The ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami is set to commence on January 27 and Australia's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan will look to extend their unbeaten streak in the Men's 470.
470 Men / Will Ryan and Mathew Belcher (AUS) during the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne
Running through to 1 February, over 550 sailors from 50 nations will race at the third of five 2013-2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas in Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, USA.
Belcher, the 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, made it 18 consecutive wins in a row when he took gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and it was his tenth in a row with Ryan.
Belcher's run stems from November 2011 and as the victories have continued to flow the Australian has coped well with the weight of expectation, 'The pressure has been difficult at times with it accumulating over the years,' said Belcher. 'But we are in the business of sport. Our job is to perform under pressure. It is something you just have to manage.'
The pressure will be back on Belcher and Ryan in Miami with a highly competitive and experienced 31-boat fleet.
Pierre Leboucher / Nicolas Le Berre (FRA)
Joining the Australians in the fleet is 2013 470 world championship silver and bronze medallists Pierre Leboucher and Nicolas Le Berre (FRA) and Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis. World number three pair Sime Fantela and Ignor Marenic (CRO) pushed the Australians at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and Britons Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield will also prove a stern test.
With several leading crews sailing, Belcher knows it won't be easy, 'Miami is a strong event and it shows by all of last year's world medallists being there. For us, this is why we are coming over, to get good racing.
'We, like the others, need the practice to continually learn and develop as a team. It's not about the result but our development. We are pretty comfortable with where things are at especially coming off the back of our 2013 season.
'The fleet have a lot of respect for us and we for them. I expect them to race and fight hard for every place. I wouldn't expect anything less from them. We are really looking forward to racing the other guys and starting 2014 off well.'
In the Women's 470, three of the World's top five crews are set to face off in the 10-boat fleet. World number one Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) will meet world number three Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) and world number four Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA).
With 41 entrants the Finn fleet is the third largest in Miami and features a number of leading Finn sailors.
Heading the charge for the Miami medals will be world number one Caleb Paine (USA), ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne winner Bjorn Allansson (SWE), 2013 Finn Gold Cup Champion Jorge Zarif (BRA) and Giles Scott (GBR).
Zarif finished the 2013 edition of ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in third but only took in two events ahead of taking his first Finn Gold Cup title, '2013 was quiet because I had a problem in my back so only went to three major events,' commented the Brazilian. 'It was good because we focused much more on physical preparation because of the injury as well as light wind training for Tallin and Rio.'
Joining forces with training partner Bruno Prada (BRA) under the coaching prowess of Rafa Trujillo (ESP), Athens 2004 Olympic Games Finn silver medallist, Zarif has seen drastic improvements and likes the set-up he currently finds himself in, 'After the Olympics I started a partnership with Bruno Prada and coach Rafa Trujillo. It's been a great experience to learn and train with them and I am glad a very good result came so early, it looks like the project is working.'
Coming into the event with good form is the Swedish giant, Allansson. The Swede fended off a strong Australian fleet to take gold in Melbourne and is gunning for further success in Miami, 'Melbourne was my first World Cup victory and in Miami I'm aiming for another great result,' Allansson said. 'For me the aim, every time, is to win the regatta, but the first target will be to qualify for the Medal Race.
'I'm counting on tight racing, several race winners and tricky conditions to master. That's why I'm trying to get as many hours out on the bay as possible prior to the regatta.'
Both sailors head to Miami full of confidence but they know the danger that several other sailors pose, 'In my opinion Giles [Scott] is the best Finn sailor in the world, so it will be interesting and important for me to race,' said Zarif.
Allansson added, 'I would say there are ten, maybe more, contenders to the World Cup gold medal, some more serious contenders then others.
'I could namedrop several of the sailors but my recommendation is to keep an extra eye on [Jorge] Zarif, [Giles] Scott, who has an amazing record and of course the American world number one [Caleb] Paine.'
Bryony Shaw, RSX, GBR94 - Sail for Gold 2013
World number one Women's RS:X sailor Bryony Shaw (GBR) will be amongst the favourites for the medals come race time on 27 January. Twenty two Women's RS:X sailors have registered to sail and include France's Charline Picon.
Shaw and Picon enjoyed a competitive rivalry throughout 2013 and shared the podium on three occasions. As they ramp up their preparations for the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships and beyond, the pair will be able to test themselves against each other again in Miami.
Joining them in the fleet is world number four Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) and world number seven Patricia Freitas (BRA).
Experienced campaigners and young hopefuls make up the 31-boat Men's RS:X fleet. The experienced world number two Ricardo Santos (BRA) heads into the event as favourite after a strong 2013 that saw consistent top eight finishes throughout the year. Seasoned campaigners Mariano Reutemann (ARG), Andreas Cariolou (CYP), Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) and Nimrod Mashich (ISR) join the Brazilian whilst youngsters Bautista Saubidet (ARG) and Mattia Camboni (ITA) will look to make an impression.
Racing commences across ten Olympic and three Paralympic Classes on Monday 27 January. Medal Races on Saturday 1 February bring the regatta to a close.