Upsets and Surprises Mark San Diego Regatta Finale

As teams battled on the final day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta San Diego, the results shuffled in surprising ways.

Wharf Rat crew
Christian Seidel’s J/24 Wharf Rat leads off the start of the final race. The crew—Amber Asaro, Harry Dursch (helm), Christian Seidel (trim), Ethan Stein and Doug Yates—won the final race to win the regatta. Walter Cooper

Christian Seidel and his teammates on the J/24 Wharf Rat, had expectations of winning their division at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in San Diego. Hopeful, yes, but having finished 10th overall the previous year, says Seidel, they would have been happy with a place in the top-five. And that’s how the scenario was shaping this morning when the sailors headed out for the final day of racing under grey skies and a light southwest wind.

Wharf Rat’s first finish of the day was a fifth in the 13-boat fleet, enough to keep them knocking at the door, but when the top-two boats dragged each other to the middle of the fleet in a match race in the next race, team Wharf Rat vaulted into contention with one final race to go.

And what did they do? They won the race that counted most, in convincing fashion, to finish the regatta with a 2-point lead over Susan Taylor and her teammates on Take Five.

Off the starting line in that final race, Seidel and his teammates (with Harry Dursch helming) were able to break free of a pin-end pile up and speed off to the favored left side of the racecourse. First around the weather mark, all that was left to do was keep the hard-charging fleet behind them.

“The plan was to start clear and get left and I guess it worked,” said Seidel. “We were fast upwind and just killed it with boatspeed, but to be honest, the only reason we were able to win was that the two boats that were tied for first took themselves out. That’s sailboat racing: sometimes you do the right things and win a race and sometimes you can just take yourself out of it.”

After 10 races for the seven-boat J/70 fleet, it was Jeff Janov and his sons on Minor Threat that closed out the regatta with a race win in the first of the day. They followed up with a second for a 2-point win over Eduardo Saenz’s Nimbus. For the Ultimate 20s, 10 races as well were enough for Travis Gregory’s Team 222, from Farmington, Utah, to win with a 7-point margin over Marty Smihula’s Hard Drive. Gregory and his teammates Brady Lofthouse and Mark Peery won an impressive five races over three days of close racing on San Diego’s South Bay.

In the VX One fleet, Charlie Welsh’s Space Cadet, with crew Carolyn Smith and Elizabeth Swain, went 1-3-2 to win the series by 4 points over Long Beach-based skipper Keith Christensen’s USA 285. Kyle Hirsch and Cole Baker, of San Diego, continued their run at the top of the Melges 15 fleet with 1-3-2 on the day and 4 points was the final difference, with Brian Savery and Scott Wilson, of Bellingham, Washington, taking second overall.

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – San Diego VX One fleet
Charlie Welsh, Carolyn Smyth and Elizabeth Swain (forward) dominated the VX One fleet in San Diego, and won the regatta’s overall title, earning them a berth at the Caribbean Championship in the British Virgin Islands. Walter Cooper

Sunday’s lighter winds provided the weekend’s most challenging conditions for the International 14 sailors, but Garrett Brown and Morgan Pinckney, of Long Beach, California, posted back-to-back wins in the final two races to take the overall title and the West Coast Championship trophy from Terence Gleeson and Jett Jennings. Only 3 points was the difference after nine races.

On the Paralympic sailing circle, Jim Thweatt and Eddie Lewis Jr. held their respective leads in the Hansa 303 and Martin 16 classes, both finishing the three-day, 10-race regatta with 16 points apiece.

On the offshore racecourse the breeze came lighter than forecast, and with a patchy southwesterly direction and a strong current, many teams struggled to get off the starting line, but those who got away first were rewarded with an open course and easier race to defend. That much was true for Rudolph Hasl’s local J/145 Palaemon, the 2022 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series San Diego Overall Winner. Palaemon won both races running away to close the series with five wins in six races.

Stewart Cannon’s team on the J/105 J-OK won the first race of the day, and with a seventh in the final race, they’d padded their lead enough to win the fleet with four points to spare.

Meanwhile the battle of the weekend in the Beneteau 36.7 fleet played out in dramatic fashion with Peter Cochran’s Rode Rage and Chick Pyle’s Kea. Rode Rage escaped from a crowded start in the first race put up its first win of the day while Kea had to battle from a bad start to finish third. That was enough for Rode Rage to simply cover Kea in the final race, finishing second to Kea’s fourth and the ending Kea’s 11-year winning streak at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series San Diego.

Beneteau 36.7 in San Diego Regatta Series
Peter Cochran’s Beneteau 36.7 Rode Rage (Cochran at the helm) delivered a winning performance on the final day to win the fleet and upset the 11-time winning team. Walter Cooper

Ed Sanford’s J/111 Creative came out on top of the tie breaker Mark Stratton’s J/111 Cheeky to win the Fast 40 division, and there was no change to the overnight leaders of the Distance Race fleet: Mark Berdan’s UnEven Keel was the top multihull and Timothy Forderer Hobie 33 Holy Toledo was the top monohull.

As is tradition at all stops of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, one overall winner was selected from individual class winners to represent the regatta at the Caribbean Championship in the British Virgin Islands in October. Charlie Welsh and his teammates on the VX One Space Cadet won the honors and confirmed they’ll be ready to apply their regatta-winning sportboat skills to the bareboat 47-footers of the Sunsail charter boat fleet.

Final Results

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