With Rio qualification regattas, national trials and a testing ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit throughout the year the heat is on. And at 10:00 local time on Monday 26 January, 2015’s ‘game time’ begins with the sounding of the starter’s gun at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella.
More than 800 sailors from 63 nations racing across ten Olympic and three Paralympic events will light up Miami, Florida’s glorious Biscayne Bay. With ISAF Sailing World Cup Final Abu Dhabi qualification spots and valuable ranking points available the game will heat up in the sunshine state.
Historically the Laser has always been the largest fleet in Miami and that is no exception to 2015 with a strong contingent of international sailors making up the 120 boat fleet.
2015 is a key year for many competitors with Rio 2016 Olympic qualification regattas fast approaching. For American Laser sailors the 2016 edition of the regatta will be their first internal qualification event, but the highest ranked American sailor, Charlie Buckingham at World #11, will want to lay down a marker one year in advance.
“Miami is always an important event for me personally, ” said Buckingham, “so I am happy it serves as part of the OIympic trials. This year I will be aiming to perform my best at this event as I have in years past and as I will next year.
“I’ve had roughly two months of preparation, both training and racing, after a pretty big break post-Santander. This year is the strongest I’ve ever seen the fleet since I’ve done the regatta. Everyone will be here.”
Buckingham has been a familiar face in Miami, competing at the regatta a consecutive seven times from 2008. As one of 16 American sailors within the strong Miami fleet a performance that mirrors his third place in 2013 will leave him in a good place in advance of his national trials.
The Laser fleet is jam packed with talent from World Champions to Olympic medallists, all of whom are aiming for an Abu Dhabi ISAF Sailing World Cup Final slot. World #1 Tom Burton (AUS) sealed his spot at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne so the pressure is off, but the determined Aussie will have his eyes on the prize after narrowly missing out on a Miami podium in 2014.
World #2 Robert Scheidt (BRA) will make his first international appearance since Santander 2014 in Miami whilst defending champion Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) will also return.
With 22 of the world’s top 25 Lasers heading to Miami, the competition will be one of the most hotly contested in recent times.
The Laser Radial fleet will see 80 competitors lock horns. World #1 and 2014 World Champion Marit Bouwmeester (NED) will be joined by World #2 and 2014 Abu Dhabi ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion Evi Van Acker (BEL) as well as Melbourne gold medallist Alison Young (GBR).
Paige Railey (USA) will attempt to take the title for the third year in a row whilst Railey’s ever improving compatriot, Erika Reineke, will be aiming to move up from her ninth place at the 2014 regatta.
The Men’s RS:X is set to be an exceptional competition with the leading racers making the trip to Miami.
In amongst a sea of experienced competitors is a young Frenchman who is mixing it up at the top. Louis Giard (FRA) picked up gold at the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi and heads to Miami fully fired up with confidence sky high, “That put me in a good place and gave me a lot of motivation for 2015, ” said Giard. “It was my first win in the senior fleet and it helped me a lot to look forward and to try to do the same in upcoming events.”
Giard put in a performance worthy of a champion in Abu Dhabi but knows he still has a lot to prove, “It would be good for me to show that Abu Dhabi was not a surprise. My goal is just to do the best I can. I have never been in Miami so it will be a bit new for me but it was the same in Abu Dhabi. A podium could be a good start for 2015 but my training is not at the top at the moment but I will try to do the best start for 2015.”
Like Buckingham in the Laser, Giard has an eye on his Olympic trials and just like the American he wants to put a good show on in Miami, “I’m expecting tough competition, as usual. Everybody wants to win and once again it will be the first event of the year for everybody. Miami is the best way to prepare for the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyères which will be the first step of the Rio trials.”
Giard’s compatriots Pierre Le Coq and Thomas Goyard will join him in Miami. As will World #1 Byron Kokkalanis (GRE), World #2 Ricardo Santos (BRA) and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED).
Miami will also see a high level Women’s RS:X fleet take to the water. Bryony Shaw (GBR) started 2014 by taking the Miami title and wrapped the year up by claiming the Women’s RS:X ISAF Sailing World Cup Final title in Abu Dhabi. She will be gunning for another great start to her year in Miami.
Joining the Briton in the fleet will be World #1 Flavia Tartaglini (ITA), World #3 Laura Linares (ITA) and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Marina Alabau (ESP).
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final Abu Dhabi gold medallists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) will sail in a highly competitive fleet that features 2014 World Champions and 2014 ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA).
The Kiwis will be competing in a single fleet of 40 teams and will have to be on top form, ensuring mistakes are at a minimum, “It is exciting to have a smaller fleet here in Miami, ” commented Meech, “as it will let us sail against the top girls the whole regatta rather than just through the final days. It will make the racing more exciting overall.
Maloney and Meech touched down in Miami early last week to compete at the 49erFX Midwinters where they finished three points off Grael and Kunze and Meech has liked what she’s seen, “So far Miami has given us good conditions. We were coming over here expecting light winds the whole time, but it looks like we are going to get a mixture which will be nice.”
World #2 Ida Marie Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) will be within the Miami fleet, as will World #3 Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) and World #4 Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich (ITA).
The 49er will also throw out some exciting competition with strong British, Canadian, Spanish, French, Italian and American teams in the mix. Other contenders include ISAF Sailing World Cup Final gold medallists Lukasz Przybytek and Pawel Kolodzinski (POL), Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL), Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) and returning champions Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen (DEN).
Racing commences on Monday 26 January through to Saturday 31 January. Competitors in the Paralympic events will have five days of fleet racing from Monday 26 to Friday 30. Medal Races across the ten OIympic events will bring the regatta to a close on Saturday 31 where medals will be awarded to the top three boats.