by Dana Paxton
Sailors in three Paralympic classes have only one day of racing left at US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR while those in 10 Olympic classes still have tomorrow to make critical moves for securing spots in the final medal races on Saturday.
Germany’s Silke Hahlbrock, Maren Hahlbrock ahead of France’s Julie Bossard, Caroline Devaux, Pauline Chalaux in a flight of Thursday’s Women’s Match Racing - Rolex Miami OCR
The racing formats used for this event, which began Monday and counts as the second of seven stops on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup circuit, replicate those that will be used in the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events of 2012, and 716 sailors from 53 nations have come to test them on Biscayne Bay, where the regatta has returned annually since 1990.
The one-on-one pairing today of the world’s top-ranked Elliott 6m teams demonstrated all of the beauty and intrigue of match racing, which will make its Olympic debut in 2012: a delicate dance in the dial-up before the start, aggressive challenges for position and expert boat and sail handling on short legs to the marks, with protests decided instantly by on-water judges. Though winds were painstakingly light, Gold and Repechage Groups completed their semifinal round-robin matches, determining who will meet whom in tomorrow’s quarterfinals. Topping the Gold group for a #1 seed going into tomorrow was Lucy Macgregor/Mary Rook/ Kate Macgregor (GBR) with a 4-1 win-loss score, with Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS) posting the next-best score of 3-2.
'We’ve got a few areas we need to improve on,' said Macgregor. 'Starting...we could be much stronger, but other than that, we’re feeling really confident. We’re sailing better than anyone else around the course – if I could just get the starts right then we’ll be really good!'
Macgregor explained that Annie Lush, their usual middle crew, had a serious accident—on land, falling off the boat—five days before the event started, so Mary Rook was flown out to replace her. 'We’ve been trying to learn quite quickly with having her join us – getting the boat handling all sorted, getting the communication right between the three of us and it’s slowly coming together,' said Macgregor.
Macgregor’s team will face off tomorrow with New Zealand’s Stephanie Hazard/ Susannah Pyatt/ Jenna Hansen, who finished second in Repechage behind USA’s Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.)/ Alana O’Reilly (Charleston S.C.)/ Elizabeth Kratzig-Burnham (Miami Beach Fla.). Hazard and Barkow got their repechage—French for 'second chance'—by beating out four other teams in their group to become the two teams advanced to the semifinals.
'This has been one of the most competitive of the World Cup women’s match racing events,' said Liz Baylis (San Rafael, Calif.), Executive Director of the Women’s International Match Racing Association, who has been serving as Assistant PRO (Principal Race Officer) for the match racing. 'We have 14 of the top 15 ranked teams competing, and there are plenty of names you’d expect to be moving on (in the rounds) who are not moving on. Baylis explained that in each of last year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup Series match racing events there was a different champion from a different country, and the eventual winner--Claire Leroy of France, who is sailing here with Elodie Bertrand/Marie Riou and is seeded sixth going into tomorrow’s eight-team semis—never won a single event.
Other teams advancing to the semifinals are defending champions Anna Tunnicliffe/Molly Vandemoer/Debbie Capozzi (Plantation, Fla./Redwood City, Calif./Bayport, N.Y., USA); Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS); Silja Lehtinen/Silja Kanerva/Mikaela Wulff (FIN); and Nicky Souter/Jessica Eastwell/Olivia Price (AUS).
Elsewhere on Biscayne Bay, light air challenged competitors as well as race officials, especially on the RS:X (windsurfing) course, where colorful sails layed flat in the water during a wait on the wind. The women’s fleet got through half a race, but in the end, the wind 'couldn’t get its act together,' and sailors returned to shore shortly after 2 p.m. Results stand from yesterday with The Netherlands’ Dorian van Rijsselberge and Spain’s Marina Alabau leading the men’s and women’s fleets, respectively.
The 470 women’s class also did not complete a race, but Men’s 470 managed one. There, Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell (GBR) still lead with Nic Asher/Elliot Willis (GBR) in second. Both used today’s race (an eighth and a tenth, respectively) as throw-outs.
In Stars, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada turned in an 11-12 today in breezes that were as low as four knots. 'Not great scores, but a lot of top guys did even worse,' said Scheidt. 'I should say we survived the day...we sailed too conservatively today; you had to be confident and take one side or the other, and we missed those decisions.'
Fredrik Loof/Max Salminen (SWE) took a tumble today, dropping down to seventh from second yesterday. The team finished 47th in race one, and used it as a throw-out, then added a 36th to their score line in the second race. With only one throw-out allowed, the second double-digit finish was a devastating blow.
Xavier Rohart (FRA) has been enduring a slow recovery from a biking accident, but at this regatta, he has hit his stride and is in second place now after today’s two races. He is an Olympic medalist and two-time Star champion. His crew is Pierre Alexis Ponsot, a Finn sailor.
With only one top-ten finish Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira will be eager to place higher on day five of racing in the Star fleet. BRA 8397, BRA - Rolex Miami OCR
Medalists in the Paralympic classes will be determined tomorrow after five days of fleet racing. For fleet racing in the Olympic classes, the regatta consists of a five-day opening series (Monday–Friday) and a double-point medal race (Saturday). The top 10 finishers in the opening series of each class will advance to the medal race. For match racing (Elliott 6m), the regatta consists of an opening series, a knockout series, and a sail-off for boats not advancing to the knockout series.
Full results click here