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All eyes on Miami for the 2018 World Cup Series event and tragedy in the VOR

by David Schmidt 22 Jan 2018 08:33 PST January 21, 2018
The first stop of World Sailing's 2017 World Cup Series will see over 450 competitors race across the ten Olympic classes from Regatta Park at Coconut Grove, Miami © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy

While the Tokyo 2020 Olympics still feel like a long way off, this week is an important waypoint for Olympic-class sailors as they battle their way to the starting lines of the next Summer Games and-ultimately-to the winners’ podiums, as it marks the start of the 2018 World Cup Series in Miami (January 21-28, 2018). Formerly known as the “Olympic Class Regatta” or “OCR”, this week-long event tests sailors across all Olympic sailing disciplines and is one of four of World Sailing’s 2018 World Cup Series events, with the others unfurling in France (Hyeres and Marseille) and Japan (Enoshima).

For U.S.-flagged sailors in particular, this is an incredibly important regatta, as it’s the only World Cup Series event that doesn’t require passports or big budgets to attend. Moreover, the 2018 World Cup Series in Miami also marks a point in an Olympic Quad where things begin to transition from serious to very serious in terms of sailors and teams earning their berths to the 2020 Summer Games.

U.S. sailors have been having a really tough go at the Olympics ever since the London 2012 Olympics, where our team received their first Olympic medal-ceremony shutout since the Berlin 1936 Olympics. The team improved at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but even then the Star Spangled Banner was heard only once, for Caleb Paine’s bronze medal in the Finn class. While this was a proud medal for Paine and his coaches, it still marks a long, long slide from the halcyon days of U.S. Olympic sailing, when our national anthem was practically on speed dial at medal ceremonies.

The team is obviously not blind to the reality of their dearth of top-shelf medals since the Beijing 2008 Olympics, where Anna Tunnicliffe earned a shinny gold medal in the Laser Radial and Zach Railey earned silver in the Finn, and the team has taken some significant corrective steps to put their ship back on its proper course, but, as with all large vessels, Olympic organizations typically react to change over the span of nautical miles, not mere feet.

The great news is that these steps seem to be generating green shoots on the junior-sailing level, as was seen at the Youth World Sailing Championships (Sanya, China; December 9-16, 2017), where sisters Carmen and Emma Cowles took gold in the 420 Girl’s fleet, and where Charlotte Rose also brought home gold in the Laser Radial Girl’s fleet; additionally, Thomas Rice and Trevor Bornath took silver in the 420 Boy’s fleet.

This certainly bodes well for future quadrennials, but with international eyes starting to focus on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, this week’s 2018 World Cup Series will be one of the first real opportunities that our varsity-level sailors will have to line up against their possible 2020 rivals. Moreover, it will also be the first time that some of the teams have raced together in a serious regatta.

While we are still way too far out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for teams to be approaching the 2018 World Cup Series in Miami as a time to speed check against medal-ceremony rivals, it is a fantastic opportunity for teams to see if they are competitive on both the domestic (critical for earning an Olympic berth) and international levels, and to also determine-and fix-any weak spots compared to their competition. extends our best wishes to all sailors participating in the 2018 World Cup Series in Miami, and the U.S. office in particular wishes U.S.-flagged entrants the best of luck.

After all, at a time when politics are roiling our country, all fans of American sailing can get behind the strictly apolitical tagline “Make American (Sailors) Gold Again.” (At least, your editor certainly can!)

Meanwhile, in offshore sailing news, skipper David Witt’s Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, with navigator Libby Greenhalgh calling the shots, took first place in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), which took teams from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. Scallywag sailors were joined on the winner’s podium by skipper Charles Caudrelier and his Dongfeng Race Team (which was navigated by Franck Cammas, who won the 2011/2012 VOR as skipper of Groupama) in second place, and by skipper Simeon Tienpont and his team AkzoNobel in third place.

Tragically, after sailing a brilliant race sans their skipper, Charlie Enright (who was called home to deal with a family emergency), Vestas/11th Hour Racing, with Mark Towill (Enright’s longtime sailing partner) acting as skipper, suffered a collision with a fishing boat some 30 nautical miles from the finishing line while the VO65 was clipping along at 20 knots in 23 knots of breeze.

While details were thin at the time of this writing, the collision occurred at roughly 0230 hours, local time, and resulted in ten fishermen being thrown into the water. Tragically, one of these fishermen died, however the other nine were recovered and survived. It is unknown whether the fishing boat, which is believed to have sunk, was carrying AIS or radar-detection equipment. All sailors were fine, however the boat sustained significant-looking damage to her port bow. extends our deepest sympathies to the family of the lost fisherman, and to everyone else involved in this awful tragedy.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor Seattle, USA

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