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Horowitz makes early running

Pretty to watch: conditions were less than ideal for the opening day of the Aspen Viper International Championship, but the views from the Great Sound were typically nothing short of spectacular. Racing continues through to the weekend (Photograph by Beau Outteridge)

Light and shifty breezes took their toll on the opening day of the Aspen Viper 640 International Championship presented by EFG in the Great Sound yesterday.

The race committee managed to complete two races before the winds dropped out, sending the 42-strong racing fleet back ashore earlier than planned.

“I always thought it was going to be tricky to get races in given the weather forecast,” said Somers Kempe, the Bermuda Viper Class executive and race chairman. “But to get two in is pretty good and all of the competitors are happy to get started. We have another three days ahead of us.”

Zeke Horowitz, of the United States, emerged as the early pacesetter after posting a first and a second with crew Brendan Healy and Ian Coleman in the races contested thus far.

Kempe leads the local contingent and is tenth overall after posting an eighth and eighteenth sailing with husband-and-wife crew Adam and Debbie Barboza.

The former Royal Bermuda Yacht Club commodore made a clean start in the first race, but lost considerable ground on the first beat after missing out on a huge shift on the left side of the racecourse while on port tack.

However, Kempe and crew managed to work their way up through the fleet, passing a bunch of boats on the final run to grasp some momentum.

The experienced offshore sailor also nailed the start in the second race and was among the top four boats rounding the top mark before missing out on another big wind shift on the second beat.

Kempe made up some ground on the final leg, but the damage had already been done.

“We had our ups and downs,” Kempe said. “But, all in all, it was a good start and it’s early days.”

Also flying the island’s flag are skippers Douglas DeCouto, Alec Cutler and Rockal Evans, as well as a team comprising Bermuda Red Bull Youth America’s Cup sailors Cecilia Wollmann, Emily Nagel, Owen Siese and Peter Dill.

The regatta features teams from North America, Europe, Australia and Bermuda, and is running concurrent with the first Viper 640 North American Championship to be held here.

The overall winner will be crowned as the first Viper 640 International champion, while the highest-placed North American team will receive the class’s coveted North American Championship trophy.

Meanwhile, today will feature the start of the Autumn Bacardi Keelboat Regatta, also to be held in the Great Sound, featuring international and local sailors competing in the J105, Etchells and IOD fleets.

The regatta was borne out of the long tradition of the Bermuda International Invitational Race Week and was originally held in spring.

However, last year organising club RBYC split the dinghies and the keelboat racing into separate events, with the latter now taking place in November.