by Jan Harley
Bacardi Cup Regatta - With more than 95 boats registered, the 84th edition of the iconic Bacardi Cup is set to see one of the fiercest title battles in recent years as some of the most recognizable athletes in the sport return to the waters of Biscayne Bay next week for the headline event of Bacardi Miami Sailing Week presented by EFG Bank. To date, competitors from 25 countries are entered to race from March 7 to 12, 2011, in one of five classes – Melges 20, Melges 24, J/24, Star and Viper 640 – that will see action over the week-long series.
Bacardi Miami Sailing Week
'We are all looking forward to a great week,' said Bill Allen (Highwood, Ill.), President of the International Star Class Association, explaining that the class was very excited to be part of the expanded Bacardi Miami Sailing Week. 'Bacardi and the Star Class have been partners for 84 years – first in Cuba and in Miami since the 1960s. The Bacardi Cup is one of the premier events on our racing calendar; only the world championship has a more talented field.'
The Olympics being little more than a year away is sure to be a factor driving these elite sailors, as Allen counted off 15 teams with the potential to end up on the podium. 'We will have at least five world champions and 10 to 15 continental champions. At least 10 of the top-20 in the world rankings will be competing, and picking the medal winners among these outstanding sailors would be impossible.'
Among the elite field is Mark Reynolds (San Diego, Calif.), often referred to as the 'Star of the Star Class,' who has a resumé that includes two world championship titles (1995, 2000) and three Olympic medals (1992 Gold,1988 Silver, 2000 Gold) in arguably the most competitive one-design class in the world. Additional Olympians in the fleet include Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland, who won Olympic gold and bronze in the Finn class (1996 and 2004) before switching to the Star for the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he finished fourth; New Zealand’s three-time Olympian (1996, 2004, 2008) Hamish Pepper; and Ireland’s 2008 Olympian Peter O’Leary.
'There are about 15 different sailors that could win,' said Rick Merriman (New York, N.Y.), the 2010 Bacardi Cup titleholder, who will race with 2008 Olympian Austin Sperry (Gulfport, Miss.). 'Mateusz won the World Championships here in 2008, Freddy Loof (SWE) just finished second at last month’s Rolex Miami OCR and Peter O'Leary won Weymouth Sail for Gold this past summer. Plus past Bacardi Cup winners Hamish Pepper (NZL) and Peter Bromby (BER). I just barely touched the list of contenders! It will be another tough regatta.'