Little to no breeze created mirror-like conditions on the calm waters of Biscayne Bay Monday morning. This was not ideal for the 580 sailors representing 50 countries, who were raring and ready to go for the start of this six-day international regatta.
This 25th edition of ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami annually attracts top ranked one-design sailors in 10 Olympic and three Paralympic events selected for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Racing was postponed at approximately 9:00 local time due to insufficient wind. This delay pushed back the start times for the morning and early afternoon fleets. At around 12:00, the fleets started their launch from their respective venue sites in an attempt to get in as much racing as possible, despite the still conditions.
Fortunately, racing pick up in the afternoon and all fleets completed races in the consistent light breeze. Wind speeds ranged from 4 to 8 knots for most of the afternoon.
The Men’s 470 is stacked with a strong fleet of world ranked teams, including #1 ranked Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS), who are looking to extend their unbeaten streak as a team to 11 this week. Belcher has won his last 18 consecutive 470 regattas.
The 2013 World Champions also won gold at the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. They were third and ninth on the opening day and are currently fourth out of 30 teams.
The day belonged to 2013 470 World Championship silver medallists Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion. The tandem won both races to get off to an outstanding start. They were challenged by defending champions Stu McNay (USA) and David Hughes (USA), who placed second in both races. World #3 Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) placed second at both ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao and Melbourne. They are coming off a silver medal at the North American Championships. Fantela and Marenic are in third place.
“Our goal this year is Santander [ISAF Worlds], ” said Fantela. “We got off to an early start this year by racing in Qingdao, Melbourne, and now Miami. The competition here is quite high. Only a few from the top 20 are not racing this week. We are used to the light winds from the recent North American Championships and knew what the wind was going to do. We had to play with the shifts all the time and focus on boat speed because if you lose only a half meter, somebody will catch you on the starboard tack.”
Fantela also commented on going up against Belcher and Ryan again this week. “Certainly, it would be nice to beat those guys. They have had so much success and we are good friends outside the course. As a sportsman, I’d like to beat them this week.”
The small, but talented, Women’s 470 fleet kicked-off the racing. Three of the World’s top five crews are battling it out on the Bay this week in the 10-boat fleet.
Great Britain’s Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre used the light wind to their advantage. They won race one and followed up with a third place finish. Weguelin and McIntyre are ranked #3 in the ISAF Women’s 470 World Rankings. The placed fifth at the 470 Women’s World Championships last July in La Rochelle, France.
“We are trying to work on our downwind boat speed, as well as our decision making and communication around the race course this week, ” explained Weguelin. “Sailing in a smaller fleet has its pros and cons. We’ve been down here racing for the past couple weeks at North Americans and we trained down here as well.” The duo placed third out of ten teams last week here in Miami at the North American Championships.
World #1 Austria’s Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) won race two after slipping to seventh in race one.
With the discard coming into play immediately at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) discarded their opening 25th to count a third and a second, giving them an early Nacra 17 lead.
Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) were the most consistent on the race track and whilst they count a 5-1-5 they sit third overall behind the Austrians and Federica Salva and Francesco Bianchi in second.
Saxton and Diamond have only finished out of the top four in two out of nine Nacra 17 regattas sailed in and proved their worth once again by a record a steady scoreline as Saxton explained, “Racing was good. We had better breeze than anticipated, sea breeze conditions that were probably five or six knots but fairly stable in direction so three good races.
“The first one we were third [they later received a two point scoring penalty to count a five] which was a good start and then we won the second and had a comeback in the third race that saw a photo finish. That was a great comeback and that’s the race we’re happiest with.”
At the midway point of the final race the Brits had fallen to 12th but they managed to find good pace on the final run to move up seven places.
With those around them counting double digit scores Saxton and Diamond have room for optimism but know there’s plenty of work left to do, “The aim for the rest of the week is to try and put the stuff we’ve been learning over winter into racing and hopefully get a good result but this is still the learning curve.”
Finland’s Noora Ruskola and Camilla Cedercreutz almost had a dream day in the 49erFX. The pair took the first bullet of the day and picked up a third in the last but they were unknowingly on the course side in the second race as they stormed through to what they believed was another race victory.
“The second race we thought we had won, ” commented Ruskola, “But we were over the line at the start. It’s really annoying because the first place would have been really good.”
Despite their OCS, the Finnish team lead the way on four points as the discard kicks in early however they won’t be easing up for the remainder of the week, “We are just going to sail normally because otherwise you will just end up behind the boats and won’t get speed in the start and that’s no good.
“We’re looking to learn this week but we’re still aiming for high results and we hope we’re going to do really good but this is our first World Cup.”
With the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships on the horizon the girls know the hard work must continue, “That’s the big one for us because it’s Olympic qualification so it’s the lead competition of the year and we’re here practising for it.”
2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami victors Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) sit in second, a point off the leaders, but discard an eighth.
The 49er fleet got off to a late start on Biscayne Bay and consistency was extremely hard to come by for all the competitors.
Stelios Sotiriou and Alfonso Panagiotis (GRE) led the opening race from the off and at the first mark had opened up an eight second lead. Able to get clean air in their sails the Greeks extended their lead as the race played out and hit the finishing line 20 seconds clear of James Peters and Ed Fitzgerald (GBR) in second.
With the light breeze making the challenge difficult for the fleet the Greeks couldn’t capitalise on their bright start and finished Race 2 in 25th as Austria’s Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl took the bullet.
With the discard already in play the Greek and Austrian teams hold the lead.
Perfect days are few and far between for many sailors but Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) managed to have one of those days taking both of the Men’s RS:X bullets.
Kokkalanis put 30 seconds between himself and the chasing pack as he comfortably took both race victories.
Cyprus’ Andrea Cariolou and Japan’s Makoto Tomizawa sit in second and third with plenty more racing to go.
The heavyweights in the Finn class also tallied a pair of races. Australia’s Oliver Tweddell is the early leader after placing second and first, respectively. He has captured silver medals in Melbourne in each of the last two years.
Defending champion Paige Railey (USA) cruised to an early lead in the 51-boat Laser Radial class. She placed second and first to take gain the early advantage. Railey garnered bronze medal honors at the 2013 Laser Radial World Championships in Rizhao, China.
Australia’s success continued today in the Laser fleet for World #1 Tom Burton, who won both races. Burton is coming off a gold medal at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. The Lasers own this week’s largest fleet with 91 competitors.
World #1 Bryony Shaw (GBR) showed the chasing pack how it’s done in the Women’s RS:X by notching up a bullet and a second after two races.
Shaw is followed by Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) in second and Patricia Freitas (BRA) in third.
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell got their week off to the perfect start with double bullets in the SKUD18. Canada’s John McRoberts and Jackie Gay follow with Ryan Porteous and Cindy Walker (USA) in third.
In the Sonar, Rick Doerr, Hugh Freund and Tim Angle (USA) mirrored the British SKUD18 duos performance with a couple of race wins to lead the eight boat fleet.
Canada’s Allan Leibel leads the 2.4mR closely followed by Norway’s Bjornar Erikstad and Great Britain’s Megan Pascoe.