CofC was happy to host an eight team qualifier for the Cornelius Shields Regatta this weekend. With light air forecasted on Sunday our intention from the start was to make it a one day qualifier. We set up a single round robin with that would qualify for a final four, any ties were to be broken by sail offs for qualifying for both the final four and in determining the top 2 qualifiers.
We started racing after a short delay with breeze out of the NE around 5-7 knots. The first round robin featured some close racing with a few upsets. In the final race of the round robin, Eckerd edged out JU to give them their only loss of the round robin. Eckerd's only loss had been to CofC, so going into the final four they sat in the top seed, with JU in the second seed. University of Souther Florida, Miami and CofC all had four wins so we sailed a small round robin to determine the two that would move on. Miami won both matches and CofC beat USF meaning that USF went home a bit early after winning some very tough matches.
With the final four set and the Easterly sea breeze filled in at 7-9 knots we began the final four. Charleston faced Eckerd to start it and despite a last leg charge by Eckerd, CofC pushed them out past layline and led them back to the finish giving CofC 5 wins. Next race JU tangled with Miami in a race that featured a lot of pre race jockeying, JU took the victory giving them 7 wins. Flight two paired Eckerd against Miami, Miami picked up a flag in the pre start and couldn't maintain an early lead through with the penalty turn, Eckerd now had 7 Wins. Next up was a must win for CofC vs JU. JU had been fast all day but CofC was able to fend them off staying alive and getting their 6th win. In the last flight of the day Eckerd and JU battled for an eighth win that would lock in a trip to Marblehead. Despite leading the entire race, JU picked up a penalty after setting and forcing Eckerd to avoid. They held to the finish to do their penalty turn and with the current pushing them upwind toward the oncoming Eckerd team they were forced to try taking a blocking strategy rather than finishing and fouled again. Eckerd found a way around them to finish in a very exciting race that was difficult for JU to swallow. This set up another must win for CofC vs Miami. If CofC could pick up another point they'd race it off with JU.
CofC held a slight lead throughout the race, Miami was able to even downwind against the current. With about a two length lead at the last mark CofC set and then gybed to the inside in order to avoid current. Miami was very quick downwind, and sailed further prior to gybing where they found a bit more pressure and were able to pass. CofC gybed back ducking in an attempt to establish a leeward overlap and take back a controlling position but Miami was able to stay just out of reach and crossed 1/2 length ahead.
With this JU sighed in relief and the top two were clearly set, Eckerd with 8 wins and JU with 7.
As this was my first time running a match race regatta I want to thank our head judge Kathy Lindgren and last year's Match Race Nationals PRO Ryan Davidson who served as one of our umpires and provided crucial advice and guidance. A huge thanks also goes out to these two and our other umpires, Warren Collier and Mike Lindgren. CofC sailors did an excellent job with RC and support duties making the event an excellent qualifier for the Nationals.
This was one of the largest and deepest fleets compiled to qualify for match race nationals out of SAISA. There were no breakdowns, a credit to Ned Goss our dockmaster and his team. We wish the best of success to Eckerd and JU at the finale.
Kevin Jewett CofC Director of Sailing - PRO