The three Paralympic class events awarded gold medals on Friday at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. The 2014 gold medalists are Megan Pascoe (GBR) in the 2.4mR, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) in the SKUD 18, and Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary (FRA) in the Sonar.
Saturday will be the penultimate day of racing for the Olympic class sailors. Contenders will be forced to elevate their game in the Medal Races. Sailors and their crews have had at least a week of acclimating to the light, and at times, unpredictable winds on Biscayne Bay.
Only the 49er and 49erFX fleets completed races on Friday. The sailors and Race Committee made valiant attempts to get in racing on a hazy, humid day with light air to no avail.
Pascoe successfully defended her gold medal from last year’s regatta. She won with an impressive scoring line of 3-2-1-1-(3) = 7. The World #1 edged Allan Leibel (CAN) by two points, who won the silver, and Pascoe’s teammate Helena Lucas (GBR) took home bronze medal honours.
“It’s a very good way to start off the year, ” said Pascoe. “I’ve been working on quite a bit of speed stuff. We need to work on downwind pace. I actually brought both of my boats out here so we’re going to do a bit more training after the event. Speed training is the way to go and then hopefully we’ll get into Palma and some good racing.”
Pascoe discussed her plan for 2014, “I think 2014 could be very important in terms of my Rio campaign. There are all sorts of rumors about when trials might start, but really it’s always nice to win and it would be nice to go to the IFDS Worlds in a really good place. They’ve always kind of eluded me so hopefully we’ll get one this time.”
World #1 Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) collected another major regatta gold medal this week. Rickham and Birrell have won five consecutive SKUD 18 World Championships. This week’s win marks their first ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal. The 2012 Paralympic Games bronze medalists won four of five races this week.
On his week Birrell commented, “We’ve been to the Miami World Cup five times – my first ever SKUD event was out here in 2008 and we’ve done every year except one since then, and we’ve had every result from fifth to second I think. Finally now we’ve got to the gold, so now we’ve got a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in our five attempts.
“It’s nice to win, but more important it’s really good to see that after such a long time out we had good boat speed against the others upwind and downwind, which the tactics a little bit easier, but our starting hasn’t really improved so I’m sure our coach will have some plans for that in the future.”
World #2 Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul, and Nicolas Vimont Vicary (FRA) will take home the gold following a steady week that included consistent scores, 2-3-1-2-(4) = 8. They won by two points over the team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel, and Stephen Thomas (GBR). Robertson and crew moved into contention yesterday by posting a pair of bullets, which sealed the silver medal. Alphonsus Doerr, Hugh Freund, and Timothy Angle earned the bronze.
Jourden, the 2013 IFDS World Champion, commented on his team’s successful week in Miami, “We felt very prepared even though we didn’t have our own boat. We trained in more wind than we had this week, but the wind strength doesn’t matter for our team. We race strong in everything and don’t let the wind reflect our results. Our winning strategy for the week was to avoid risk because the breeze was so shifty and light forecast. We stayed away from laylines and edges of the course.”
Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard (FRA) came from behind to open up a 16 point gap over Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich (ITA) in the 49erFX
Despite a difficult start to the day the French team bounced back with two seconds whilst the Italians finished down the pack to fall behind ahead of the final day.
After racing Bossard commented, “We had a bad race in the first one with a bad start and then we fell in the water but that was okay in the end because we managed to concentrate and focus better and we got twos in two.
“We had good speed and good starts and we’re happy with that.”
Conti and Clapcich ventured into the day with a four point lead and the helm was visibly disappointed with her day, “In the first race we made a bad strategic decision to go on the right as the pressure came on the left so it was basically done.
“In the second race we had a very bad start which we could never recover from and in the last race we weren’t very lucky because we had a very good start but then a boat tacked on the top mark and hit us so we couldn’t round the top mark properly. We tried to recover a little bit and ended up 11th which was not that bad. It was tricky but tomorrow is another day.”
Three ten minute Stadium races will bring the 49erFX to a close on the final day and the girls know it will be a tough day on the water.
Conti added, “I think it’s going to be hard because the French are very good sailors and will do their best.
“I don’t really like the stadium racing, I prefer a standard single Medal Race but it’s something we have to get used. Three races are a lot but we will do our best.”
Bossard concluded, “There’s three races with lots of points. We’ll just race like the other days because there are too many points to think about something.
“It will be a hard day for everybody. The best one will win.”
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) sit in third on 77 points.
Six points separated first to sixth heading into the penultimate day of 49er racing with it all to play for. No team had taken the bull by the horns and grabbed the initiative. Consistency across the race track has been hard to come by with everything team counting at least two double point scores across the nine race series.
Three races in tricky conditions saw several shifts in position as a race win, a discarded 16th and a fourth promoted Stevie Morrison and Chris Grube (GBR) from sixth to first. The new British team formed as a trial at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and early chemistry has been formed as the pair continue their early development. “Stevie is an experienced helm, “ commented Grube, “and it kind of shows in our sailing. I’m new to the boat and everything he tells me is pretty good.
“At the moment we’re so new to the team and we’re just making sure we’re taking it one step at a time and doing the things that we need to do and making sure our programme suits that.”
The Britons are tied on 51 points with Julien D’ortoli and Noè Delpech but lead on countback. Overnight leaders John Pink and Stuart Bithell (GBR) dropped down to fifth overall with Brad Funk and Trevor Burd (USA) and Jonas Warrer and Peter Lang (DEN) sitting ahead of the Brits on 54 points.
The final day of 49er racing will see the top ten compete in three single point stadium races to decide the honours.
Saturday’s Medal Race includes the top ten ranked sailors in each fleet competing in one race with double points applied.
Here is the schedule with course assignments:
Course Area Theatre:
1100 – 49er – 3 Medal Races
1200 – 49er FX – 3 Medal Races
Course Area Alpha:
1330 – Radial Medal Race
1400 – Laser Medal Race
Course Area Bravo:
1100 – 470 Men Medal Race
1130 – 470 Women Medal Race
1200 – Finn Medal Race
1230 – RS:X Men Medal Race
1300 – RS:X Women Medal Race
1330 – Nacra 17 Medal Race
Live tracking in 2D and 3D will be available during ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. Click here to access the tracking.