630 of the finest
"This is the third largest fleet we've had in the event's 21-year history," said Event Co-Organizer Gary Bodie. "Usually our bigger years are right before the Games; right now we're a full two years out. It speaks to the commitment sailors must make to their campaigns throughout an entire four-year quadrennium."
Erik Storck and Trevor Moore, the top 49er team on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, epitomise Bodie's contention. They are looking forward to getting back on the water after finishing fourth in the 49er North American Championship last week and 24th at the 49er World Championship in the Bahamas two weeks ago. In the past six months, they have shown marked improvement, progressing from silver-fleet status to earning their place among the best in the world in gold fleets (at competitions where the class is so large it must be split into several groups). At the 49er Worlds, they saw stiff competition and long races, and they learned valuable lessons they plan to put to use this week.
"We need to make sure we take advantage of our upwind speed and knowledge of our home venue as we move forward," said Moore. "We made some mistakes at the Worlds, and we'll try to improve on those and hopefully come away with making the top 10 and competing in the medal race."
In the largest class, the Lasers with 104 boats, American sailors will have the most at stake, since it is this event that will qualify two of them for the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. From coaching/training to shipping to funding, valuable extra support is the incentive for making the USA's national team. (The Women's RS:X competition here will also qualify two U.S. sailors for the team.)
Many from the recently named US Sailing Development Team are competing here and turned out en masse for training camps this week led by High Performance Director Kenneth Andreasen. These US Sailing Development Team members are 'on the radar' as having made commitments to launching Olympic campaigns in the future, and they went head-to-head this week with such established sailing stars as 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Paige Railey, who has already found her spot on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics in the Laser Radial class. She will sail in the Rolex Miami OCR against such standouts as Sari Multala (FIN), who won the 2009 Laser Radial World Championship, Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Sophie de Turckheim (FRA).
According to Rick Peters, the 2009 Star World Champion with George Szabo: "Miami is a sailing mecca. I always tell people if they want to sail, they should come to Rolex Miami OCR, because you'll learn more here in a week of sailing than you will anywhere else." The duo arrived yesterday from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they competed at the 2010 Worlds. "Everyone comes here to Miami to train because it's warm, it's fun and the competition is the best in the world."
The Star class will be missing some of its Star power because of the timing of the Worlds, but there will still be plenty of tough competition among the 24 teams. Among the ones to watch are Norway's Elvind Melleby and crew Petter Morland Pedersen, who also competed in the Worlds and finished eighth. Morland Pedersen says it's because his team has two boats that he and Melleby were able to put the Rolex Miami OCR in their lineup. "There are some good boats here, and we came to Miami to see where we were going and what we have missed," he explained, adding that he has not sailed with Melleby for two years while Melleby sailed the Volvo Ocean Race aboard Ericsson 3.
The Rolex Miami OCR hosts the same 10 Olympic and three Paralympic classes chosen for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Competitions. At the same time, it closely replicates the format and feel of what sailors can expect at those regattas. The classes are: Laser Radial (women), Laser (men), Finn (men), Men's RS:X, Women's RS:X, 49er (men), Men's 470, Women's 470, Star (men) and Elliott 6m (women), 2.4mR (open, able and disabled), SKUD18 (mixed, disabled) and Sonar (open, disabled).