Things started out slowly this morning at US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR when all but one class was postponed ashore due to light wind that followed morning showers, but the entire fleet of 716 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls from 53 nations were back in action on Biscayne Bay by afternoon, with sunshine and fresh breezes to improve their day.
This is the second stop on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup circuit and is considered a major stepping stone on a sailor’s path to securing a berth at the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Regattas scheduled for Weymouth, England in 2012.
After two days of maintaining a lead in the 41-boat Men’s 470 class, Nic Asher/Elliot Willis (GBR) were edged out today (day three) by fellow national teammates Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell for the top spot on the scoreboard. Patience/Bithell won today’s single race while Asher/Willis took a sixth, using it as a discard race. (After six races, teams are allowed to drop their worst score.) They are now three points behind the new leaders.
'It was a tricky day,' said Asher, who with Willis has won the Men’s 470 Worlds twice. The wind was off the land so it was shifty and gusty, lots of places changed, but our sixth was solid. Tomorrow it’s all to play for.'
Patience said his team’s victory today came after a disappointing start. 'We didn’t pop out in front until about two-thirds up the second windward leg; that’s pretty late in the race, but as it developed, the lanes opened up. There was not much pattern to the wind, which went from 10 knots up to 15 knots, so it was an active kind of sailing-- a lot of dividing our time between looking around and driving.'
Leaders from day one in the 24-boat Women’s 470 class, Ingrid Petijean/ Nadege Douroux (FRA), had a 'disappointing' race—a 12th—but still hang on for a one-point lead over Penny Clark (GBR), who won today’s race to move to second.
'Before the start, you could see the dark clouds approaching,' said US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics 470 coach Mark Ivey (San Francisco, Calif.), and the teams were scrambling to adjust their rig settings for high wind, but as the race went on, the squall line passed, more toward the Star course (farther out), and it lightened into a leftover westerly breeze.'
The 470s are in for a long day tomorrow, as it is anticipated they will sail three races to catch up with their two-races-a-day schedule before the final medal races (for top-ten in each of the ten Olympic classes) conclude the regatta on Sunday.
With two races today in the 56-boat Star class, Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (BRA) still shine. They finished 9-7 while Fredrik Loof/Max Salminen (SWE) posted a 15-5. Only two points separate them from the leaders and the third-place finishers Xavier Rohart and Pierre Alexis Ponsot (FRA).
Yet another GBR team leads the 49ers, and they have done so since yesterday in the 29-boat fleet. John Pink/ Rick Peacock finished 4-6-1 today and used the sixth as a permitted discard in their final score, which is 18 points to the 19 carried by Dave Evans/Edward Powys, also from the UK.
The 49er, a skiff that flies across the water with its skipper and crew hanging out over the water on 'trapezes,' is considered the Ferrari of sailboat racing and can reach blazing speeds. The class started in 1995 and parachuted into the Olympic Games in 2000. The fleet has grown substantially over the last decade, attracting sailors from other classes who seek fast and exhilarating racing. Their races are only 30 minutes long, so they can squeeze in up to four races a day in perfect conditions.
'It’s going well – we’ve had some great races really and a mixed bag with conditions,' said Pink, noting a total of five victories in his team’s nine-race score line. 'Yesterday was very boat speed oriented and we managed to crack that quite well and today was a lot more shifty so it was more about minimizing risk. The results could have been a lot worse today, so we battled through and we’ve been enjoying it.' Pink and Peacock won a silver medal here at the 2009 Rolex Miami OCR.
'You get a little confidence boost,' said Pink about being lucky enough to do well here among so many of the world’s leading sailors, 'and aside from that it’s just a nice place to be with good weather and good training conditions.'
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 (Elliot 6m), which makes its debut in the 2012 Olympic Games, the regatta consists of an opening series, a knockout series, and a sail-off for boats not advancing to the knockout series. Competitors in the Paralympic classes will have five days of fleet racing (Monday-Friday) and no medal race. Medals will be awarded to the top three boats in each Olympic and Paralympic class on Saturday, January 29.
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