Team New Zealand won the championship of the Cadilla Columbus Cup yesterday with two convincing victories over Team Denmark in the final series sailed at the mouth of the Patapsco River.
lTC New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts and Denmark's Valdemar Bandolowski entered the best-of-three series with 5-1 records. Denmark's loss had come against top-seeded New Zealand on Friday.
Before the 11 a.m. start, the spectator fleet numbered fewer than the boats fishing for striped bass off the south shore of the Patapsco. But as the day wore on, the spectator fleet grew to modest numbers and those who chose to dodge the showers were treated to good racing in perhaps the steadiest breeze of the week.
The wind was southeast and light, as New Zealand handily won its first start against Denmark and the two 44-foot yachts began a tacking duel up the right-hand side of the course. During the duel, Denmark was gaining steadily on New Zealand before Coutts chose to break off.
"Denmark was tacking faster than we were and almost slipped past us," Coutts said. "If the first leg had been 100 meters longer, we might have been in real trouble."
After the yachts rounded the first mark and started a leg with the wind behind them, Denmark increased the pressure by covering New Zealand and stealing the leading boat's wind.
"Coming around that first mark," Coutts said, "we made a mistake and didn't gybe when we should have. Denmark came around with more speed and passed us going downwind."
But on the second leg toward the bottom of the course, Bandolowski and his crew made a choice that cost Denmark the lead and eventually the race.
"When we came around the top mark, we gybed immediately and managed to cover Russell and got over him," Bandolowski said. "Our problem was that we had to gybe again to get to the second mark at a certain stage."
Bandolowski said his options were to either call for room to make his gybe or move away from New Zealand, make an early gybe and wait to see with what strategy Coutts would respond.
"We did the latter, and when he gybed he covered us," Bandolowski said. "I think what happened was that we were in his bad air and he got a puff at the same time and was able to move away by two or three boat lengths. That was enough to win the race."
The second race in the series between Coutts and Bandolowskwas decided early on the first leg, Coutts said.
"It was more even at the start," Coutts said, "but somehow we managed to have more speed in the early part of the race and that was pretty much it."
In the best-of-three consolation series between Team USA and Japan, Larry Klein won two straight against Makoto Namba.
Mark Fischer, co-chairman of the Columbus Cup, said that some changes may be coming in next year's competition.
Among things to be considered are a field expanded to 10 boats, perhaps some team racing and a relocation of the courses to a site closer to the regatta headquarters at HarborView Marina and Yacht Club and the Finger Piers at the Inner Harbor.
In the two years the regatta has been sailed in Baltimore, competitors have said that an inordinate amount of time has been spent motoring to and from the race courses at the mouth of the Patapsco or beyond.
"We did some figuring this week," Team USA skipper Larry Klein of San Diego said. "We decided that the amount of time spent motoring to and from the harbor was equal to the amount of time it took Christopher Columbus to discover the New World."
The trip to or from the course in the J-44s the crews race takes nearly two hours. The thinking among some of the race organizers and crew is that that time might be better spent racing.
In the past two years, the round-robin competition used to determine the four boats that race on the final day of the regatta has not been completed. This year, six of seven races were sailed.
"There will be some changes, I am sure," Fischer said. "But it will be some time before those changes are decided."