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Hempel World Cup Series Miami

by David Schmidt 5 Feb 08:00 PST January 27-February 3, 2019
Paige Railey - 2019 Hempel World Cup Series Miami © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / World Sailing

While the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are still some 18 months out on the horizon, close Olympics watchers know that 2019 marks an important build up towards this next Olympic regatta, and top medal-contending athletes need to be demonstrating some real speed and smarts compared to their rivals. The first major 2019 regatta on the road to the Tokyo Games unfurled last week in thin, cerebral breezes at the 2019 Hempel World Cup Series Miami (January 27-February 3) on the waters off of Miami, Florida, where two U.S.-flagged sailors earned silver and bronze medals in the Laser Radial and Finn classes (respectively).

American Paige Railey has been racing Laser Radials at a high level for half of her life and is no stranger to Olympic pressures, having sailed in the London 2012 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Olympics. While the 31-year old Floridian has yet to earn an Olympic medal, it's important to note that Railey sustained a serious biking injury in 2014 that nearly curtailed her entire Olympic career.

"The goal is to finish my career with a gold medal in Tokyo 2020," said Railey on her US Sailing profile page. "I have a good feeling about this Olympics. I am a changed and more mature person. It's times of difficulty that you grow and learn if you allow yourself to. 2017 was a huge learning year for me and I can see the direct results in my racing for the new quad."

While words are easy, silver medals at the 2019 Hempel World Cup Series Miami came a lot harder, yet that's just what Railey delivered, earning three bullets, a second, a fifth and nothing worse than a 24th, which sure as heck isn't bad in a star-studded fleet of 59 Laser Radial sailors. (N.B. Railey was black-flagged in race four but was able to discard this result.)

"Everything keeps evolving and changing; I just keep trying to learn new things," said Railey in an official team press release. "As the game progresses, I need to stay up to date so when the girls bring new things to the table, I force myself to learn how to do it. Also I never stop believing in myself."

Also, it should be noted that Erika Reineke (USA) finished in sixth place in the Laser Radial fleet, and Sarah Douglas (CAN) posted a tenth-place finish.

Meanwhile, in the Finn class, American Luke Muller earned a Bronze medal by claiming two bullets and no scored result worse than 13th out of 27 boats (his discarded result was a 16th).

"It means a lot," said Muller in an official team press release. "Then again, it's one regatta and we had pretty much one type of conditions and I'm pretty good at [those conditions]. I know that I have a lot of weaknesses and a lot to work on, and I'm striving and determined to keep going and keep that up. It's definitely a great step and I'm grateful for my team with Luther [Carpenter, U.S. Finn coach] and [fellow Finn sailor] Caleb Paine and just hoping to go up from here."

Additionally, Canada's Tom Ramshaw finished in fourth place in the Finn class.

As for the U.S. team's overall results, Malcolm Page, who serves as Chief of U.S. Olympic Sailing, was pleased. "The team performance is way up," he said in an official release. "It's been a lot of hard work to get here, and I remember a significant moment four or five months ago when we sat down in Aarhus [Denmark] and we realized our performance wasn't going as well as expected on average."

"We sat down with the coaches and brainstormed over what needed to be done to achieve that," continued Page. "Our big takeaway from that was to build confidence. We know our athletes have the talent, but they don't always have that confidence to do it at the world championship level. We always said that 2019 had to be our year to achieve that. It's only just begun, and we've had a great week. We didn't have these results [last year], but we're still far from our potential."

Sail-World.com wishes all American-, Canadian- and Mexican-flagged teams the best of luck in unlocking their potential over the next 18 months.

And in ocean-racing news, skipper Yann Guichard's (FRA) and his crew aboard the 131-foot, state-of-the-art maxi trimaran Spindrift 2, have been forced to abandon their Jules Verne Trophy attempt for the fastest circumnavigation time after sustaining damage to their starboard rudder that was beyond their ability to safely repair at sea.

"Because of this technical problem we have no choice but to stop this record attempt," reported Guichard on the team's website. "It is a huge disappointment to all of the crew. We are now heading to the south West Coast of Australia and expect to reach there in the next four days."

While this is no doubt a setback to the team's near-term goals and aspirations, Sail-World.com applauds their efforts and those of all other adventurers who dare to look just a little bit further beyond the next bend.

Speaking of which, Mark Slats (NED; 41) has finished in second place in the Golden Globe Race 2018, arriving in Les Sables-d'Olonne, France some 214 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes and 30 seconds after beginning his epic circumnavigation journey. Impressively, the next GGR 2018 contestant is (at the time of this writing) still some 3,150 miles from the finishing line.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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