In its 20th year, the event also is the only ranking regatta for American sailors hoping to make the 2009 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. The competition consists of fleet and match racing through Friday, with Paralympic class medalists determined that day and Olympic class medalists determined after the top ten proceed to a sail-off on Saturday, replicating the Olympic format. With 41 countries registered, the USA has the largest contingent of sailors with 173, followed by Canada (80), Great Britain (29), Italy (14), Spain (13) and Denmark (11).
“This is a good time and place in the quadrennium to get young teams jumpstarted,” said US Sailing AlphaGraphics Team coach Luther Carpenter, who is working primarily with Laser Radial and 49er teams aspiring to make the 2009 US Sailing Team Alphagraphics. He joins almost 80 national and private coaches who are on hand to pass on well-documented knowledge for getting sailors up-to-speed as quickly as possible. “It’s a big misconception that a coach just tells a sailor which way to go. It’s so far from that; it’s more about education, how to go fast and teaching the ‘process’ of becoming a medalist. The average age of our Olympic team went down last quad, and we’re excited about that. Across the board, we have younger sailors here: they are talented and they are getting in the game early.”
One of those promising to shine here is Sarah Lihan (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), just named to the newly launched US Sailing Team - U23 (Under 23). The 20-year-old Laser Radial sailor said her 42-boat fleet (the second largest behind Laser, with 66 boats) is not quite as international as she had expected “but it’s strong nevertheless.” And she marked as among the teams to watch those from Mexico, The Netherlands and Canada. Though college (she sails for Yale) prevents her from fully participating in the ISAF World Cup, she feels that the inaugural series will give more meaning to the ISAF World Rankings, “and it’s something to work for in the end.”
Canadians Genevia Bougio-Bastin (Quebec) and Joanne Prokop (Ontario) also have ties to their country’s provincial teams, with Prokop coming up through the youth ranks to become a member of the RCYC’s (Royal Canadian Yacht Club) high performance team that feeds to the Ontario Sailing Team. For Bougie-Bastin, who trains with Prokop, this is her third time to compete here and she is gunning for the Quebec Sailing Team. Says Prokop,”My goal is to finish in the top half and beat Anna Tunnicliffe and Paige Railey in a race!” Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), the USA’s Laser Radial gold medalist at the last Olympics and the current US SAILING Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, and Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), a Laser Radial world champion and ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year, have dominated this event in the past.
The Star class is showing great depth, with the likes of sailors like Brazil’s Bruno Prada, who is crewing for local sailor and world champion Augie Diaz (Miami). Prada crewed for two-time ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year Robert Scheidt at the last Olympics to win a silver medal. He is sailing with Diaz while Scheidt is “off on other sailing ventures,” in order to “stay in shape” for their 2012 Olympic campaign and the goal of becoming 2009 Star World champions. “Our goal in 2006 was to be first in the world rankings; in 2007, to be the world champions; and in 2008 to medal at the Olympics, and we have done all of that,” said Prada.
US contenders include Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif.), also sailing with a Star class “star”: crew Brad Nichol (Miami, Fla.). Campbell only recently switched to the Star after having represented the USA in the Laser class at the 2008 Olympics. When asked if he is launching a Star campaign for 2012, he said, “Well, here we are trying this, but campaign is a big word.” Nichols said their expectations for this regatta in particular are low considering it’s their second day on the boat together…and Campbell’s second day ever on a Star.
Finn sailor Bryan Boyd (Annapolis, Md.) is back on the Olympic campaign trail after admittedly retreating to “weekend warrior” status in the years that have passed since his 2004 campaign. “For me, it’s the start of the quad; time to get out of the garage and dust off,” said Boyd. “My goal is to make the U.S. team and start my full schedule.” He will be closely watching Rafael Trujillo (Spain), who has been in the boat for 15 years and “has a silver medal in his pocket from Athens.” He added that Chris Cook (CAN) is another that will be on his heels. “He is a crafty guy - claims he’s not doing another campaign, but I can see it in his eyes.”
The 10 Olympic classes competing at US SAILING’s 2009 Rolex Miami OCR are: Laser Radial, Laser, Finn, Men’s RS:X, Women’s RS:X, 49er, Men’s 470, Women’s 470, Star, and the SB3 Laser (replacing the Elliott 6m only at this regatta, for the new women’s match racing discipline). The three Paralympic classes are: 2.4mR, SKUD-18 and Sonar.
Cumulative points tallied from the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup 2008-2009 will determine World Cup champions in each of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic classes. The series started with Sail Melbourne (Australia) last December and rounds out with the Trofeo SAR Princess Sofia (Palma, Spain) and Semaine Olympique Française (Hyères, France) in April; Delta Lloyd Regatta (Medemblik, The Netherlands) in May; Kieler Woche (Kiel, Germany) in June; and Skandia Sail for Gold (Weymouth, Great Britain) in September.