Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bream Crowned J/24 Midwinter Champion

J/24 one-design sailboats- sailing in formation downwind on Tampa Bay (Davis Island YC, Tampa, FL)- A two-peat! After the first day of racing defending champion, Peter Bream, of Jacksonville, Florida led the fleet and, remarkably, never looked back, holding his lead every day for over four days to win with a solid 9 pt lead and tossing out his worse race- a 5th!

Hosted by "The Sailingest Club in the South", Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa, Florida, and it's RC/ PRO teams did a wonderful job hosting the event in challenging conditions ranging from light to medium winds and the notorious Tampa Bay chop.

On the first day, the 28-boat fleet completed four races in beautiful 10-12 knot conditions under sunny skies.  The remains of Saturday’s strong cold front brought cool temperatures and 20 degree oscillations, which made staying of the lifted tack the rule of the day. Bream, aboard TEAM TARHEEL, found the weather to his liking and posted four top-three finishes to take a commanding 13 point lead.  Everyone else had a "bomber" of a race, including Mike Ingham of Rochester, New York in second and John Mollicone of Newport, Rhode Island in third.

J/24 sailboats- sailing around mark at Midwinter regattaThe second day of racing was tough on all crews.  It was pretty clear after the dust settled from the battlefront on the Bay that TEAM TARHEEL were not to be dissuaded from their ultimate mission of dominating the competition.  Who knew?  Sure, Peter and the boys won last year, but you have rock stars like past J/24 World Champion Mike Ingham breathing down your neck and John Mollicone on 11th HOUR RACING/ SAILORS FOR THE SEA and Tony Parker on BANGOR PACKET throwing in a few upper cuts and jabs for good measure to keep them honest. Bream, the  sailed to a solid fifth place finish in the day's only race, held in a perfect 10 knot breeze under sunny skies. But as forecasted the wind gradually shifted to the south and died as the remnants of a cold front finally pushed through the area. The day's race winner, Tony Parker of Annapolis, Maryland, moved up to second place overall.

J/24 sailboats- sailing downwind under spinnakersFor the third day of sailing on Tuesday, the fleet was finally greeted by "classic" Tampa Bay weather.  Warm and sunny.  And, after a brief morning postponement, the sea breeze filled as expected and three races were completed.  The sailors were treated to perfect sailing conditions with 10-15 knots southeast winds.  In the day’s first race, Travis Odenbach of Rochester, New York played the final run perfectly to just edge out John Mollicone for the win. Mollicone responded by winning the next race in convincing fashion. In the day’s final race, defending champion and regatta leader, Peter Bream, snuck past Rochester’s Kris Werner to take the bullet.  As a result, after eight races Bream still topped the leader board ahead of John Mollicone of Newport, Rhode Island in second and Tony Parker of Annapolis, Maryland in third place overall. Back on shore, the hosts at the Davis Island Yacht Club once again pulled out all the stops with a pig roast and bluegrass band on the schedule.

J/24 sailboat- 11th Hour-Sailors-for-the-Sea Sailing Team at Tampa, FloridaThe final day ended up being a bit anti-climactic.  So long as Peter and the TEAM TARHEEL boys simply didn't "blow it", the regatta was their's in hand.  In the end, the weather cooperated from the TARHEEL gang's perspective.  Only one race was completed in light 4-6 knot winds on the final day.  Bream’s consistent top-five finishes through 9 races allowed him to cruise to victory, finishing with a 9 point margin over John Mollicone of Newport, Rhode Island in second overall. Third place overall went to Tony Parker of Annapolis, Maryland.  Both Mollicone on 11TH HOUR and Parker on BANGOR PACKET surely must've been lamenting in their beers the decisions that forced them to take deep toss races-- Mollicone's 10-10 to start the regatta hurt their chances (sailing to the best record for the last seven races) and Parker's 13th in Race 4 and 7-6-7 in the final three dropped them out of the running.

Thanks go out to the great team at the Davis Island Yacht Club, Mount Gay Rum and all the other regatta sponsors. The J/24 Midwinter Championship again returns to DIYC in February, 2013.  For more J/24 Midwinters sailing information