Medal Races Determine Champions at Rolex Miami OCR

Laser Radial - Page Railey (USA) Miami 2008
After the short 30-minute Medal Race in each of four Olympic classes (Laser, Laser Radial, Star and Yngling), US Sailing's Rolex Miami OCR officially concluded. After the final Medal Races, Paige Railey (USA) won Radial Gold and Maciej Grabowski (POL) the Laser. Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau (FRA) won the Star class and Mandy Mulder, Mary Faber and Merel Witteveen (NED) took the Yngling Gold.

The regatta earlier crowned champions in three Paralympic classes (SKUD-18, Sonar and 2.4mR). The awarding of gold, silver and bronze medals in those classes were based on scores from fleet racing that began last Monday for everyone; however, because of a new sailing format that will debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao, China, the Olympic-class sailors stayed on for an extra day.

Fleet racing scores determined these classes' top-ten sailors, who then advanced to the medal-racing round, which counted double in the scoring and acutely effected strategy plays for medals.

'All I could think was 'I have to catch up, I have to catch up!,'' said the overall winner in the Laser Radial class Paige Railey (USA), who started prematurely today, and after re-starting behind the fleet found herself in last around the top mark of a twice-around course.

Her closest competitor in overall scoring, Anna Tunnicliffe (USA), had also jumped the gun and was working her way up from sixth at that top mark to eventually win the race. 'I knew that if Anna got a first, I had to get at least an eighth to still win overall,' said Railey, who began picking off boats by playing a lane that was clear of wind-shadowing boats.

In the end, she finished seventh, a score good enough to put her three points ahead of Tunnicliffe in the final standings. Though Railey and Tunnicliffe are long-time rivals - Tunnicliffe edged out Railey at the US Olympic Team Trials for Sailing to become the USA's representative to the Olympic Games in August - the gold medal for Railey counted simply as a notable personal accomplishment on her campaign trail to the next Olympics.

'Anna is still another sailor, like so many good sailors here,' said Railey, 'so it's personal for me not just in beating her but also in beating them.' While Tunnicliffe won the silver medal, Karin Soderstrom (SWE) took the bronze.

Star - Rohart and Rambeau (FRA) Miami 2008
France's Xavier Rohart, sailing with crew Pascal Rambeau, emerged as the overall Star class winner after winning that class's medal race.

Even though he came into today's races in second overall, Rohart thought his chances of walking away with a gold medal were slim, due to the strength of previous leader Elvind Melleby with crew Petter Morland Pedersen (NOR) and the rest of the fleet, which has no less than six world champions in it, Rohart counting as one.

'There are so many good teams that were really faster than we were all this week, so we felt it would be difficult to gain so much,' said Rohart. However, when the Norwegian team started prematurely, Xavier said 'the plan got easier.'

Elvind and Pedersen finished seventh in today's race, good for the silver medal, while Flavio Marazzi and Enrico De Maria (SUI) took the bronze.

Polish Laser sailor Maciej Grabowski won the gold medal in the Laser fleet on the strength of a third-place finish today. With the USA's Kyle Rogachenko only six points behind him going into today, Grabowski 'couldn't let him go.' He covered Rogachenko, as Rogachenko was the only one who could steal away his gold medal.

'It was not necessary to win the race or take risks,' said Grabowski, who is a sure bet to represent his country at the Olympic Games. Grabowski strayed from the norm by choosing to come to Miami rather than participate in the Laser World Championships in Australia this February.

Conflicting World Championships were the reason, in fact, that seven of the 2008 Olympic classes were not included this year at the Rolex Miami OCR. 'For me it made sense to sail in a place with lighter winds that will be more like Qingdao,' said Grabowski. Winning today's medal race to take the silver medal was Grabowski's fellow countryman Marcin Rudawski, while Denmark's Anders Nyholm won the bronze.

Yngling Medal Race, Miami 2008
Yesterday's leading team in the Yngling class, Mandy Mulder, Mary Faber and Merel Witteveen (NED), finished seventh today to take the gold medal over Ekaterina Skudina, Diana Krutskikh and Natalia Ivanova (RUS), who settled for silver.

'Going into today we had a four-point lead over Russia and we knew the third-place team from Great Britain could not catch us,' said Mulder, who skippers. Her bow person Witteveen added, 'We controlled the Russian team only a little while we tried to sail our own race.'

The Russians finished in last while another Nederlands team of Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes and Marge Kampen finished fourth to move into bronze-medal position. Witteveen was quick to note that three teams from her country have been competing here, all with their sights set on Qingdao, but no one knows yet which combination of three from the nine girls will go.

Witteveen said that during training, the crews constantly rotate. 'It's hard to say which combination is best,' said Witteveen. 'I'm just glad to know I'm not the coach who has to choose!'

This is Witteveen's first Yngling regatta and the first time the trio has sailed in this combination for a regatta. Nevertheless, Mulder says her country has a very good chance to medal, as evidenced here. 'The conditions in China will suit us well,' said Mulder.

Sally Barkow with crew Carrie Howe and Debbie Capozzi (USA) won today's medal race but still fell short of the podium, finishing sixth overall. The trio, which has won this event four times, is on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics and hopes to represent the USA at the Olympics.

As the host country for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, China, which sent two teams to compete in the Ynglings and one in Stars, gets an automatic berth in each sailing class while other countries must earn theirs. The Yngling and Star classes are both holding their World Championships in Miami (next week and in April, respectively) to determine the last few countries to qualify.

'As the host country we are very happy to welcome all sailors coming to Qingdao,' said China's Yngling skipper Song Xia Qun, who was leading the Rolex Miami OCR fleet after opening day.

Radial - Final overall leaders
1 USA Railey, Paige 41
2 USA Tunnicliffe, Anna 44
3 SWE Soderstrom, Karin 62
4 GBR Clark, Penny 73
5 FRA de Turckheim, Sophie 87
6 GBR Dobson, Charlotte 91
7 FRA Brain, Solenne 92
8 FRA Steyaert, Sarah 98
9 GBR Vickers, Lizzie 102
10 FIN Tenkanen, Tuula 103

Star - Final overall leaders
1 FRA Rohart, Xavier/Rambeau, Pascal
2 NOR Melleby, Eivind/Pedersen, Petter Mørland
3 SUI Marazzi, Flavio/De Maria, Enrico
4 CRO Lovrovic, Marin/Mikulicic, Sinisa
5 POR Domingos, Afonso/santos, Bernardo
6 SWE Loof, Fredrik/Ekstrom, Anders
7 ITA Bruni, Francesco/Nobili, Gilberto
8 NZL Pepper, Hamish/Williams, Carl
9 USA Reynolds, Mark/Erickson, Steve
10 USA Merriman, Rick/Sharp, Brian

Yngling- Final overall leaders
1 NED 1 Mulder, Mandy/Faber, Mary/Witteveen, Merel 76
2 RUS 8 Skudina, Ekaterina/Krutskikh, Diana/Ivanova, Natalia 86
3 NED 111 Groeneveld, Renee/Bes, Annemieke/Kampen, Marge 104
4 GER 261 Schuemann, Ulrike/Bleck, Julia/Hoepfner, Ute 105
5 GBR 12 Ayton, Sarah/Webb, Sarah/Wilson, Pippa 107
6 USA 337 Barkow, Sally/Howe, carrie/Capozzi, Debbie 111
7 ESP 3 Azon, Monica/Azon, Sandra/Pisonero, Graciela 111
8 CHN 1 Xia Qun, Song/XIAO NI, LI/YAN LI, YU 119
9 RUS 4 Basalkina, Anna/Ukraintseva, Vladislava/Maximova, Ekaterina 125
10 FRA 7 Le Helley, Anne/Catherine, Lepesant/Julie, Gerecht 139

Laser - Final overall leaders
1 POL Grabowski, Maciej 38
2 POL Rudawski, Marcin 45
3 DEN Nyholm, Anders 46
4 USA Rog