Rides light winds to sweep Team Chesapeake in Columbus Cup

PACT '95

October 17, 1993|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Staff Writer

In the best-of-five final series of the Columbus Cup team racing regatta sailed on Baltimore Harbor yesterday, the PACT '95 team swept Team Chesapeake, 3-0.

In team racing, such as that used in the Columbus Cup, a score of 10 or fewer points is a guaranteed victory and a score of 6 is a shutout.

PACT '95 finished its first two races with 9 and 6 points and won the third with 6.

The PACT '95 team of skippers Ken Read, John Kostecki and Kevin Mahaney did not lose a race during the three days of racing in which all contestants sailed Beneteau 31 sloops.

Team Chesapeake, with skippers Jim Brady, Brad Dellenbaugh and Chris Larson, lost five times, all to PACT '95.

"Still undefeated," Read said. "Today, strategy was to concentrate on getting good starts. We eliminated that team-racing strategy and just tried to make the boats sail fast."

Yesterday's races, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., were delayed nearly 4 hours by fog and patchy winds. Winds were 6 knots

from the southeast at the start of the first race. By the end of the second race, winds were less than 5 knots.

In the first race of the finals, PACT '95 maintained first and second place at each mark rounding and finished in first, second and sixth place (9 points).

In team racing, boats are awarded points based on the order of finish (1-2-3-4-5-6, total of 21).

In the second race, PACT '95 rounded the first mark 1-2-3 and held those positions throughout (6 points).

In the third race, PACT '95 rounded the first mark 1-2-3 and finished 1-2-3 (6 points).

Team Chesapeake never was in the hunt.

"Today the difference wasn't as much team racing as it was getting good starts and just sailing fast," Brady said. "Our team just wasn't as fast as they were, especially in this lighter air."

This year was the first in five that the regatta has tried team racing and split its venues between the Severn River off Annapolis and Baltimore Harbor off Fort McHenry.

Both changes seemed to be well received by the competitors, and when there was wind enough to make the action spirited, team racing seemed more fun to watch than match racing, where two boats go head-to-head.

Gary Bodie, sailing coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, said in midweek that team racing in this country suffers from a lack of public exposure and proper facilities.

"You have to keep the playing field small," Bodie said. "If you do that, then the teams cannot run away and hide from each other."

Dellenbaugh, who runs the Naval Academy sailing program, said that one team-racing facility in England is the perfect example of a team-racing course. "It is nothing more than a long, narrow ditch, and they race on it no matter what the conditions," Dellenbaugh said. "So you can imagine that when the wind is up, the sailing and tactics can be furious."

But this year's Columbus Cup, despite changes in venue and format, was especially exciting to watch only on Tuesday, the first day of racing in the round-robin series.

For that first round-robin, it was cold and wet and the wind blew hard at times.

The rest of the regatta was held in light to lighter breezes and several skippers agreed that the spinnaker legs of some courses were not suited to team racing, where the object is to maneuver quickly and decisively to gain an edge on your opponents.

"Once you get your chutes up on those legs," Read said, "there is no tactical advantage. All you can do is follow the boat ahead down the leg."

The consensus among the skippers was that jibs and genoas allowed more maneuverability.

"Team racing traditionally has been done in dinghies, with two or three people aboard," Read said. "It is supposed to be fast and continually changing."

The spinnakers were added to this regatta, in large part, to make television coverage more colorful. But on the best day of sailing in this Columbus Cup, ESPN had no camera crews on the scene.

In the first race of the final, two reaching legs were sailed under spinnakers, which must have made great television, but there were no lead changes, or even a challenge for the lead, on either leg.

But without spinnakers in such light conditions, racing would have been dreadfully slow.

Through the final series, there was only one lead change under spinnaker, and that was possible because of a tactical move by Mahaney that ensured it a 1-2 finish in Race 3 and a winning combination.

"Kevin was the unsung hero this whole week," Read said. "He kept saying he didn't know a thing about team racing. But he was always the guy who sprung John and me loose."

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