Snagging the lead on Day One and, seemingly, never looking back, was local hotshot Benz Faget sailing FATS (e.g. the short name for world-famous New Orleans jazz musician- “Fats Domino”) with crew Devon Sweeney (cockpit) and Randall Richmond (bow). They must’ve been blessed by Fats himself since they could do no wrong, sailing to top four finishes in all four races on the first day and continuing an excellent performance to be crowned the 2014 J/22 Midwinter Champion.
On the first day, the teams took to the waters of Lake Pontchartrain in puffy breezes that began around 10 knots and increased throughout the day to 18. Competitors experienced 10 degree shifts, ratcheting to the right. Faget’s team on FATS recorded a line of 3-2-4-1 for 10 points. Terry Flynn’s TEJAS also kept their scores in the top four with a tally of 2-4-2-4 for 12 points, and Chris Doyle’s “THE JUG 4 1” was just one point behind in third place with 13 points.
The top three in Friday’s races were constantly shifting among the same few boats. Chris Doyle started the regatta with a win, followed by Flynn and Faget. Chris Doyle took another bullet in race two, with Faget in second and Kevin Doyle in third. It was Chris Doyle again winning race three with Flynn in second and Chris Wientjes in third. Faget moved to the top spot in the day’s final contest, trailed by Canada’s Ron Harris and Kevin Doyle.
On the second day of racing, the FATS boys retained their lead after some tough sailing. Winds began at 10-12 knots, but slowly declined over the next few hours to 4-6 kts. The Race Committee attempted to start a third race, but were forced to abandon as the wind died, sending teams to shore in advance of the competitors’ evening party in the truly infamous “French Quarter” in downtown New Orleans.
The locals excelled in Saturday’s first race, as Dwight Leblanc’s DL III took top honors, with Zak Fanberg’s WILD TCHOUPITOULAS and David Loeb’s LA JOLIE VIE rounding out the top three. Faget captured victory in the day’s only other contest. Kevin Doyle’s MO’MONEY placed second, and Leblanc third.
Faget’s FATS placed eighth in race five, but was able to toss that score. He won race six, leaving him with a line of 3-2-4-1-1 for 11 points, three ahead of second-place Chris Doyle’s “THE JUG 4 1”. Terry Flynn’s TEJAS dropped to third with 24 points.
For the last day of racing on Sunday, the conditions on Lake Pontchartrain on Sunday featured light breezes, between 5-6 knots. The local competitors ruled the day, as David Loeb’s LA JOLIE VIE took victory in Sunday’s first race. Richard Heausler’s FAST COMPANY was second, and Faget third. Chip Carpenter’s WIZARD snagged the win in the next contest, trailed by Faget and Dwight Leblanc’s DL III. Faget closed out the championship with a bullet, as Dale Currie’s SUPPER CLUB and Fanberg followed.
In the end, Faget said about his championship performance, “these guys are a good team together and there’s nothing like sailing in your own backyard!” He also attributed their consistent performance to more time on the boat, including last year’s J/22 World Championship in Newport, RI.
Behind FATS in the overall standings was Chris Doyle’s “The Jug 4 1” from Youngstown, NY and another New Orleans local, Zak Fanberg, sailed well to grab the bronze with his team on WILD TCHOUPITOULAS. Rounding out the top five were Kevin Doyle (49 pts) and Terry Flynn (50 pts). For more J/22 Midwinters sailing information