Simon HARLE, GBR racing in the Skud class at 2007 Rolex Miami OCR
As the January 21 'early deadline' draws near, US Sailing's Rolex Miami OCR, scheduled for January 27 to February 2, 2008, is shaping up nicely as an international primer for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Qingdao, China this August. 25 nations including the USA, Canada and Great Britain have entered over 100 teams.
The USA, Canada and Great Britain have the largest contingents at 24, 15 and 11 teams, respectively - have either sent their final teams or will be selecting who moves on to the Olympic or Paralympic Games based on results at this popular International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade One ranking event.
'The ISAF World Rankings have recently been updated and will be updated again once the Rolex Miami OCR and a flurry of World Championships in the first quarter are completed,' said US Sailing's High Performance Director Gary Bodie. 'We are happy that our event continues to figure so highly in the planning for elite sailors across the globe.'
Bodie explained that for the regatta's 19th edition in its traditional late-January time slot, racing in seven of 11 Olympic classes had to be eliminated due to Olympic-year scheduling conflicts with World Championships held overseas. However, the remaining four Olympic classes (Laser, Laser Radial, Star, Yngling - the latter two of which are hosting their own World Championships in Miami) are joining a full run-up of Paralympic classes (2.4mR, SKUD-18, Sonar), so the Rolex Miami OCR has quite an intriguing show left to stage.
'The U.S. has perhaps the best Paralympic team in the world, and we will be at the Rolex Miami OCR in full force,' said Betsy Alison, Coach of the US Disabled Sailing Team. 'In the SKUD-18 class at the IFDS Worlds, we just missed sweeping the podium with finishes of first, second and fourth. We ordered the first batch of boats available in this first-ever Paralympic class, and it has proven valuable to get an early start.'
USA's SKUD-18 representatives to the Paralympic Games, Nick Scandone (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead Mass.), who were silver medalists at the Worlds, will face top teams from the UK, Canada, Sweden and Australia.
With Scandone having moved to the SKUD and Tom Brown (sailing with Paul Callahan and Roger Cleworth) to the Sonar from the 2.4mR class, where they dominated for so long, it has opened the way for USA's John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) to prove his worthiness as the USA's Paralympic representative in the 2.4mR class. 'John is making great headway with some tough training,' said Alison, adding that Great Britain, France, Denmark and Canada all have multiple entries in the class.
2.4mR Helen Lucas (GBR)
For Canada, says Alison, this is the final event for 2.4mR team selection. Entered are Paul Tingley and Danny McCoy with Bruce Millar also expected and the first half of their SKUD Trials. Great Britain, as well, has still to determine its 2.4mR team and has signed up Helena Lucas and Megan Pascoe. Other noteworthy entrants are 2000 Paralympic Gold Medalist and World Champion Heiko Kroger (GER) and 2007 IFDS World Champion Damien Seguin (FRA).
Sonars reflect the most veteran experience for the USA, with Paralympic representatives and reigning World Champions Rick Doerr /Tim Angle/Bill Donohue (Clifton, N.J./Boston, Mass./Brick, N.J.) leading the rock stars in that class. 'The good thing about Sonars,' said Alison, 'is that our teams regularly sail in strong open competition for this class on a spring and summer circuit.' She noted that Ireland will know its Paralympic team in Sonars after this event and has sent two formidable trios, one led by John Twomey and another led by Paul McCarthy.
China is sending two Yngling teams - a first for this regatta - while Russia and Japan are each sending one Yngling and one Star team. The Star class is likely to be the largest with 39 current entries that will most likely remain in Miami for their Worlds in April. The Laser Radial is the second-largest class with 24 entrants.
Among the 'stars of the Star class' are USA's representatives to the Games John Dane and Austin Sperry (Gulfport, Miss.); ISAF #1 ranked sailors Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Dominik Zycki (POL); Rolex Miami OCR defending champions Fredrik Loof/Anders Ekstrom (SWE); Great Britain's Iain Percy/Andrew Simpson (GBR); and Xavier Rohart/Pascal Rambeau (FRA).
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) - Star Europeans 2007 - Lake Garda
The Rolex Miami OCR Yngling defending champions and 2005 World title holders Sally Barkow/Carrie Howe/Debbie Capozzi are the brightest stars in that class and hope to be the leading challengers in Qingdao this year. New Zealand's Sharon Ferris must make the top five at the Rolex Miami OCR before her team can book its tickets for Beijing, so the stakes are high.
The 2008 Yngling Worlds, which immediately follow the Rolex Miami OCR, will decide the final four nations to qualify for the Olympic Yngling event in China. Greece is one of the countries trying for a berth (the USA has already secured its spot) and that country will be represented at the Rolex Miami OCR and the Worlds by skipper Sofia Bekatorou, 2002 and 2004 ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year (with Emilia Tsoulfa) and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist in the 470 class.
The Laser Radial class will see two long-time Florida rivals, Paige Railey and U.S. Olympic Laser Radial representative Anna Tunnicliffe, pitted against each other and a strong contingent from Great Britain: Andrea Brewster, Lizzie Vickers, Charlotte Dobson and Penny Clark. Great Britain's selection trials for the women's single-hander will commence at the Rolex Miami OCR.
About the Rolex Miami OCR
The 2008 Rolex Miami OCR consists of five days of fleet racing from Monday January 28 through Friday, February 1, and one day of top-ten medal racing (for Olympic classes only) on Saturday, February 2, replicating the new Olympic format that will debut in Qingdao.
Regatta Headquarters are at the US Sailing Center, where the Laser classes also will be located. The Stars will be hosted at Coral Reef Yacht Club, the Ynglings at Key Biscayne Yacht Club, and all Paralympic classes at Shake-A-Leg Miami's facilities. The City of Miami has also joined to support the event.
In addition to title sponsor Rolex Watch U.S.A., the 2008 Rolex Miami OCR is also sponsored by all the partners that support the US Sailing Team: Nautica, Vanguard Sailboats, Gill, Sperry Top-Sider, Ribcraft, Harken, New England Ropes, Extrasport, Nikon, and Team McLube. Rolex is also a sponsor of the US Sailing Team.
For complete and up-to-the-minute regatta information and resources, including the Notice of Race, entry list, on-line registration, schedule, hosts and area information, please visit: www.RolexMiamiOCR.org