The day before a big game is always important, and for 716 sailors signed up to start racing tomorrow at US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR, there was plenty to accomplish today between final registration and sail measurement at the U.S. Sailing Center in Coconut Grove.
That is where headquarters have been established for this six-day event, which hosts the world’s top sailing athletes for competition in the 13 classes selected for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Held on Biscayne Bay annually since 1990, the Rolex Miami OCR is the second stop on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup 2010-2011 circuit.
'There are 53 countries represented here,' said US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Coach Luther Carpenter (La Porte, Texas) as he made his rounds today, 'and the fleets are extremely deep with talent. If someone feels like they have a good chance to finish top-four in every race, then that usually means not all of the top players are here; I don’t think there is any sailor thinking that way.'
The U.S. has the largest contingent of sailors with 197, while Canada, Great Britain and Italy follow with 97, 39 and 36, respectively. The largest class is Laser with 105 entrants. Laser Radial is the next largest with 58 while Stars are close behind with 57.
The number of world champions and Olympic medalists competing are too numerous to count, and with over 130 national and private coaches registered, it means there will be some serious business going down on the water.
For Torben Grael (BRA) in the Star, the business is proving that he has what it takes to get to the Olympics for a seventh time. The 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year has won five Olympic medals (four, including two golds, in Star class and one in Soling), the highest number won by any individual in sailing, and partnered with crew Marcelo Ferreria at the end of 2009 after he skippered Ericcson 4 to victory (with two legs to spare) in the Volvo Ocean Race. 'This is a (world) ranking event and the sailors are at a good level,' he said, while doing some last-minute tinkering on his boat. 'It’s hard to name one person that we will try to beat, as there are ten or more that could maybe win here.'
Grael’s brother Lars Grael (a two-time Olympic medalist) is also skippering in Star class (with Ronald Weifert), and Torben’s daughter Martine Grael, age 20, is skippering in the Women’s 470 class (with Isabel Swan), with 25 teams. Among them are the current world champions Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout (NED), defending champions Amanda Clark (Shelter Island, N.Y.) and Sarah Chin (Hoboken, N.J.), and 2008 world champions Erin Maxwell (Norwalk,Conn.) and Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar (New York, N.Y.).
Luca Dubbini (ITA), skipper in the Men’s 470 event (with Roberto Dubbini crewing), is already on his national team and says this will be good preparation for his country’s Olympic Trials in April. 'It is my first time to sail in Miami, and we came early to sail in the North Americans here,' he said. 'We finished 15th, which could have been better, and now we will see how we can do here.' He will have tough competition from favorites Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) and Sime Fanela and Igor Marenic (CRO), both of whom have world championships to their credit.
Other Olympic classes competing are Finn, Men’s RS:X, Women’s RS:X, 49er, and Elliott 6m. Paralympic sailors will compete in 2.4mR, SKUD18 and Sonar classes.
For fleet racing in the Olympic classes, the regatta will consist 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 will consist 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.
US SAILING has partnered with the city of Miami to provide world-class venues for competition. Additional hosts for the event include Coral Reef Yacht Club, Key Biscayne Yacht Club, Coconut Grove Sailing Club, Miami Rowing Club and Shake-a-Leg Miami. These sailing organizations host classes onshore, as well as help run the on-the-water racing. The Coral Reef Yacht Club also hosts the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
In addition to title sponsor Rolex Watch U.S.A., the 2011 Rolex Miami OCR is also sponsored by AlphaGraphics, Gowrie Group, Chubb Insurance, Sperry Top-Sider, Harken McLube, Trinity Yachts, University of Miami Hospital and Kattack.
A complete roster of competitors can be viewed at the event website, RMOCR.ussailing.org, where real-time racecourse blogging, commentary and fan interaction, regatta results, photos and news updates will be integrated into a live coverage platform once racing begins. Video highlights produced by Gary Jobson and presented by Rolex will air daily and are available on-demand on the event website. Fans can also follow the event on Facebook/RMOCR and Twitter/RMOCR.