The ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final is this year being hosted by Sail Sheboygan which is one of four US Sailing Centers. The event, currently underway at Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA has now decided upon the Semi Final pairings.
Laurie Jury (NZL) will face Mads Ebler (DEN) in the open division and Claire Leroy (FRA) will face Rita Goncalves (POR) in the women's division in the Finals of the ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final. The four finalists emerged after a nearly perfect day of sailing in beautiful conditions on Lake Michigan, with 15-knot southeast breezes and surfable waves just off the coast of Sheboygan.
Fantastic competition marked each of the four Semi Final pairings with incredibly close racing putting a premium on tactics and penalties in most matches.
Olivia Price (AUS) was seeded first after the Round Robin and chose to sail against Goncalves in the women's division, sailed in Elliott 6m's. Price knocked off two wins in the best-of-five series, but Goncalves, in a do-or-die situation, won the next three races to qualify for the finals.
'Yesterday was a very good day for us and we wanted that to continue today,' Goncalves said. 'We were more focused and we've been working hard on our teamwork and communication on the boat and I think that made the difference. The waves were huge and the wind was quite strong so at times it was difficult conditions.'
In the second women's Semi Final, two-time Nations Cup winner Claire Leroy (FRA) won the first two races against Mandy Mulder (NED) before Mulder came back in the third race to stay alive. Leroy won the next race, qualifying for the finals and giving her the chance to become a three-time Nations Cup winner.
In the open division, sailed in Sonars, top-seeded Ebler, who went undefeated in the Round Robin chose to sail against Henrique Haddad (BRA) in the Semi Final. Ebler suffered his first defeat of the regatta in the second race match but quickly came back to win the next two matches.
ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final 2011 - Chris Gribble
In the second open Semi Final, Lucy Macgregor (GBR) had a challenging day in the strong winds and high seas against the heavier team led by Jury, with Jury's team going 3-0.
'We were heavier and that made us a little faster upwind and we were able to get off the starting line a little faster,' Jury said of today's racing.
The skipper said he is looking forward to facing Ebler tomorrow. 'We lost to him in the round robin but we feel we made a few mistakes in that race so we're looking forward to having another crack at it tomorrow.'
With a crowd of spectators both on the water and on shore, Saturday's racing was both the most exciting and most watched of the regatta.
'Today was a fantastic day on the water,' said Antonio Gonzalez de la Madrid, the International Sailing Federation technical representative in Sheboygan for the event. 'The racing was very exciting and very close. What more could we ask for? This is what ISAF is looking for in a Nations Cup venue, it's a beautiful place hosting just a great event.'
Racing at Sail Sheboygan's Lake Michigan facility concludes today with the finals in each division. Similar conditions are forecast for tomorrow. A closing ceremony awarding the Nations Cup trophies will be held at Blue Harbor Resort in the afternoon.
ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final website