San Francisco skipper John Kostecki started the Cadillac Columbus Cup sailing regatta by losing three races and finished by winning five of his next six, including the championship match yesterday afternoon against Jim Brady of Annapolis.
Cup competition yesterday consisted of only two sets of races because wind conditions were calm until about 2:30 p.m., when the race committee was able to map out a course for two unusual sudden-death semifinals between Kostecki and Chris Law of Britain and Brady and J.J. Isler of San Diego.
By the time the championship match was started about 4 p.m., the wind was perhaps the steadiest it has been all week, conditions were prime for match racing and tight sailing in the prestart determined the outcome.
"We had some interesting prestart maneuvers," Brady said, "and we actually felt that we were in a very advantageous position about a minute before the start, which is usually the crucial part of a match race start."
At that point, Brady said, his boat was in a leeward position where he thought he could control Kostecki's speed and push him over the line early without crossing it himself. But Kostecki managed to accelerate and counter Brady's strategy.
As a result, both boats went over the line early and Kostecki's position blocked Brady from quickly returning to the starting line.
"He had to keep going and wait for us for another 5 seconds," Kostecki said. "Once we cleared [recrossing the starting line], we came back up on the wind and he had to gybe around the buoy and come back up.
"So right then we had a good 20-second advantage, and that was the race."
Kostecki and Brady agreed that the wind in the final race was relatively steady and allowed tacticians to make sound decisions, unlike the semifinals.
In the two-sudden death semifinals sailed earlier yesterday, conditions made racing a tactician's nightmare.
In the semifinals between Isler, the first woman skipper in the Columbus Cup, and Brady, Isler built a lead of 15 boat lengths or more through the first two legs and then was passed on the final leg.
"I kind of feel that we robbed her because she sailed a good race," Brady said. "We beat her at the start, she tacked to the right, we tacked shortly thereafter and sailed into a hole. She sailed into a puff and off she went. We never saw here again until the next beat."
In the first semifinal match, between Kostecki and Law, the British skipper who won the qualifying round with a 5-2 record, the racing also was light and tricky.
By the top of the first leg, Law held a short lead on Kostecki, but the San Francisco skipper headed for the right side of the course and what looked like more wind and guessed right.
"We passed them on the first run," said Kostecki, who made the semifinals after finishing qualifying with a 3-4 record. "They did a bear away set. We saw a little more wind on the right, so we gybe set. The wind gods were in our favor a little and we had a little more wind and were able to get ahead of them."