Good thing the wind calmed down a bit Tuesday or Mike Martin and crew Jeff Nelson—notorious for their heavy weather sailing—would be running away with the 2009 SAP 505 World Championship, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club.
Wait a minute. The Newport Beach, Calif. sailors were every bit as dominant in mom and pop breeze of 8 to 11 knots to start the day as conditions built to 20 by the end of the second race. They led at every mark in both races, sometimes seemingly too far ahead to read the sail numbers of their closest competitors, if they ever bothered to look back.
Their speed has been exceptional, their tactics solid and their boat handling like clockwork. When the wind came up, while others were flopping and flipping in their wake, their teamwork at executing jibes as they skipped over the waves at more than 20 knots was as slick and quick as a pas de deux at the Royal Ballet.
Now, after discarding the 99 points for Race 2 Sunday when their mast broke as they were running a close second to Mike Holt and crew Carl Smit, their tally shows only four points in five races. But they do look back.
“Yeah,” Nelson said, “absolutely.”
As for Holt and Smit, they’re three points behind with a first and four seconds after beating everybody but Martin/Nelson.
Nelson said, “Their worst race was a second, so we don’t have much breathing room. They were nipping at our heels for awhile.”
Three points is within mathematical reach should the leaders stumble again—but don’t count on it. Their wins were by 1 minute 38 seconds and 1:12. Holt/Smith may be keeping Martin/Nelson honest, but they need to pay attention to Australia’s three-time world champion, Chris Nicholson with crew Casey Smith, whose (4)-3-3-3-3 line score is also impressive.
Nick Adamson of nearby San Carlos, Calif., and crew Steve Bourdow, are fourth with 19 points but facing reality.
“They’ll have to screw up or have some problems,” Adamson said of the leaders. “But anything can happen.”
No racing was scheduled Wednesday, and the regatta will wind up with two races Thursday and one each Friday and Saturday.
There will be one more discard after the eighth race, but even that may not help perennial contender and 1999 winner Howard Hamlin of Long Beach, Calif. and crew Paul Cayard, whose seventh and 14th places Tuesday left them 28 points back in seventh, behind Germany’s Jens Findel and crew Johannes Tellen and Seattle’s Dalton Bergan and crew Fritz Lanzinger.
Hamlin/Cayard have already used one of their throwouts by voluntarily rejecting, in a change of heart, the redress they had won after being disqualified in Monday’s race for interfering with the Gate Launch boat that follows the Pathfinder race boat, a.k.a. the “rabbit.” Then in Tuesday’s second race their boat sprang a leak when the gasket in the centerboard failed.
“We had geysers this high in the boat,” Hamlin said, holding his hand waist high. “I’m sure it hurt us. We were slow.”
That morning Cayard had phoned Hamlin to suggest they forfeit the redress.
“That was my first gate start in 30 years,” Cayard said. “I went home and read the rules”—specifically, paragraph 11.9 that states “a boat shall not interfere with the Pathfinder . . . [or] the Gate Launch [boat]“—in this case an inflatable tender.
The rule didn’t define “interfere,” but now, after a pre-race amendment issued Tuesday, it says “a boat shall not make contact with the boats.”
Cayard said, “We didn’t even know we hit the thing. One of the guys on it said a piece of my clothing grazed it. I don’t know what that could have been. The hull did not make contact.”
But, Cayard said, “I figured it all out at 11:30 last night.”
He decided the right thing to do was to go with the spirit of the rule.
“I called Howie and he agreed.”
Cayard, a longtime St. Francis YC member, informed race officials of the decision when he arrived at the club.
Later, Pip Pearson, the International 505 Class president from Australia, said the action of Cayard and Hamlin was “one of the most honorable things I’ve ever seen.”
Cayard said, “It’s not all about winning. You have to live with yourself.”
SAP is the naming sponsor and APL is the presenting sponsor. Marine Media Alliance, Drystone Berridge Vineyard Estates, Lindsay Art Glass, North Sails, Ronstan and 505 American Section are supporting sponsors.
The leaders (after 5 of 9 races)
1. Mike Martin/Jeff Nelson, USA, 1-(DNF)-1-1-1, 4 points.
2. Mike Holt/Carl Smit, USA, (2)-1-2-2-2, 7.
3. Chris Nicholson/Casey Smith, Australia, (4)-3-3-3, 12.
4. Nick Adamson/Steve Bourdow, USA, 9-2-(13)-4-4, 19.
5. Jens Findel/Johannes Tellen, Germany, (72)-5-6-15-12, 28.
6. Dalton Bergan/Fritz Lanzinger, USA, 8-8-4-10-(15), 30.
7. Howie Hamlin/Paul Cayard, USA, 5-6-(99-RAF), 7-14, 32.
8. Ryan Cox/Stuart Park, USA, (12)-11-12-6-8, 37.
9. Bruce Mahoney/Paul Allen, USA, (24)-7-7-8-19, 41.
10. Ian Pinnell/Carl Gibbon, Great Britain, 7-14-8-13-(20), 42.
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