Brad Funk wins Sailing Championship of Champions

 Brad Funk won the US Sailing Championship of Champions event.
DOUG BARBER/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD Brad Funk won the US Sailing Championship of Champions event.

GULFPORT -- Brad Funk of Clearwater, Fla., built an early lead Friday and then rolled to a convincing victory on Sunday in the US Sailing Championship of Champions, conducted at Gulfport Yacht Club.

Funk, who qualified for the regatta as a 49er class champion, held a 24-point lead over both Val Smith and Kenny Wolfe entering Sunday's races. Three races were sailed on Sunday, and Funk had finishes of 3-6-2 on Sunday to finish with a total of 36 points in the 14-race series. He won the first three races of the championship on Friday, which were conducted in VX One class sailboats.

Gulfport Yacht Club's Christopher Alexander, with a crew of John F. Dane, finished second with 64 points. Alexander, who hails from Ocean Springs, won two of the three races Sunday. Mike Holt was third with 65 points.

Chris Raab was fourth (67 points) and Wolfe fell to fifth with 68 points. Bay-Waveland's Andrew Eagan was 10th with 101 points and Gulfport's Olympic sailor John Dane III, with a crew of his son Schaeffer Dane, was 12th with 112 points.

There were 20 competitors and to qualify for this event, a skipper had to be a national or North American champion in his sailing class.

"The VX One has a couple of characteristics of three boats I've sailed a lot - a Laser, a Vanguard 15 and a 49er,'' Funk said. "Sailing this boat in two regattas gave me a little of an advantage.

"Everyone started figuring out the boats and then the racing started to get tighter and tighter. We kept plugging away with our downwinds. We had good starts and our downwind tactics were pretty good so that got us back into all the races. We didn't want to risk anything (Sunday). We kept an eye on Chris (Alexander), Val (Smith) and Mike (Holt). Those three guys were coming on strong.''

Funk, 36, said his next goal is to represent the U.S. in the 49er class in the 2016 Olympics. Trevor Burd served as his crew this weekend.

Alexander bought his VX One 18 months ago, and he and Dane won the VX One North Americans in Newport, R.I., last year. That is how Alexander qualified for the Championship of Champions.

"This was in my favorite boat at my favorite yacht club,'' Alexander said. "It was standard shifty sailing coming off the land. We had gains and losses (with the north wind). We had to sail a smart regatta to get to where we ended up. We started fifth today. The heavier teams made a lot of gains (Saturday). We were one of the lighter weight crews. It was great racing. I am certainly happy.''