig Thompson.
On Day 2, competitors were greeted by the forecasted cold front, temperatures in the low 40s and winds gusting to 25kts. After a brief postponement, the RC decided to change the format to finish round robin 2 so that a winner could be decided should we not be able to sail tomorrow. Fleets 1 and 2 bundled up in the atypical Florida conditions with winter hats, gloves, and spray gear, while fleets 3 and 4 were postponed on shore till 1 and 2 were completed. Sexual Chocolate’s first race was against One Night Only and after a foul on the starting line by Higgins/Roble Sexual Chocolate saw themselves in a deep 2,3,6. With the present conditions, team racing maneuvers were incredibly hard to manage and complete, and a failed mark trap around mark 3 by Ustach/Gillooly saw One Night Only pull away with a 1,2 and never look back.
The next flight of races pitted the undefeated Holiday Sideshow versus Sexual Chocolate. If Sideshow could beat Chocolate they would have a comfortable lead in the standings, but if Chocolate could pull off a victory they would be the leader on a tie break going into round 3. After the start Sexual Chocolate had a steady 1,2,4 going around mark 1 that would turn into a 1,2,6 around mark 3, but a spin out jibe around mark 3 by Allen/Stout put Sexual Chocolate back into a 1,4,5 and put Sideshow right back in the race. The last beat was tight until Sideshow’s Merrick/Callahan received a red flag for tacking to close, this gave Chocolate a chance to put the race away, but a right shift put the pair of Moore and Ustach on the right ahead of the pass back happening on the left between Allen and Higgins and it was a race again. As the groups converged in the middle of the course, a collision between Moore, a tacking port boat, and Ustach, a starboard tacker, caused some chaos and umpire flags being thrown. Moore spun, but shortly after a red flag was thrown by the judges, but a competitor was never notified of who was at fault. Sexual Chocolate went on to win the race in a 1,2,3, but upon the finish of the race a black flag was raced by the judges and a hearing was opened because a red flag was thrown but no action was taken by a competitor. In the hearing it was decided that the competitor who the red flag was intended for, Ustach, had no way of knowing that he was at fault and a “non-action” by the judges was not means for redress. With Chocolates victory they were the number 1 seed going into round 3 because of their head to head victory over Sideshow.
Day 3 conditions were windier and colder than expected with temperatures in the high 30s and winds gusting into the high 20s. Upon further consideration by the race committee it was decided that racing would not take place today and that the regatta was over. The final standings were based off of Round 2 results and Sexual Chocolate won the regatta on a head-to-head tie-breaker over Holiday Sideshow. In third place was One Night Only, followed by Roger William’s team of Goetting/Duggan/Enright, and Washington College’s Becker/Hood/Blouin.
For complete results go to: http://www.usscmc.org/files/USTRA%20Midwinters%20Final%202008.htm