by Craig Heydon
On the opening day of the Rolex Miami OCR in Florida, the second round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, light conditions have tested crews, with a number of Australian sailors beginning the regatta strongly.
Paralympic class sailor Matt Bugg racing at the Rolex Miami OCR
In the 470 fleet Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page finished third in the only 470 race completed on Monday, leaving the 2011 World Champions in the same position overall. 'We had a late start today and unfortunately the breeze died right out, it was extremely light, only two or three knots at times and Mal wasn’t out on the trapeze,' said Belcher.
'Saying that we had a solid start with a third place but there’s a long way to go in this one. There was a lot of weed on the racecourse which was playing havoc, I think we must have gotten the weed off the boat about 30 times during the race, but it was the same for everyone,' he said.
'The conditions were quite shifty and there were some good guys who found themselves towards the back of the fleet so we were happy to get a solid result in early.'
More breeze is expected on Tuesday with three races scheduled for the 470 class on Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
The Skud 18 fleet were able to complete two races with the Australian crew of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch third overall. The pair headed into the regatta off the back of their Bronze medal winning performance at last week’s 2012 IFDS World Championships, also held in Florida. Fitzgibbon and Tesch opened their account with a fifth before crossing the line first in race two to end the day three points off the leaders, World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell of Great Britain.
'In the first race we had an awesome start but got hooked on some weed and it was hard to come back from that, we ended up fifth,' said Fitzgibbon. 'Things got better in the second race, we kept in the pressure and were happy with that and came away with a win.'
Brendan Casey ended the opening day fourth overall in the Finn class, with just one race possible in the dying breeze late on Monday afternoon. 'We only managed to get one race in today and I finished up fourth so it was a positive start to the regatta,' said Casey. 'When we got started we had about six knots of breeze but by the end it had died right out to about two knots.
'I didn’t have the best start but when we got back into shore it turned out that seven boats were black flagged with a number of those either windward or leeward to me on the start line,' he said. 'Even with a tough start I managed to round the top mark in fourth so it was a positive day.
'The plan for tomorrow is an earlier start with three races, there’s more breeze forecast and hopefully free pumping which will suit me,' he said.
Matt Bugg has made a solid start in the 2.4mR class and sits in sixth overall after the opening two races. Last week Bugg was 11th overall at the 2012 IFDS World Championships and kicked off a new week of racing in Florida with a 12th and a fifth in the very competitive fleet.
'Today was a mixed day for me, in the first race I was a long way over at the start after having to crash tack on the start line to avoid a collision,' said Bugg. 'This meant I finally started my race over a minute after the gun which left me with a lot of work to do and I had to take some risks but fortunately they worked out OK and I ended up 12th. So after rounding the first mark in the 20s I ended up with what may be a keeper.
'The second race I started well at the pin end of the line and made the most of the first left shift to round the first mark in fifth, then the wind went very soft and it became very difficult sailing conditions for a 2.4mR,' he said. 'I lost a couple of places through bad sailing and getting out of phase with shifts but managed to gain them back on the last downwind to the finish, ending up in fifth.
'I'm currently in sixth position and I'm really hoping tomorrow that I can sail well and move up the leader board,' he said.
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team crew of Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Katie Spithill had a mixed day, finishing with three wins and four losses from their opening seven races. Souter, Eastwell and Spithill picked up wins against their Portuguese, German and Canadian opponents in the shifty conditions.
The Australian trio had losses against two of the American crews, along with their Finnish and Slovenian competitors with four more races scheduled to complete the round robin on Wednesday.
'It was a tough first day of the regatta,' said Souter. 'We made a few silly mistakes around the racecourse which cost us a lot. We now have a fair bit of work to do on Wednesday and need to win all our remaining races to get through to the quarter-finals.
'The good news is that we have raced most of the higher ranked teams today but still it wasn’t the best start to the regatta when we finished on such a high at the World Championships in Perth,' she said.
Fellow Australians Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty begin their regatta on Tuesday.
Full results here
Australian Sailing Team website