Strong start for Skandia Team GBR

As Rolex Miami OCR sets sail

Monday January 24th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

There was plenty of action on opening day of US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR, with all 13 Olympic and Paralympic classes completing multiple races in 12-14 knot breezes. On seven different courses on Biscayne Bay, 716 sailors from 53 countries worked as if there were no tomorrow to get to the top of the scoreboard, but tomorrow, as well as the following four days of racing (through Friday for Paralympic classes and Saturday for Olympic classes) will determine if early leaders are meant to be champions in the end.

In the 104-boat Laser class, the largest here, Canadian Michael Leigh made an early deposit, winning the first of two races today in Blue fleet, then finishing sixth in race two to wind up fifth overall when scores were merged with the class’s Yellow fleet.

“I’ll be in the hunt,” Leigh said, explaining that the class is so large it must be split into two fleets, which also splits some of the top players from each other, but reunites them each day in a new mix. In today’s Yellow fleet, the USA's Clay Johnson finished 2-1 to secure his spot at the top of the overall leader board and regatta favorite Skandia Team GBR's Paul Goodison, the reigning Olympic Gold medallist and current leader in the world rankings, finished 1-2 to take the second place slot. Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray, who also won one race today, and Croatia’s Ivan Taritas are in third and fourth, respectively.

“The phases were quite long (for shifts to come back) and the pressure was up and down,” Leigh explained about the conditions, adding that he is nursing a bad back. “I haven’t raced since the Worlds in September, so I’m here to get back in phase. I’m not targeting any one person to beat; there are 10 good guys in each fleet who could win, so that’s a few too many to watch.”

In Finn class, with 40 boats, USSTAG member and 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist Zach Railey battled it out with two Brits, Giles Scott and Ben Ainslie. Scott won both races to top the scoreboard while Railey secured second overall with a 2-3. Ainslie finished third with a 5-2.

Scott, who claimed bronze here last year, claimed both races by a sizeable margin. “I’m really pleased with that – you can’t do any better than a 1,1 so it was a great start,” said the 23-year-old. “The races went well – Ben managed to pick out a pretty special port flyer in the first race which was good to see, if a bit annoying! I think I rounded both races in third at the top mark and managed to pull through downwind. It wasn’t really typical Miami conditions I didn’t think. We came here thinking it was going to be nice and light and the forecast I’ve seen shows that it looks like it’ll be quite windy over the next few days.”

“I’d love to get a win here, really. I’ve set myself a target of trying to prove this year that I’m capable of winning Olympic gold and to do that I feel I have to try and win everything I do, so I suppose that’s the aim for this week.”

Zach Railey added: “It’s only the first two races, so you can’t read too much into it. Certainly Giles and Ben are going really fast, but I feel pretty confident in my boat speed. I had a big confidence booster in the second race, when I was in 12th at the first mark and had a good comeback for the third. Trying to stay top-five is always what you’re looking to do--trying to stay consistent at the beginning of a regatta--and I had two of those races here today.

“It is a great test for me to be out on the racecourse and sail against the Brits, the Slovenians and the Swedish sailors. It’s great to see the improvements that we’ve made this winter in our training and identify the areas where we need to improve before the European season this year.”

Consistency showed in the scoreline of Belgium's Evi Van Acker when she topped the 58-boat Laser Radial fleet with finish scores of 2-2 today. USSTAG member Paige Railey won the opener, while eventual second-place overall finisher and World Champion Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands won the second race, but it was Switzerland's Nathalie Brugger who filled the third-place slot when Railey and six others were black-flagged at the start of the second race and suffered extra points because of it.

“I am very happy, since last year I had a shocker regatta here - nothing seemed to go right,” said Van Acker, an Olympian and the 2006 and 2007 Laser Radial European Champion. “I made a couple of small mistakes today, but twice I had good starts and I hit the left corner twice to get out front. Downwind was difficult, as it was quite gusty and the fleet was spread out. At this point in the regatta, I try to be in front, and whoever is around I try to control them or catch up from behind. I won’t be concentrating on individuals until later in the regatta or during the medal races (Saturday).”

Elsewhere in Star class, Brazil's Robert Scheidt and crew Bruno Prada had a pay day with a 1-2 to lead 58 boats.

In the 49ers, where 30 boats are racing, three races were completed today. Skandia Team GBR's Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith lead after posting a 1-3-2.

In the Men’s and Women's RS:X, Spain's Marina Alabau won both races today to top her 31-boat fleet, while Skandia Team GBR's Nick Dempsey posted two seconds today, to top the 37 strong competitors among the Men.

In the Men’s and Women's 470 it was France's Ingrid Petijean and Nadege Douroux who lead the 24 boat fleet after two races and finish scores of 1-2, while more British sailors - former World Champions Nic Asher/Elliot Willis - top the 42 boat Men's class with a 1-3 while team mates Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell are just behind in second.

The women’s match racing in the Elliott 6m has 24 teams competing, divided into three groups: A, B and C. Three flights of round robin matches were completed today in all three groups, and in all three there were two teams that went undefeated.

In Group A, Nicky Souter/Jessica Eastwell/Olivia Price (AUS) and Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS) are tied with 3 wins, 0 losses.

Group B’s undefeated teams are Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS) and Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen/Christina Refn/Susanne Boidin (DEN)

And in Group C, the two undefeated teams are Lucy Macgregor/Mary Rook/ Kate Macgregor (GBR) and Anna Tunnicliffe(/Molly Vandemoer/Debbie Capozzi (USA)

The Macgregor sisters, sailing with Mary Rook, who is standing in for Annie Lush who is recovering from a pre-race accident, picked up penalties in two of their three races, but held their nerve to beat Canadian Katie Abbott, American Rebecca Dellenbaugh and New Zealand’s Stephanie Hazard.

“We made it pretty hard for ourselves today, picking up two penalties through some silly mistakes so that made for some pretty tight, pressured racing,” explained Macgregor. “The good thing was that we got rid of those penalties and came out the right side so are unbeaten heading in to the better end of the group tomorrow.”

Rook was called up to join the Macgregor sisters after Annie Lush was injured falling 10ft from the Elliot 6m boat earlier in the week. “It was a pretty big shock, but Annie was taken to hospital and checked out pretty quickly. She flew home yesterday and was looking and feeling so much better already,” said Macgregor. “It’s good to know that she’s back home now, safe and well, so that helps us all focus on what we need to do – Annie on resting and recovering and the rest of us on our regatta. She’s being checked over again this week, and nothing is broken so hopefully after a couple of weeks rest and recuperation she’ll be feeling well enough to start training again, but we’re not going to rush it.”

“We’re lucky to have got Mary out here, and in some ways I think it will be good for myself and Kate to do an event without Annie, although obviously we’d rather she was here with us! You can always pick up points from sailing with different people. It takes a bit of getting used to having someone new in the boat, having spent so much time in the Elliot with the three of us so we have to think a little bit differently about things and work on our communication but our boat handling is pretty strong.”

In the three Paralympic classes, Thierry Schmitter (NED) won both races today to lead the 30 boat 2.4mR class, while Australia's Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch won both races today in the SKUD-18: to claim first overall in the seven-boat fleet. 12 Sonars are also racing where the Netherlands' Udo Hessels/Mischa Rossen/Marcel van de Veen lead after posting a 2-1 today.

Full results here

Images from Daniel Forster/Rolex. Click on images to enlarge


 And from Ingrid Abery/ 


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