Olympic and Paralympic aspirants from 53 countries have flocked to this week’s US Sailing Rolex Miami OCR, and with two days of racing now completed, the strongest players are rising to the top. This morning, flags ashore stood straight out from their staffs, and sailors enjoyed up to 18 knots of breezes on Biscayne Bay, where seven race courses are accommodating 716 sailors in 13 classes.
'Racing is extraordinarily close, and representative of what the 2012 Games (in Weymouth, England) will be like,' said Betsy Alison, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Paralympic Coach, explaining that Paralympic sailors continue with two fleet races a day through Friday, and Olympic sailors pare down to top-ten for Medal Races on Saturday. (Women’s match racing in the Elliot 6m will feature Finals and Petit Finals on Saturday.)
Paralympic sailor Liesl Tesch (AUS) is a newcomer to the SKUD 18 class and she is leading with her skipper Daniel Fitzgibbon after four races. A three-time Paralympic Medalist in wheelchair basketball, Tesch only began racing with Fitzgibbon three weeks ago. 'He is a legend,' said Tesch about Fitzgibbon, an elite sailor who became a quadriplegic 13 years ago and uses special systems on the boat to compensate for his limited ability to pull with his arms. 'I’m catching on, but he’s the brain, I’m the arms.' Tesch has full upper-body strength, but the 21-year-old suffered serious damage to her legs when she broke her back in a mountain bike accident at age 19.
In 2.4m Class, top world-ranked Damien Seguin (FRA) posted two first-place finishes today, rising from third to first in overall standings and displacing Thierry Schmitter (NED), the 2010 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship and ranked fifth in the world, from the top spot. (Schmitter is now in third.)
The USA’s top finisher John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) in fifth, had a 7-5 today. 'The breeze is on,' said Ruf, who is ranked 11th in the world, 'so I’m looking for top-three from now on just to stay in it.'
The 2.4m is hugely popular because of its compact size--about 14 feet long (2.4 meters)--and the fact that it requires little physical exertion to sail. Its skipper remains seated, facing forward at all times with the majority of his body below the waterline, and has the choice of steering it by foot pedal or by tiller, making it an equal platform for sailors with varying physical restrictions.
Hannah Stodel, foredeck crew aboard GBR’s leading Sonar, has a 'bone to pick' with the Dutch team in second place (Udo Hessels/ Mischa Rossen/Marcel van de Veen). 'They beat us in the World Championship last year by one point, so we certainly want to beat them here.' Stodel, sailing with skipper John Robertson and crew Steve Thomas, says this is a 'high scoring' regatta, explaining that the top players all have races that aren’t in the top five. Her team’s worst score was in today’s second race (7) and NED retired before finishing race two for penalty points that equaled a 13th place.
'Everyone has succumbed to something in the Sonar class,' said Betsy Alison, noting the French team had a breakdown, 'and it is very costly in terms of number of places it effects.'
It was a GBR sweep in the Finn class, with two victories for Giles Scott, adding to his two from yesterday and giving him a 10-point lead over his national teammate Ben Ainslie, a favorite here. After winning Skandia Sail for Gold at the Olympic venue in Weymouth last year and picking up a bronze at the 2010 World Championship, Scott is one of the main challengers trying to stop Ainslie from sailing at a fifth consecutive Olympic Games. Only one point behind Ainslie is US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics member Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.).
In Star class, after two races, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada hold their lead from yesterday, with Sweden’s Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen five points behind. Scheidt is a five-time Olympic medalist while Loof is an Olympic medalist and a two-time World Champion, ranked third in the world in his class.
'There is still a long way to go, but we are happy,' said Scheidt. 'The event has grown a lot since I was last here in 2006. The only top players we are missing here are Iain Percy (GBR) and Mateus Kusznierewicz (POL). We are ranked #1 but Kusznierewicz is the current world champion, so he is the man.'
Evi Van Acker (BEL) had another great day in Laser Radials. The leader going into today, she won both races. 'I was very fast on the downwind legs, which gave me a comfortable lead to go into the second beat,' said Van Acker. 'From there on I controlled the fleet and won both races with a pretty big lead. So a great day for me, I really had fun!'
Held on Biscayne Bay annually since 1990, US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR is the second stop on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup 2010-2011 circuit and is a key regatta in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For many, including the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, it is a qualifier for positions on national teams.
In the balance of the Olympic classes:
Laser : Top-of-the-charts newcomer Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J., USA), finished 3-3 to secure his spot at the top of the overall leader board
49er: Yesterday’s leaders Paul Brotherton/Mark Asquith (GBR) fell to third today after John Pink/ Rick Peacock (GBR) won both races to top the scoreboard.
Men’s RS:X: Yesterday’s leader Nick Dempsey (GBR), with two fourths today, was usurped by Dorian van Rijsselberge, with two firsts.
Women's RS:X Marina Alabau (ESP) won another two races for a perfect score line. She is the 2009 RS:X World and European Champion and also the defending champion here.
Men’s 470: Nic Asher/Elliot Willis maintain their lead while Mathew Belcher/Malcolm Page (AUS), the 2010 Delta Lloyd 470 World Champions moved up to third.
Women’s 470: Ingrid Petijean/ Nadege Douroux (FRA) also still lead on the strength of a 3-4 today
Elliott 6m (women’s match racing):
Groups B and C completed a full round robin today, with Group A still having a match each to sail tomorrow before the top two in each group move on to tomorrow’s scheduled gold fleet racing. (The next two teams in each group will commence racing in the 'repechage.')
This means that in Group B Silja Lehtinen/Silja Kanerva/Mikaela Wulff (FIN) and Claire Leroy/ Elodie Bertrand/Marie Riou (FRA), each with win-loss scores of 5-2, move on to gold fleet.
As well, from Group C, Lucy Macgregor/Annie Lush/ Kate Macgregor (GBR) and Anna Tunnicliffe/Molly Vandemoer/Debbie Capozzi (Plantation, Fla., USA/Redwood City, Calif., USA/Bayport, N.Y., USA), each with a 6-1, will race in gold fleet tomorrow. US Sailing’s 2011 Rolex Miami OCR
49er (30 boats) – 6 races
1. John Pink/ Rick Peacock (GBR) 4- 1- -1-1-1 (8)
2. Dave Evans/Edward Powys (GBR) 2- - 1-3-3-2 (11)
3. Paul Brotherton/Mark Asquith (GBR) 1- 3- 2-5-2-10 (13)
Laser Radial (58 boats) – 4 races
1. Evi Van Acker (BEL) 2-2-1-1 (6)
2. Marit Bouwmeester (NED) 4-1-3-3 (11)
3. Annalise Murphy (IRL) 5-15-2-2 (24)
Laser (104 boats)-4 races
1. Clay Johnson (USA) 2-1-3-3 (9)
2. Paul Goodison (GBR) 1-2-8-1 (12)
3. Rasmus Myrgren (SWE) 7-3-1-1 (12)
Finn (37 boats) – 4 races
1. Giles Scott (GBR) 1-1-1-1 (4)
2. Ben Ainslie (GBR) 5-2-5-2 (14)
3. Zach Railey (USA) 2-3-4-6 (15)
470 Men (42 boats) – 4 races
1. Nic Asher/Elliot Willis (GBR) 1-3-5-2 (11)
2. Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell (GBR) 3-2-2-5 (12)
3. Mathew Belcher/ Malcolm Page (AUS) 2-8-10-3 (23)
470 Women (24 boats) – 4 races
1. Ingrid Petijean/ Nadege Douroux (FRA) 1-2 3-4 (10)
2. Camille Lecointre/Mathilde Geron (FRA) 3-1-1-8 (13)
3. Penny Clark/ Katrina Hughes (GBR) 4-4-2-6 (16)
Skud-18 (7 boats) – 4 races
1. Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch (AUS) 1-1-4-1 (7)
2. Jennifer French/ Jean-Paul Creignou (USA) 3-3-1-2 (9)
3. Alexandra Rickham/Niki Birrell (GBR) 2-4-3-5 (14)
Star (57 boats) – 4 races
1. Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (BRA) 1-2-9-1 (13)
2. Fredrik Loof/Max Salminen (SWE) 5-3-7-3 (18)
3. Xavier Rohart/Pierre Alexis Ponsot (FRA) 7-7-1-6(21)
RS: X Men (37 boats) – 4 races
1. Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) 1-4-1-1 (7)
2. Nick Dempsey (GBR) 2-2-4-4 (12)
3. Ivan Pastor (ESP) 4-1-3-5 (13)
RS: X Women (31 boats) – 4 races
1. Marina Alabau (ESP) 1-1-1-1 (4)
2. Bryony Shaw (GBR) 7-2-2-2 (13)
3. Charline Picon (FRA) 2-6-3-5 (16)
2.4mR (30 boats) – 4 races
1. Damien Seguin (FRA) 2-5-1-1 (9)
2. Allan Leibel (CAN) 3-2-2-2 (9)
3. Thierry Schmitter (NED) 1-1-4-4 (10)
Sonar (12 boats) – 4 races
1. John Roberston/ Hannah Stodel/ Steve Thomas (GBR) 3-2-1-7 (13)
2. Udo Hessels/ Mischa Rossen/Marcel van de Veen (NED) 2-1-4-13/DNS (20)
3. Albert Foster/David Burdette/Mike Hersey (USA) 1-12-5-2 (20)
Nicky Souter/Jessica Eastwell/Olivia Price (AUS); 6-0
Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS);6-0
Katie Spithill/Nina Curtis/Angela Farrell (AUS);3-3
Julie Bossard/Pauline Chalaux/ Nolwenn Combeaux (FRA);3-3
Silke Hahlbrock/ Kerstin Schult / Maren Hahlbrock GER);3-3
Rita Goncalves/Mariana Lobato/Diana Neves (POR); 2-4
Vesna Dekleva Paoli/ Katarina Kersevan/ Lena Koter (SLO); 1-5
Jinny Gordon/Crystle Numan/ Laurel Gordon-Taylor (CAN);0-6
1. Silja Lehtinen/Silja Kanerva/Mikaela Wulff(FIN);5-2
2. Claire Leroy/ Elodie Bertrand/Marie Riou (FRA); 5-2
3. Renee Groeneveld/Mandy Mulder/Merel Witteveen(NED); 5-2
4. Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen/Christina Refn/Susanne Boidin (DEN); 5-2
5. Genny Tulloch/Alice Leanoard/Jennifer Chamberlin (Sausalito, CA.,USA/East Haven, CT., USA/Washington, DC., USA); 3-4
6. Renata Decnop/Fernanda Decnop/Tatiana Ribeiro (BRA); 2-5
7. Annemiek Bekkering/ Brechtje van der Werf/ Annemiek Bes(NED); 2-5
8. Juliana Senfft/Gabriela Sa/Daniela Adler (BRA);1-6
1. Lucy Macgregor/Annie Lush/ Kate Macgregor (GBR); 6-1
2. Anna Tunnicliffe(/Molly Vandemoer/Debbie Capozzi (Plantation, Fla., USA/Redwood City, Calif., USA/Bayport, N.Y., USA), 6-1
3. Anne-Claire Le Berre/ Alice Ponsar/ Myrtille Ponge (FRA);3-4
4. Sally Barkow (Nashotah, WI., USA)/ Alana O’Reilly (Charleston SC, USA)/ Elizabeth Kratzig-Burnham (Miami Beach FL, USA); 5-2
5. Anna Kjellberg/ Malin Kallstrom/ Lotta Harrysson (SWE); 1-6
6. Stephanie Hazard/ Susannah Pyatt/ Jenna Hansen (NZL) ;5-2
7. Rebecca Dellenbaugh (Easton CT, USA)/ Maggie Shea (Wilmette, IL USA)/ Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, MD USA); 1-6
8. Katie Abbott/ Joanne Prokop/ Caroline Kaars Sijpesteijn (CAN); 1-6
A complete roster of competitors and results can be viewed at the event website here