The 2013 edition of the Championship of Champions, hosted by Columbia Sailing Club, came down to a dramatic conclusion Sunday. It took all 16 races to determine this year's winner of the Jack Brown Trophy. Three teams were in legitimate contention going into today's final two races
Brian Keane (Weston, Mass.) and crew Steve Hunt (San Diego, Calif.) and Victor Diaz De Leon had a three point lead over Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.) and crewmates Will and Laura Jeffers (Tarpon Springs, Fla.). Skip Dieball (Toledo, Ohio) and crew Tom Starck (Avon Lake, Ohio) and Abby Freeman (Vermilion, Ohio) were seven points back in third place.
Race 15 this morning featured winds out of the west at 5 to 8 knots. The Race Committee shortened the course for the upwind finish. The race was won by Lee Sackett (Cleveland, Ohio), followed by Greiner Hobbs (Tampa, Fla.) in second, Alison in third, and Keane in fourth. Dieball placed 13th. Heading into the final race of the regatta, Keane had a four point lead over Alison, and Dieball was 11 points behind.
Prior to Race 16, there was a 180 degree wind shift from the east at about 5 knots. Easterly breeze is not the norm for Lake Murray. The wind direction caused shifty weather legs. Dieball won a close start and took a big lead around the first mark. He was followed by Keane and Michael Gillum (Loomis, Calif.). Dieball kept his lead around the first leeward mark, followed by Keane and David Starck (Amherst, N.Y.). Teams adjusted to a slight oscillation to the northeast with winds at 5 to 8 knots. Dieball went on to win Race 16, followed by Keane and Starck.
Keane won the regatta by 10 points over Dieball and Alison. Dieball won the tie-breaker to take second place. Keane was representing the J/80 class, as the 2012 J/80 North American Champion. Despite not winning any races this week, Keane finished in the top three on seven occasions through 16 races. He placed outside the top six just twice.
"We had never raced Lightnings before, so it took us a while to get comfortable," said Keane. "We had to learn how to accelerate, make tactical manoeuvres, and the cadence of the wind. It's a testament to this great event that allowed us to compete at a high level. The boats were similar, which took away some of the advantage that the Lightning sailors here had. Also, with the event being held on a lake, it put the emphasis on reading the wind and tactical positioning. It's not all about sailing fast."
US Sailing's Championship of Champions is recognized as one of the more unique adult racing events in the country. All helmsmen qualified for this event by winning a 2012 or 2013 one-design class National, North American, or World Championship. Helmsmen and their crew were tested in Lightnings over three days of racing on Lake Murray.