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An interview with Chris Lanza on the 2022 Coral Reef Cup

by David Schmidt 23 Mar 15:00 GMT March 25-27, 2022
Racecourse action at the Etchells Coral Reef Cup © Images courtesy of Marco Oquendo (Images by Marco; www.marcophoto.zenfolio.com)

E.W. "Skip" Etchells drew the lines for what would become the Etchells class in 1966 in hopes that the boat would be selected as the equipment for the three-person Olympic sailing event at the 1972 Summer Olympics. His 30-foot design narrowly lost out to the Soling, however international eyes had already been opened to the boat's performance attributes. The "E22" entered production shortly thereafter, and there were almost three dozen boats afloat by late 1969.

The boat's slippery-looking lines and graceful sailplan quickly started attracting some of the world's top sailing talent. The first E22 Worlds were held in 1975 on the waters off of Marblehead, Massachusetts, and, as the class grew internationally, it's been held in sailing meccas including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the U.K., and the U.S. West Coast.

While Florida has yet to host an E22 Worlds, the Sunshine State has long been home to Etchells Fleet 20, which boasts many of the class' fastest names and hosts several top-shelf winter and spring regattas, including the annual Coral Reef Cup (March 25-27).

I checked in with Chris Lanza, regatta chairman of the 2022 Coral Reef Cup, via email, to learn more about this early-spring Etchells-class event.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Etchells Coral Reef Cup, it's history and culture, and the kinds of teams and sailors that one can expect to find here?

The Coral Reef Cup started 15 years ago when SORC stopped running one design circles on Biscayne Bay in the Spring as part of the SORC event in Miami. The Etchells "Jaguar Series" typically ended at the end of February/beginning of March, and many of the local sailors thought we could hold another event for the Etchells before they headed back up North.

The event started with about 18 boats and now regularly draws 30 plus boats as the last event of the winter series in Miami.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

This year we expect more boats as the Etchells Nationals are being hosted by Biscayne Bay Yacht Club in April. This likely means that many boats that pack up in early March will use the Coral Reef Cup as a warm-up for the Nationals.

Also, because the World Championship is being held In Miami in 2023 [and] hosted by Coral Reef Yacht Club and Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, many European boats are arriving a year in advance for the end of this season. This is also due in large part to a lifting of Covid 19 restrictions both in the U.S. and in Europe.

There has been a substantial increase in boats from the United Kingdom towards the end of this season. The World Championship in 2022 in is being held in Cowes, and many of the teams are using the Biscayne Bay Series, Coral Reef Cup, and Etchells Nationals as training for Cowes in September.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off on Biscayne Bay in mid-March? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

March and April are actually some of the best months to sail on Biscayne Bay. We usually sea steady east winds around 15 knots with 85-degree air temperature and warm water conditions.

Typically, these months are still too cold to race in the Northeast, so many of the sailors stick around to enjoy an extra month of warm weather and very competitive racing.

Worst case scenario is a light air day, but these are more during the winter when cold fronts roll through leaving high pressure and light winds, great for motorboating, not so much for sailboat racing.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Miami has been the hub of winter Etchells sailing for more than 20 years. Many of the sailors have either moved to Miami permanently or spend a great deal of time here during the winter season.

Local knowledge has been absorbed by many of the long-time participants, even though they may not technically be locals. So, to answer your question, there is really no home-field advantage as many of the top teams have been sailing on Biscayne Bay for many years.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

Make your plans early. Dry storage and housing are becoming more and more difficult to come by in Miami.

Of course, don't forget your sunblock as even in the dead of winter you can get a painful sunburn. From a racing perspective don't discount the tide.

While Miami's tides are minimal compared to the Northeast, there can still be a knot of current across the racecourse, and figuring out the unique flood and ebb patterns on the Bay can make a difference, especially when trying to lay a mark or setting up for the best angle for the finish line.

Do you have any teams that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

The Etchells Fleet is very deep, honestly, there are 20 teams capable of winning any event in Miami. Olympic silver medalist and Etchells World Champ Steve Benjamin and his very talented team are always a favorite. Jim Cunningham from the West Coast won the first regatta and has a very talented crew as well. Finally, Scott Kaufman from Shelter Island, NY is a multiple North American Champion, and also has a talented group of sailors in his rotation and is capable of winning any event in Miami.

Again, the fleet is very deep and many of the teams signed up could pull out a victory at the Coral Reef Cup, I just wouldn't bet against any of the three boats mentioned above.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta amidst a still-churning pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

Covid-19 has presented some pretty big hurdles. In 2020 the event was canceled, in 2021 we were able to hold the event with restrictions.

Luckily Coral Reef completed the construction of a new building on its campus which boasts a rooftop bar capable of holding around 100 people. This allows bigger events such as Star and Etchells Regattas to hold their social events and awards ceremonies outdoors and away from the general membership. This forced social distancing has gone a long way to keeping the members happy while maintaining reasonable social distancing.

Luckily, we have not required any Covid testing or proof of vaccination for this event. Our club does have Covid-19 restrictions for visiting sailors, and sailors using the Coral Reef campus for the first time should read these rules in advance to avoid any inconvenience.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

Coral Reef has been working hard for over ten years to become more environmentally friendly. Dedicated water stations were installed at various locations around the club including the hoist area. Sailors are encouraged to use refillable water bottles rather than single-use plastic bottles.

In addition, there are numerous recycling bins around the club to make sure all plastic is recycled.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

The Coral Reef Cup has become a fixture on the Etchells winter circuit and with the World Championship in Miami in April of 2023, the next two years could see a record number of entries.

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