January 2, 2013

Avery Fanning Wins Orange Bowl

COCONUT GROVE, Fla.—Freshman Avery Fanning won the Laser Full Rig division at the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta hosted by Coral Reef Yacht Club this past weekend, defeating several of the continent's top singlehanded sailors by mere points.  The Orange Bowl is one of the biggest youth regattas in the world, attracting over 500 sailors in various classes each year.  The Coast Guard Academy coaching staff attends the Orange Bowl each year to meet potential recruits both on the water and at the annual College Night sponsored by Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.  This is the first time a sailor has represented the Academy on the water during the event.

Fanning is no stranger to the Orange Bowl.  Sailing in the Laser Radial division, he finished 2nd in both 2010 and 2011.  This year, being younger than most of his fellow freshmen, he used the opportunity to step up into the more powerful Laser Full Rig, a boat he has spent very little time training in.

"We decided it would be best for Avery not to sail Singlehanded New England's in the Full Rig this past fall to allow him to focus on his double-handed sailing, so he spent zero time training in the Laser during the school year," explained head coach Brian Swingly.  "The Orange Bowl was a great way to get him some extra time in the boat during the offseason, while representing the Academy at a major non-collegiate event."

Day One of the regatta started with a wind delay that left sailors floating for several hours while the very patient race committed waited for enough breeze to race.  Finally, a light easterly developed which allowed for two races in which Fanning placed 2nd and 5th.  After spending very little time in the boat, he used the early races of the regatta to get his techniques and settings completely dialed in.

The second and third days offered very similar conditions, with breeze ranging from 4-9 knots from various directions.  Fanning found his groove and won an impressive 5 of 8 races during the two days.  In two of the races he didn't win, he was called over the line early and had to restart the race.  He showed true dominance in the light air conditions and opened up a big lead on the rest of the field going into the final day of racing.

"Avery was not only incredibly fast but was making excellent decisions in the light to moderate air, winning several of the races with huge leads," said Swingly.  "We did, however, talk a great deal about the two races in which he was called over.  Without those two mistakes he could have put the regatta out of reach for all other competitors with a day to spare." 

Instead, Fanning would be put to the test in the two races scheduled on the last day of racing with a significantly windier forecast than the previous three days.  Being one of the lightest sailors in the fleet, and the definite lightest in the top-5, he would have his work cut out for him defending his lead in big breeze.

In the first race Fanning had an uncharacteristically bad start, which put him well behind and without the upwind speed advantage he had during the previous three days.  At the first weather mark, Fanning was in 18th place with all of his close competitors sitting in the top-6.  On the ensuing downwind leg, Fanning used every bit of his skill to pass nine boats, a place he would keep until the finish line.  Despite it being his second to worst score of the regatta, that race all but ensured him the overall victory.

"Without even knowing it at the time, that first downwind leg was a crucial moment of the regatta.  He passed every boat he had the ability to pass and in doing so gained enough points back to be comfortable going into the last race." commented Swingly. 

Going into the last race, Fanning had a seven point lead over Nick Valente from South Carolina and a nine point lead over both Mitchell Kiss from Michigan and Juan Perdomo from Puerto Rico.  With a second drop race – where sailors drop their worst scores – available after the final race, only Valente could pass Fanning, but he would have to win the race to do so. 

Fanning kept a close watch on Valente at the start and, without going into full attack mode, made sure he didn't get off the line with an ideal lane.  Fanning struggled as the wind increased, but Valente never made it above 5th, mathematically eliminating him from taking the lead from Fanning.

"We obviously have some work to do in stronger breeze and on how to be conservative on the starting line during key moments," said Swingly.  "But overall Avery sailed a really complete regatta and definitely deserved to win.  After finishing 2nd in 2010 and 2011, he was thrilled to finally leave victorious." 

Fanning won the event with 34 points.  Perdomo finished 2nd with 35 and Kiss was 3rd with 37.  Valente just missed the top-3, placing 4th with 40 points.

Complete results for all classes can be found here:  http://www.coralreefyachtclub.org/Waterfront/orange-Bowl-Regatta/Orange-Bowl-Results.aspx

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