Strong start for Weguelin and McIntyre
Little to no breeze created mirror-like conditions on the calm waters of Biscayne Bay for the opening day of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. This was less than ideal for the 580 sailors representing 50 countries, who were ready to start of this six-day international regatta.
Racing was postponed at approximately 9:00 local time due to insufficient wind. At around 12:00, the fleets started launching from their respective venue sites in an attempt to get in as much racing as possible, despite the still conditions. Fortunately conditions picked up in the afternoon and all fleets were able to complete races in a consistent light breeze with wind speeds ranged from 4 to 8 knots holding for most of the afternoon.
The Men's 470 is stacked with a strong fleet of world ranked teams, including #1 ranked Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS), who are looking to extend their unbeaten streak as a team to 11 this week. Belcher has won his last 18 consecutive 470 regattas.
The 2013 World Champions also won gold at the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. They posted a 3-9 on the opening day and lie currently fourth out of 30 teams.
The day belonged to 2013 World Championship silver medallists Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion. The French team won both races although they were challenged by defending champions Americans Stu McNay and David Hughes, who placed second in both races. World #3 Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO), who placed second at both ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao and Melbourne hold third.
"Our goal this year is Santander [ISAF Worlds],” said Fantela. "We got off to an early start this year by racing in Qingdao, Melbourne, and now Miami. The competition here is quite high. Only a few from the top 20 are not racing this week. We are used to the light winds from the recent North American Championships and knew what the wind was going to do. We had to play with the shifts all the time and focus on boat speed because if you lose only a half meter, somebody will catch you on the starboard tack.”
Fantela also commented on going up against Belcher and Ryan again this week. "Certainly, it would be nice to beat those guys. They have had so much success and we are good friends outside the course. As a sportsman, I'd like to beat them this week.”
Britain's Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield are fifth with a 12,4 for their opening day’s efforts.
The small, but talented, Women's 470 fleet kicked-off the racing. Three of the World's top five crews are battling it out on the Bay this week in the 10-boat fleet.
Great Britain's ISAF ranked #3 Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre used the light wind to their advantage. They won race one and followed up with a third.
"We are trying to work on our downwind boat speed, as well as our decision making and communication around the race course this week,” explained Weguelin. "Sailing in a smaller fleet has its pros and cons. We've been down here racing for the past couple weeks at North Americans and we trained down here as well.” The duo placed third out of ten teams last week here in Miami at the North American Championship.
World #1 Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) won race two after slipping to seventh in race one.
With the discard coming into play immediately at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) discarded their opening 25th to count a third and a second, giving them an early Nacra 17 lead.
Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) were the most consistent on the race track and while they posted a 5-1-5, they sit third overall behind the Austrians Federica Salva and Francesco Bianchi in second.
Saxton and Diamond have only finished out of the top four in two out of nine Nacra 17 regattas they've sailed in and proved their worth once again recording a consistent scoreline. Saxton explained: "Racing was good. We had better breeze than anticipated, sea breeze conditions that were probably five or six knots but fairly stable in direction so three good races. A light sea breeze came in so it was really stable racing with a bit of a gain feature left so essentially it came down to holding your lane off the start.
“We had great pace as well so we managed to pull off a third in the first race, which was a great start. We won the second race, which was awesome, we got the lead and then went away.”
At the midway point of the final race the Brits had fallen to 12th, but managed to find good pace on the final run to move up seven places. Saxton recounted: "In the last race we managed to come back to about a sixth or something – that was almost the race we were most happy with, because that was a great recovery."
With those around them counting double digit scores Saxton and Diamond have room for optimism but know there's plenty of work left to do,: "“We seem to be doing quite well. It will be interesting for the second half of the week when it gets windier to see if we’re on the pace there too, but we’re confident. The aim for the rest of the week is to try and put the stuff we've been learning over winter into racing and hopefully get a good result but this is still the learning curve.”
London 2012 Olympian Lucy Macgregor and her new crew Andrew Walsh are making their World Cup debut this week, and saw a promising start to their series, winning the opening race of the regatta, but with a ninth and seventh place to follow, having led part of the third race, Macgregor was left frustrated with what might have been.
“We had a bit of a frustrating day really, it could’ve been a glamour day," she said. "We started the day off well with a first – a few things we were doing really, really well and then there were a couple of areas we really need to work on. We’re both coming off the water a little bit frustrated, knowing it was a good day, but with so many areas we can just make big gains in.”
Walsh, 31, has extensive catamaran sailing experience, having campaigned in the Tornado, and most recently in the Extreme 40 series. He’s enjoying his return to the Olympic classes: “I think the Nacras are great boats. They’ve got a few teething problems that I think the builders are probably trying to get sorted at the moment, but for a spectacular boat to watch at the Olympics I think it’s going to be really exciting.
“When the breeze is up they’re jumping out of the water and are a real handful for the teams to sail which will be really entertaining I think. Even in the light winds we’re fast and colourful boats so it should be a really exciting Olympic class.”
Macgregor said of her new teammate: “Having Walshy on board is awesome. He brings a huge amount of experience of catamaran sailing but also with fleet racing. In particular he’s been doing a lot of the Extreme 40 sailing recently and as we all know our racing is getting shorter, closer, so those skills are really, really valuable to this campaign.”
Finland's Noora Ruskola and Camilla Cedercreutz almost had a dream day in the 49erFX. The pair took the first bullet of the day and picked up a third in the last but they were unknowingly OCS in the second race as they stormed through to what they believed was another race victory.
"The second race we thought we had won,” commented Ruskola, "But we were over the line at the start. It's really annoying because the first place would have been really good.”
Despite their OCS, the Finnish team lead on four points as the discard kicks in early, however they won't be easing up for the remainder of the week. "We are just going to sail normally because otherwise you will just end up behind the boats and won't get speed in the start and that's no good.
"We're looking to learn this week but we're still aiming for high results and we hope we're going to do really good but this is our first World Cup.”
Last year's winner here, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA), sit in second, a point off the leaders, but discard an eighth.
The 49er fleet got off to a late start on Biscayne Bay and consistency was extremely hard to come by for all the competitors.
Stelios Sotiriou and Alfonso Panagiotis (GRE) led the opening race from the off and at the first mark had opened up an eight second lead. Able to get clean air the Greeks extended their lead as the race played out and hit the finishing line 20 seconds clear of James Peters and Ed Fitzgerald (GBR) in second.
With the light breeze making the challenge difficult for the fleet, the Greeks couldn't capitalise on their bright start and finished race 2 in 25th as Austria's Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl took the bullet.
With the discard already in play the Greek and Austrian teams hold the lead.
Britain's James Peters and Ed Fitzgerald are fourth after two races in the 49er fleet, with the new pairings of Stevie Morrison-Chris Grube and John Pink-Stuart Bithell in seventh and tenth respectively.
The heavyweights in the Finn class also tallied a pair of races. Australia's Oliver Tweddell is the early leader after placing second and first, respectively. He has captured silver medals in Melbourne in each of the last two years.
Giles Scott, racing in his first World Cup since returning from America’s Cup duty, had an inauspicious start to his event, having been called OCS in the first race, but later had the penalty overturned when the race committee were deemed to have made a procedural error.
Defending champion Paige Railey (USA) cruised to an early lead in the 51-boat Laser Radial class. She placed second and first to take gain the early advantage. Railey garnered bronze medal honors at the 2013 Laser Radial World Championships in Rizhao, China.
Australia's success continued in the Laser fleet for World #1 Tom Burton, who won both races. Burton is coming off a gold medal at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. The Lasers have this week's largest fleet with 91 competitors.
Britain's Nick Thompson posted a steady 2,6 in the Laser fleet to sit him in seventh place at the end of day one.
Perfect days are few and far between for many sailors, but Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) managed to have one of those days taking both of the Men's RS:X bullets.
Kokkalanis put 30 seconds between himself and the chasing pack as he comfortably took both race victories.
Cyprus' Andrea Cariolou and Japan's Makoto Tomizawa sit in second and third with plenty more racing to go.
World #1 Bryony Shaw (GBR) showed the chasing pack how it's done in the Women's RS:X by notching up a bullet and a second after two races.
Shaw is followed by Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) in second and Patricia Freitas (BRA) in third.
Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell got their week off to the perfect start with double bullets in the SKUD18. Canada's John McRoberts and Jackie Gay follow with Ryan Porteous and Cindy Walker (USA) in third.
In the Sonar, Rick Doerr, Hugh Freund and Tim Angle (USA) mirrored the British SKUD18 duos performance with a couple of race wins to lead the eight boat fleet.
Canada's Allan Leibel leads the 2.4mR closely followed by Norway's Bjornar Erikstad and Great Britain's Megan Pascoe.
Racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gets underway on Monday 27 January, with medal races for the Olympic classes scheduled for Saturday 1 February.
Photos below from Richard Langdon/www.oceanimages.co.uk