June 8, 2006 — Brian Angel and his King Harbor Yacht Club team finished the first round of the TAG Heuer Nations Cup Regional Final at five wins and one loss. The single loss for Angel's team, representing the USA, was to the local USVI team, headed by Chris Curreri.
In the women's group, Paula Lewin of Bermuda was leading USA's Sally Barkow at the end of Thursday's competition with a record of 3-0 versus 2-1.
The Charlotte Amalie harbor offered up sailing conditions described by visiting umpire Soren Krause as "perfect." The wind varied between 12 to 16 knots with just enough changes in direction and strength to keep the sailors from choosing any one strategy consistently. The TAG Heuer Nations Cup event is limited to one team from each member of the North American region.
The match racing started with six races in the women's category. The first race between Bermuda and USA ended with the teams overlapped at the finish line, Bermuda ahead by five feet.
Few of the remaining races equaled that race between the two top seeds. The women's group will start off the day again on Friday. The USVI and Cayman Islands teams will try again to challenge USA and Bermuda.
Twenty-one races were run among the seven open teams vying for the single opening at the Grand Final in Cork, Ireland. Seven flights of races were held, with three head-to-head races starting in five-minute sequences. The USA, represented by Angel, came out strong and was not closely challenged until the fifth flight of races, when facing the USVI.
This did not mean the racing was dull by any means. Almost every flight of racing featured a very closely fought match.
The first flight race between the USVI and the BVI was undecided until a sail-handling error by the USVI cost them the race. Canada and BVI were the next nail-biter, again BVI prevailing in the end. In the third round, Team BVI could not overcome two pre-start penalties put on them by Mike Green of St. Lucia, in spite of some inspired sailing.
The fifth flight was amazing, with close racing in every match and hard-fought battles all over the course and beyond. USVI came out of the start with a short lead on Team USA, also carrying a penalty to get rid of.
The windward strategy of the two teams carried them both some 50 yards beyond the weather mark, Team USA determined to put a penalty on USVI or gain enough lead to execute its penalty turn. USVI and USA danced a contorted ballet back to the weather mark, where USVI shook loose enough to hoist their spinnaker and hold a short lead the rest of the race.
In the same flight, Trinidad won its first race, in another white-knuckler with the BVI. At one point Trinidad was holding BVI in a luffing match, while simultaneously unwrapping an hour-glassed spinnaker.
Trinidad led the final run to the finish and could not be drawn into a jibbing duel with BVI, with the finish line and victory close at hand. When asked if the Trinidadian team was getting better, team captain Justin Castagne said, "Yes, and I think everyone else was getting tired."
Racing will continue in the harbor, the second round robin will be Friday, semifinals Saturday, and the finals on Sunday. Tents have been erected on the waterfront by sponsor TAG Heuer for both spectators and racers waiting for their turn in rotation.
Results at the end of the first round robin:
Bermuda, Paula Lewin, 3-0
USA, Sally Barkow, 2-1
USVI, Varian Aguilar, 1-2
Cayman Islands, Jane Moon, 0-3
USA, Brian Angel, 5-1
St. Lucia, Mike Green, 4-2
USVI, Chris Curreri, 4-2
BVI, Robbie Hirst, 3-3
Canada, Eric Koppernisk, 3-3
Trinidad, Justin Castagne, 2-4
Cayman Islands, Peter Cunningham, 0-6
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