Miami skipper Augie Diaz used his intimate, lifelong knowledge of the currents and breezes of Biscayne Bay to win his first Star world championship Saturday after a tight duel with the Italian boat.
Diaz, 61, became the oldest winner of the title and his crew, Bruno Prada of Sao Paulo, Brazil, became the first crewman to win four world titles.
In light, shifty winds of 8 to 12 knots, Diaz carried out his strategy of covering, or blocking, the Italian team of Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertenghi to finish the sixth and final race of the regatta in fifth place with a total of 14 points. Negri finished seventh with 16 points.
“Time after time we would drive him back and time after time he would catch up,” Diaz said. “At one point we thought it was over, we were safe, tranquilo, but no, he gained on us again and halfway up the last weather leg he was actually in a position to win. It was an incredible race.”
Diaz, a Columbus High and Tulane graduate, is a yacht salesman who moved from Cuba to Miami as a young boy and grew up sailing at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. The mainsail of his Star Danilu — named after two of his children, Daniela and Lucas — will now be bestowed with a gold star signifying world champion.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Diaz, who was celebrating at the Coral Reef Yacht Club with the rest of the 79-boat fleet. He finished fourth at the 2014 worlds and has been runner-up in the Bacardi Cup three times.
Prada described the race as “super tricky” because if both boats finished in the top five, Diaz had to place two boats ahead of Negri or he had to keep Negri out of the top five.
“We planned our tactics 25 different ways the night before,” Prada said. “We wanted to control Diego and stay between him and the next mark. When we rounded the first mark we were way, way back in 60th place but somehow we recovered.”
On the last weather leg, Negri took advantage of a wind shift on the right to move up to second place and threaten Diaz’s plan.
“So we slowed down and waited for him so we could block his air and that allowed the four boats from the left side to come across ahead of us,” Diaz said. “Fortunately, the wind came back left. It was crazy.”
Brian Ledbetter and Joshua Revkin finished third overall. Luke Lawrence and Ian Coleman won the last race.
Only two points separated Diaz and three-time Olympian Negri going into Saturday’s finale. The start was postponed one hour because of light air. Diaz played the shifts perfectly to stay ahead of Negri. He said his familiarity with the bay was an asset.
“The conditions were very unstable, but I studied the forecast, and I know what the breeze is going to do out there,” he said. “We had good speed and good luck.”
Diaz credited Prada, who won his previous three titles with Brazil’s Robert Scheidt.
“I’m too old and not big enough to sail with Bruno, but we always do well together,” Diaz said. “He is the best Star crew in the world, so athletic and so smart. He understands the trimming like no one else can. You need a big, strong guy in front. It’s harder to crew than to drive a Star.”
Prada, 44, was about 25 pounds underweight for the regatta at 230 pounds because he has been helping his wife, a triathlete, train on the bike.
“Augie has a passion for sailing that really motivates me,” Prada said. “We’re both Latins, so we have good chemistry and a lot of fun. I’m happy we executed our strategy beautifully.”