Pass Christian successfully defends Lipton Regatta title

John Dane III
John Dane III Special to the Sun Herald

In boxing, you have to beat the champion to become champion.

The same held true Sunday afternoon in sailing at the 97th Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge at Pass Christian Yacht Club.

Bay-Waveland Yacht Club tied Pass Christian YC in points with eight but Pass, as defending champion, retained the prestigious Lipton Cup title in this one-design championship showdown.

Pass won the two races on Saturday behind skippers John F. Dane and Kevin Northrup. Bay-Waveland won both of Sunday’s races behind skippers Zak Fanberg and Eugene Schmitt.

This was the final Lipton race using Flying Scot sailboats, which has been the official boat of the Gulf Yachting Association. That will change next year as the GYA uses the Viper class. Next year’s Lipton Regatta will be held at Bay-Waveland Yacht Club.

Pass has won 10 Lipton titles. Bay-Waveland has won 24 Lipton titles.

“We started out great with two firsts, which gave us a four-point lead,’’ PCYC team captain and skipper John Dane III said. “Then we finished third in the first race (Sunday). That meant all I had to do (as skipper) was finish third and we win.

“In the end, they were slowing me down. I just made sure I stayed in front of the fourth-place boat. I didn’t care if I finished second or third. It worked out according to plan but it was nerve-wracking.’’

Danny Killeen of PCYC finished third in Sunday’s first race that was won by Fanberg.

Schmitt, who just returned from finishing second in the Sunfish Worlds in New Jersey, knew he faced a tall task in the final Lipton race to be sailed in Flying Scots. Dane, a former Olympic sailor, was at the helm for Pass.

“My strategy was to get a good start and try to control the Pass because I basically had to put two boats between me and the Pass,’’ Schmitt said. “I didn’t do either one of those. We got ahead of them and we put one boat (St. Andrew’s Bay) between us but not two.

“It was tough. The problem was that John and I shot out too far ahead (of the fleet). I had to start slowing him down two thirds of the way up the leg. I got Eduardo Cordero (an 8-time Sunfish Worlds champ) in between but no was else was close enough to squeeze in.

“We ended up tied for the regatta… but the Lipton has a rule you have to beat the champion.’’

It was a weekend of history at Pass as the GYA changes to the Viper class.

“If you read the back of my shirt, it says ‘Flying Scot – Thanks for the memories,’’ Dane said.

“I think the Viper is a good move,’’ Schmitt said. “It will shake up sailing along the Gulf Coast. It will create a more even playing field. The Pass and the Bay and a couple of other clubs have the Flying Scots figured out. I think the Flying Scot has been around since the ‘60s. It has had a good run and I’ve enjoyed sailing them.’’