Asahi Cup organizers deserve world of credit

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (0731/99)
By Ray Pendleton

This regatta must have the right formula.

In a year when the Hawaii Tourism Authority has found it impossible to bring back the numbers of Japanese visitors of past years, the organizers of last week's Asahi Super Cup International Sail Race Challenge should be rightfully proud. They closely matched the previous year's participation of Japanese sailors in this year's race series.

Three years ago, the management of Ala Wai Marine, with sponsorship from Asahi Breweries, USA, created a unique regatta. With the assistance of boat owners from the Waikiki, Hawaii and Kaneohe yacht clubs, they offered Japanese and other international sailors the opportunity to race in the best sailing venue in the world aboard locally chartered boats, which eliminated the huge expense of shipping their own boats to Hawai`i.

The organizers also kept the regatta to a one-weekend format, which also helped to keep the cost of participation down. Competitors could fit their tune-up sailing and the race series into just a week's vacation.

The idea caught on and for the past two years the Asahi Cup has had around 20 boats entered, with about a third of them chartered by teams from Japan.

This year saw a new development in a race series that in prior years featured two days of competition on windward-leeward and triangle race courses offshore of Waikiki. A third day of racing was added so that sandwiched between Friday's and Sunday's usual format, was a 20-mile, middle distance race on Saturday, from a start off the Ala Wai Harbor to Koko Head and back.

Mother Nature provided plenty of wind this year, particularly on the first day of sailing. In fact, at least two sailors might say too much wind.

During the first race, with the trades gusting to 30 knots, Jiro Kubo, crewing aboard Bruce McGill's 40-foot X-119 Perestroika (under charter to Japan Team Vic) fell overboard rounding the first weather mark. To his good fortune, the official race photographer, Mike Waggoner, an off-duty firefighter with life guard experience, was in a nearby boat. Waggoner quickly jumped into the water and pulled the panicking sailor to safety.

The second incident occurred aboard Skip Winterbottom's Lidgard 35 Desperado, which was chartered to Japan Team Maniju. As the boats were maneuvering for position prior to the start of the second race, a crewman apparently lost his footing and fell into the lifelines with such force that he suffered a severe laceration to his right leg.

Due to the severity of the injury, Winterbottom opted to withdraw from the race and returned to the harbor where the crewman was treated by paramedics. This was obviously a case of doing the right thing, but unfortunately, it also may have kept Desperado from successfully defending its first-place honors from '98.

Of course, nothing should detract from the eventual winner of the Performance Handicap 1 Division, in which Desperado eventually placed third, behind Les Vasconcellos' Urban Renewal. Dave Nottage sailed his J-44 Kaimiloa into first place with three first-place wins, a second, and a fourth, for a low-total of nine points, compared to the runner-up's 15 points.

Art Musso's Melges 24 Usual Suspects took the first place honors in the PH-2 Division, and Ken Kaan's Spine Care captured the J-24 Division's top spot.

And perhaps, most importantly, an informal survey of the competitors showed that this year's Asahi Super Cup was like the previous two - everyone was looking forward to the next one.

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