Christophe Favreau /

Stand up performance from local hero

Howie Hamlin claims the day at the Nespresso International 18 Skiff Regatta

Tuesday August 28th 2012, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States

The last boat standing - literally, the only one that stayed upright - won Day 2 of the Nespresso International 18 Skiff Regatta today, defending itself against all the ferocity that San Francisco Bay had to offer on an otherwise cool, but cloudless sunny day at the beach hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club.

That's what it took for the USA's six-time winner Howard Hamlin with crew Matt Noble and Matt McKinlay to collect a runaway win - no easy task when all of the other 17 delicate little skiffs were flipping and flopping like pancakes in the fierce conditions that measured 25 knots of wind sweeping them all into a meanly opposing ebb tide.

New Zealand's Alex Vallings, whose C-Tech swept Monday's opening two races with an amazing comeback from last place, finished third to retain his overall lead but said, "We were down three times."

Hamlin's win jumped him from fifth to second place, while Australian Jonathan Witty's Lumix followed Monday's pair of seconds with a seventh to sit in third place sailing with a crew of James Hozack and a late substitute, Mike Martin, filling in for the ailing Marcus Ashley-Jones.

Martin, returning to the waters where he won the 505 class worlds three years ago and four International 18 Regattas with Hamlin earlier, is now director of umpiring and rules administration for the America's Cup here. No telling how the AC45s would have handled Tuesday's conditions - or how the AC72s will later on - but it should be interesting.

When Ashley-Jones was unable to sail, Witty phoned Martin. "He called me an hour before the start," Martin said.

But he had to sail only one race. The second was cancelled after the race committee polled the fleet to see if they'd rather call it a day. Only Vallings and Witty voted to continue. Hamlin was willing to go with the majority, although it was the first time in the 11 years of the event that such conditions canceled any racing.

"Whatever they wanted to do was alright with me," Hamlin said. "It was easily 25 [knots], but the ebb [tide] makes it like 28."

His secret to survival and success: "You gotta keep going fast. You can't take it easy. You gotta stay really focused. Once you go down it's so hard to get up that it takes something out of you."

At times, there were more boats down than upright near the windward mark.

Hamlin started well in the three-lap windward-leeward race but worked his way up through survival. Australian veteran John Winning had a strong early lead at the first mark, but flipped badly trying to double gybe to avoid an encounter with Vallings. By the time he recovered all the other boats had passed - but he still finished fourth, which says something about the degree of carnage.

Then Vallings and Witty crashed to put Hamlin into the lead, from where he went on to win by 2 minutes 50 seconds.

Racing continues with two races Wednesday starting at 1 p.m., followed by a lay day Thursday before two more races late Friday climaxed by the traditional 7 1/2-mile Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race from the Golden Gate to the Oakland Bay late Friday afternoon. The last two of 10 races will be Saturday.

Top five results (out of 18 boats; after three of 10 races)

1. C-Tech, Alex Vallings/Chris Kitchen/Josh McCormack, New Zealand, 1-1-3, 5 points.
2. CST Composites, Howard Hamlin/Matt Noble/Matt McKinlay, USA, 4-5-1, 10.
3. Lumix, Jonathan Witty/James Hozack/ Marcus Ashley-Jones, Australia, 2-2-7, 11.
4. Yandoo, John Winning/David Gibson/Andrew Hay, Australia, 5-3-4, 12.
5. Mounts Bay W.A., Grant Rollerson/Justin Healey/Marco Schurman, Australia, 3-4-6, 13.

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