by Luissa Smith
2011 470 North American Championships - Mat Belcher/Malcolm Page (AUS) and Camille Lecointre/Mathilde Geron (FRA) took the over the line title for the 2011 North American Championships, taking place in Miami, USA from 14-16 January 2011. Both the Australians and French put in fantastic performances to secure victory at this world class event contested by 53 teams from 17 nations. However, as per the rules for a Continental Championship the official Continental title goes to the top placed teams from that continent, which sees the newly crowned 2011 North American Champions as Stuart McNay/Graham Biehl (USA) in the men's and Erin Maxwell/Isabelle Kinsolving (USA) in the women's fleet.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page at the 470 North American Championship
After an opening day on Friday of superb conditions with 15-18 knots in Miami, the next two days of racing presented lighter and more variable conditions, with Saturday proving to be shifty whilst Sunday saw the wind drop to testing light winds.
Eight races were completed in the qualification series, before a medal race for the top ten in each of the men's and women's fleets.
An interesting opening day in Miami saw the reigning World Champions, Mat Belcher/Malcolm Page (USA) only just finishing ahead of the new kids on the block, Puerto Rico's Paul Rios/Gerardo Fernandez in race one. Whether the motivation to step up their performance came from being almost beaten by a young team who last year were representing Puerto Rico at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships, who knows, but the Aussies went onto claim victory.
Mat Belcher/Malcolm Page (AUS) lead the fleet at the 2011 North Americans - 470 North American Championship
They didn't have it al their own way though as Stuart McNay/Graham Biehl (USA) were close to them all the way and the Championship for these two teams was only decided in the final race with just one point separating the teams as they went into the Medal Race. To win the Championship, McNay/Biehl just had to finish ahead of the Aussies, but it was not to be and disappointingly for the Americans they found themselves at the back of the Medal Race fleet, finishing ninth with the Aussies in fourth. So Gold to the Aussies, Silver to the Americans and the Spanish team of Onan Barreiros/Aaron Sarmiento took the bronze.
In fourth place was Luke Patience, sailing as a mixed team with stand in crew Katie Archer. Luke, with usual crew mate Stuart Bithell, has taken the 470 fleet by storm over the past 18 months, putting in some stunning results in their new pairing to sit at #4 on the ISAF Sailing World Rankings. Katie is more usually found in the women's match racing fleet.
For Patience/Archer and the three teams behind them, their chance of a podium place was taken away from them by the letter scores they achieved for being over the start line – a tough mistake.
Championship winners, Camille Lecointre/Mathilde Geron (FRA) sailed a solid series to seal victory and will be delighted to have improved on their bronze medal position from last year's North American Championships.
Camille Lecointre/Mathilde Geron (FRA) at the 2010 470 European Championships - 470 North American Championship
World ranked number 1# team Ingrid Petitjean/Nadege Douroux (FRA) had their worst day of the series on day one, but soon improved to post two race wins and shift up into second overall. Of the nine races sailed, they were either first or second in more than 50% of the races – clearly on form as they go into the 2011 season.
Another scoreline of top ten results for Erin Maxwell/Isabelle Kinsolving (USA) gave them the bronze medal.
The hot team on day one were Penny Clark/Katrina Hughes (GBR) who led the fleet at that stage, but then struggled against what was a formidable line up of competition. Despite a string of top ten results the pair couldn't pull the performance required to retain a podium place, ultimately finishing in fourth.