August 26, 2011 (Newport, RI) – The first and final day of Audi Melges 20 racing, hosted by Sail Newport was quick to start, continue and conclude. Teams arrived at the Newport Shipyard on Friday morning only to discover barely a breathe of air. After a quick review of the 05.00 advisory on Hurricane Irene, the decision was made that racing would be cancelled for sure on Saturday. However, Friday’s schedule tentatively hung in the balance due to the present light air conditions. PRO Anderson Reggio diligently watched the weather forecasts and tapped Newport locals for consultation on what to do with Friday’s racing. Immediately the fleet went into an on land postponement with anticipation of leaving the dock no sooner that 10.45.
Teams mingled mostly, while enjoying good friends and great breakfast from Belle’s Restaurant. As time wore on, indications that the breeze was filling in at Point Judith, and that it would eventually make its way to Halfway Rock were promising, but it could take at least a couple of hours before it would be considered sailable. Being a National Championship, fair sailing conditions was important to consider. In addition, weighing heavy on everyone’s mind was, of course Irene, and how to best exit the Rhode Island area, for many with boat in tow. For the last 48 hours, weather models have not changed, placing Newport in the direct path of the storm, now almost 600 miles wide and growing.
The fleet became increasingly anxious and soon it was obvious that more decisions needed to be made. International Class President and North American Fleet President Marc Hollerbach called for every owner to meet at the tent, located at the Newport Shipyard. Because the circumstances were so unique, the best avenue for a decision was to poll the Owners. Hollerbach was quick to address the situation of should the event remain a National Championship or should it be postponed? The Owners unanimously voted to postpone the event to another time. They also agreed that should the OA still feel as though some great racing could be delivered, those that wanted to go racing could and the event would remain class-sanctioned, however it will not be scored on the 2011 USA Sailing Series.
For teams that were far more concerned about getting home and out of the way of the storm, they left the event with a big sigh of relief. Those that decided to go out and get some more time in the boat, they were equally happy with Reggio as he served up four great races. About half the fleet stayed on to race, while others chose to pack the boats and head home. Since the event had been stripped of it’s National Championship status, teams affectionately renamed it the Irene Cup. Rob Wilber on Cinghaile edged out to take the top spot, two points ahead of Pieter Taselaar on Bliksem in second. Charleston’s Patrick Eudy on Big Booty was third.
It’s unfortunate that so much planning had taken place in advance and the excitement fizzled a bit due to the approaching hurricane, but everyone agreed that the best decision had been made. All teams and owners are encouraged to stay close to the Class website over the coming days and weeks as further announcements and confirmations will be broadcasted regarding the re-location of the 2011 U.S. National Championship.
A very special thanks, most especially to PRO Anderson Reggio whose professionalism persevered throughout the practice on Thursday and spilled over into Friday’s abbreviated racing. Sail Newport and their staff – Brad Read and Kim Cooper have been incredible throughout the process. Anthony Kotoun, Andy Burdick and Harry Melges with Melges Performance Sailboats supported the fleet to the highest degree. Again – special thanks to Layline for supplying the beer on Thursday.
IRENE CUP RESULTS (FINAL, After 4 Races)
1.) Rob Wilber, Cinghaile; 2-2-5-5 = 14
2.) Pieter Taselaar, Bliksem; 1-5-1-9 = 16
3.) Pat Eudy, Big Booty; 5-7-4-2 = 18
4.) Michael Kiss, Bacio; 9-8-2-1 = 20
5.) Guy Mossman, USA-132; 10-1-7-6 = 24