Written by Nik Vale (Open Sailing) Wednesday, 01 February 2012 17:48
The Champagne Series consists of two Saturdays of racing. This year the Open 5.70 fleet decided to add an additional Sunday of racing with the goal of starting the high point season with a strong 3 day series. However, Southern California's unpredictable winter weather had a different plan.
USA 279, "Part-Timer", Dan & Anne-Laure Lieberman taking home the 1st place trophy in the Open 5.70 class and the Kleve Perpetual Trophy for the regatta.
The first Saturday of the Cham-"pain" Series saw unusually high winds - all of the 570 sailors took on the challenge sailing out of the marina double handed into a vicious sea state that combined 25+ knots of wind and 8 foot waves. Those who managed to get out early enjoyed a hair raising downwind spinnaker run catching some adrenaline pumping pacific rollers which easily pushed the boat into the teens. As the wind built the spinnakers were replaced by reefs and John Gartman on USA 281 recorded a high speed of 17.3 knots with a reefed main and jib only! It wasn't long before the RC sent us back to the harbor after struggling to anchor the racing marks in the high seas. Soaked to the bone, but with ear to ear grins the 570 sailors had a great day on the water despite the lack of racing.
The Sunday was an Open 5.70 exclusive day of racing. An opportunity for the fleet to dictate course length and squeeze in practices starts and more races than normal since we were the only fleet. The weather couldn't have been more different as the Open 5.70 bobbed around on Santa Monica Bay surrounded by a huge pod of dolphin waiting for the lightest of breezes to build in order to start the race. With some new faces in the fleet since last season it was time to get a feeling for what the 2012 season had to offer. As the newest boat in the fleet USA 310 reached the first weather mark in 1st place followed by USA 279 also with new faces onboard it was apparent that the level competition was going to reach new heights. It seems like a little practice goes a long was as those two boats were definitely the most active since the end of the 2011 season. The breeze built to a steady 8 knots by the 3rd race before winding down during the 4th. USA 279, with Dan & Anne-Laure Liebermann, continued their success of the first race proving that it wasn't just beginners luck to beat USA 274's David Brown who is the defending Open 5.70 High Point Champion. The father / son FitzMaurice team on Misfit came in 3rd and two new faces in the fleet, John Gartman on USA 281 and Magnus Hierta on USA 310 rounded out the top 5.
By the second Sunday the weather was back to "normal" with warm conditions and a light breeze. With no races in the bank from the previous Saturday it was imperative to get the racing under way early despite the shifty light breeze. The result was that 1/4 mile course set for the Open 5.70s was far from being windward/leeward as proved by USA 281 who launched their kite on their way to the weather mark and aptly demonstrated how to tack a spinnaker before carrying their kite all the back to the finish!
USA 281 (purple) proved that flying the spinnaker upwind to the weather mark was the right choice, they even managed to keep the kite up as they tacked around the mark and headed for the finish!
Despite the wind building throughout the day the RC was challenged by very shifty conditions which often left the starting the line and courses far from "square". The sailors weren't complaining but with short legs and usually only one tack and one gybe there was no opportunity to recover from a bad start. It was another good day for USA 279 as an OCS for USA 274 on the first race pushed them back to 3rd with Tracey Kenney on Hat Trick taking 2nd for the day. As the highest scoring one-design boat USA 279 were also awarded the Kleve Perpetual Trophy!!
USA 274, "KOA", David Brown and Julia Barske taking home the 2nd place trophy in the Open 5.70 class
USA 169, "Hat Trick", Tracey Kenney and crew taking home the 3rd place trophy in the Open 5.70 class