Fisher beaten in Barcelona showdown

Marcus Hutchinson reports on the J/24 action post ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year awards

Thursday November 13th 2003, Author: Marcus Hutchinson, Location: none selected
20 sailors split into four groups of five to make up the crew of four J/24s in Barcelona today. But this was not just any group of sailors, this was a mixture of media mixed in with past winners and more recent nominees for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year awards.

The occasion was the morning after the night of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Gala Dinner held at the Hotel Fira Palace in Barcelona. Moderated by Paul Cayard, the 2003 Awards saw Russell Coutts of Switzerland and Siren Sundby of Norway crowned respectively Male and Female ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year for 2003.

The 10th year of the ISAF Rolex sailing awards called for something special and among the group of guests at the dinner last night were many former winners along with 18 of the 28 nominees for the two awards presented this year.

Having all this talent around in a city such as Barcelona with its significant sailing heritage was a perfect excuse to organise a small exhibition regatta. The Catalan Sailing Federation with the support of the Centre Municipal de Vela, both based in Barcelona¹s magnificent Port Olimpic, stepped up to the challenge and the group of sailing stars found themselves spread across four groups to make the core crew of four J/24s. The remaining positions were made up with media representatives, for once having a chance to see how the stars sail and share in the action on board.

By noon on Thursday a light 5 knot Southerly had filled in, more than sufficient wind with which to set a short windward-leeward course. The four boats duly lined up and set off upwind at the start gun. Out at the leeward end of the line Carolyn Brouwer started at speed and picked up some stronger breeze on the left to round the first mark with a small lead over Malin Millbourn. But, on the run Paul Cayard's tactics guided Millbourn around the past champion to take the lead and finish first.

The result of the first race sorted the four boats into two pairs for a match race final. With slightly more breeze blowing the pre-start for the finals pitched the current Woman's Match Race World Champion skipper Malin Millbourn, ex- Star World Champion, Whitbread winner and America's Cup veteran Paul Cayard, yachting journalist Bob Fisher, Italian 470 sailors Gabrio Zandona and Andreas Trani against current Star World champion crew Pascal Rambeau, Women's Match Race World Champion team member Kim Kulstad, 1998 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Carolijn Brouwer, sailor/journalist Helena de la Gandara and yachting journalist José Bonet. With Brouwer again at the helm the runner-up in the fleet race managed to get the better start to leeward and ahead, enough to sail away to a comfortable lead at the top mark and all the way to the finish.

"We beat the Match Racing World Champions, but then I realised that we had a member of their squad on our crew too. In fact there was one on every boat. This was a really fun operation, sailing with all of those different people," commented Carolyn Brouwer 1998 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year.

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