Ft Lauderdale – Drew Freides and Bill Ruh’s Pacific Yankee won the Melges IC37 Lauderdale Cup hosted by Lauderdale Yacht Club January 23-26. The southern-style event featured three full days of racing directly off Hollywood Beach in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Pacific Yankee was helmed by Freides for the second event of the Winter Series after Ruh brought home a first at the Fall Cup. “Of course, the pressure was on after Bill won the first event,” said Freides. “I had to live up to his expectations.”
The competition started even before the first race as boats jockeyed their way around the course in 20-25 knots and 4-8 foot seas on the practice day. The big breeze and passing storms gave way to a double rainbow that teams were still raving about on the final day. The conditions presented the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the daily class debriefs led by the class coach at Lauderdale Yacht Club.
Day One featured streaky winds in the leftover 2-4 foot waves from the day prior. Pacific Yankee took the lead in the first two races despite losing ground on a couple of the legs. The duo lost momentum in the final race of the day coming in second behind Chris Culver’s Blazer II. “We used our secret start – with three minutes to the start, we said ‘Guys, I think we’re in sequence, so maybe we oughta get up to the line,” joked Culver. “We nailed the start, got a little lucky and made the most of it. Pacific Yankee also let us scoot through on that last one.”
The Lauderdale Yacht Club Race Committee chose to change things up on Day Two with three upwind-finish races. Pacific Yankee and Blazer II had a repeat of Day One with Ruh/ Freides winning the first two races and Culver winning the third.
The course change caused a shakeup in the rest of the fleet with Phil Lotz’s Arethusa claiming one of their top finishes of the weekend. “There was some interesting current play at the starting line and top mark with it working against you at times,” said Lotz. “It was a nice windy, northerly for a while then the last race turned upside down. There was a lot of traffic at the top mark, but we were able to come from behind and scoop one boat, another boat did a circle, and we made gains on all that.”
Peter McClennen’s Gamecock rounded out the fleet with their fourth, fourth-place finish of the event proving consistent despite taking flyers to opposite sides of the course chasing the wind. “It was a matter of how shifts were played, and we didn’t want to over-play them,” said McClennen. “Someone could get a lot of leverage without being very far away,” emphasized tactician, Sarah Lihan. “It’s tough to decide and weigh how much you play the shift, play the boats, and how much you play the pressure.”
After six races at the end of Day Two, the Sailing Instructions called for a throw-out securing Pacific Yankee’s top placement followed by Blazer II and a fight for third with the remaining teams all finishing within a point of each other. The Lauderdale Yacht Club hosted a fleet debrief and steak dinner on Saturday night in their outdoor dining space. The racers enjoyed the Club’s hospitality and the Fort Lauderdale nightlife into the late hours.
In a turn of events on Sunday, Jim Wilson’s Midnight Blue took a commanding lead in the light air. The fleet raced east upwind to the beach seeking sustained pressure. While some were able to locate that pressure, others lost momentum in the gaping holes on glassy water. Midnight Blue was one of the boats that remained calm and capable in the trying conditions and was able to jump ahead into third place after two bullets. “We kept the boat moving and we were patient,” said Wilson. “No lead was safe today as people found out. There were a lot of lead changes and rolls of the dice. For example, Gamecock came from way back on the right and they ended up second in that last one.”
Pacific Yankee’s firm grasp on first place went unchallenged while Winter Series newcomer, Blazer II, secured second. “We’re really looking forward to the next event with more boats,” said Culver. “The competition is great and you can’t beat this weather.”
The Melges IC37 Winter Series hosted by Lauderdale Yacht Club concludes with the Midwinter Championship March 20-22. A big thank you goes out to the Lauderdale Yacht Club Race Committee, members, and volunteers for hosting the Melges IC37 Class for the 2019/20 Winter Series.