Lovell and Ogletree win right to defend the International Catamaran Trophy - the Little America's Cup

Light air on Lake Pontchartrain yesterday yielded only three flights in the quest for the 2004 International Catamaran Challenge Trophy, historically known as the Little America’s Cup. After a three-hour postponement, a light northerly breeze finally filled to determine the winner of the Defender Series.

New Orleans-based skipper John Lovell and crew Charlie Ogletree bested Bob Hodges and crew W.F. Oliver in one match to win the right to defend the title they earned last year in Newport, RI. In the Challenger Series, the teams remain tied at three points apiece. To finish up, those competitors will be back on the water today, which was a planned lay day.

“We’re certainly happy to have earned the right to sail in the finals on Friday,” said Lovell, “but it hasn’t been an easy fight.”

Lovell and Ogletree, representing the host Southern Yacht Club, got off the start line to leeward and slightly ahead of Hodges and Oliver and extended their lead in the fifth match to win the series 4-1.

Meanwhile, the Challenger Series remains undecided, as Mitch Booth with Herbert Dercksen from The Netherlands and Enrique Figueroa with Jorge Hernandez from Puerto Rico stand tied on three wins apiece in the first-to-four points series. Going into the fifth flight and down by two matches in a must-win situation, the Puerto Ricans showed good speed in the light air by coming from behind to take the match.

Still down by one in the sixth flight, they were forced to tack away soon after the start and had to watch the Dutch team extend their gains into a seemingly insurmountable 40-second lead going into the final run in a dying breeze. But then in a miraculous turn of events, the breeze shifted right, the Dutch gybed a little too late, and the Puerto Ricans managed to roll over the leaders and extend their lead down the final run to tie the series.

“This is our first match race, so we’re hoping to keep the blood off the boats,” said Hernandez. “We felt fast in light air, particularly downwind, so if it’s a downwind game today, we should be strong.”

“We’ve now learned the limitations of the boats in light air, so we’re looking for some more breeze,” said Booth.