Star sailors turn out for US$200,000 purse
This brand new invitational event has gathered an incredible list of champions, featuring 18 teams from 13 countries including: 12 Olympic medallists (from a total amount of 81) World Champions in Olympic Classes, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race crew and skippers.
It is the first time that most of these Star legends, selected from the SSL Ranking List, will face each other since the London 2012 Olympics or before, but it's also the debut in this boat for three promising sailors that are coming from the Finn and Laser Standard classes. In addition, it is Robert Scheidt's first regatta since clinching his tenth Laser World Championship in Oman.
The final entry list is:
Xavier Rohart (FRA) with Pierre-Alexis Ponsot (FRA)
Robert Scheidt (BRA) with Bruno Prada (BRA)
Eivind Melleby (NOR) with Mark Strube (USA)
Michael Hestbaek (DEN) with Claus Olesen (DEN)
Flavio and Renato Marazzi (SUI)
Johannes Polgar (GER) with Markus Koy (GER)
Robert Stanjek (GER) with Frithjof Kleen (GER)
Mark Mendelblatt (USA) with Brian Fatih (USA)
Augie Diaz (USA) with John von Schwarz (USA)
Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL) with Dominik Zycki (POL)
George Szabo (USA) with Craig Moss (USA)
Diego Negri (ITA) with Sergio Lambertenghi (ITA).
These sailors are the top-seeded in the SSL Ranking List while Tomas Hornos (USA) with Joshua Revkin (USA) concludes the list as the most promising young skipper.
Guest sailors are:
Paul Cayard (USA) with Austin Sperry (USA)
French Finn Bronze Medal in London 2012 Jonathan Lobert (FRA) with Pascal Rambeau (FRA)
Finn silver medalist at the World Championship, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) with Edoardo Natucci (ITA)
Up-and-coming Laser Standard sailor Andy Maloney (NZL) with Tyler Bjorn (CAN).
British interests are being represented by Ed Wright. His crew will be Petter Mørland Pedersen from Norway, unable to sail with his usual skipper Melleby. Wright is a former Olympic Laser and Finn sailor, who won the Finn Gold Cup in 2010 and has been runner up for the last two years. In recognition of his outstanding performances in 2010, Wright was nominated for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor Award, followed by receiving The British Olympic Association's Athlete of the Year Award.
Despite his experience in other Olympic classes, Wright is a newcomer to the Star, but expresses huge enthusiasm for this upcoming event: "It's a great idea. I wish all the other Olympic classes would do the same. I really love it because there are so many legends in the sport and the Star brings them together in the League." And even if Wright has no experience with this boat, he doesn't renounce to be amongst the best: "Since it's a competition, I want to win it, so let's see how it goes".
His crew, Petter Mørland Pedersen, from Oslo, Norway, has been sailing competitively since 2006, mainly in the Star Class. His achievements include 4th place in the 2012 London Olympic games, two bronze medals in the Star European Championship, ranked 1st on the ISAF World Ranking (Star) in the Olympic year 2012, overall ISAF World Cup Winner in 2010, including several individual wins and numerous National titles, most in Match Racing (as skipper), and several other medals from various classes.
Pedersen commented: "I think it's a superb initiative to still keep good pace in a beautiful class like the Star. Even though it is 'slow' and 'boring' it still attracts the best sailors, which shows what an interesting and challenging boat it is to sail. Since both Eivind Melleby and I have lost a lot of weight since the Games, we will unfortunately not sail together here in Nassau. I am very glad to have the opportunity to team up with Ed who is a brilliant sailor. He is also a first timer in the Star, so if we get the technical part sorted out during our few days of training, I do believe we can be an underdog. It has been shown before that new sailors in the class can do well right away, before they start digging deep into the mystery of Star tuning. We will be provided with a boat and sails, so my goal is to set up the boat as perfectly as possible: let me handle the boat, and have Ed focusing on what's happening on the water. Our advantage can be our fresh eyes back in the boat not trying to remember all tuning notes from the games."
Racing starts on Wednesday with three days of qualification races. A maximum of four races per day are scheduled with a limit of nine for the first three days. The top ten boats of the qualification round will then battle it out on Saturday under an innovative format. After a first race with all ten finalists, the top seven will advance to second race the top four from whom will then sail a winner-takes-all race. The boat to cross the finish line first will be crowned champion of the inaugural Star Sailors League final.
Paul Hutton-Ashkenny, Regatta Chairman and Past Commodore, Nassau Yacht Club expressed his excitement in seeing his yacht club playing host to the inaugural Star Sailors League Finals: "Our mission at the Nassau Yacht Club is to showcase what we believe to be the best sailing waters in the world with highly professional race management and legendary Bahamian hospitality. The Club and its members are delighted to be doing just that in hosting the highly prestigious Star Sailors League Finals, with so many of the best sailors in the world competing.
"Sailing in The Bahamas is addictive, and we are thrilled to be welcoming back to the Bahamas many sailors who have competed here in past regattas. We are equally pleased to extend a special welcome to those who are sailing here for the first time, safe in the knowledge that we are sure to be also welcoming them back to The Bahamas in years to come.
"The race course to the eastern end of New Providence island offers truly exciting conditions. Consistent sailing breezes, in waters that need no local knowledge, offer an exhilarating ride that provide a challenging and fair test to all skippers and crews. It's an experience that always leaves competitors wanting more".
3D streaming with commentary
Each day's action will be streamed live on the SSL website and on the SSL Youtube Channel. It will be broadcasted live full 3D Virtual Eye, tracking every boat's position, speed, course, laylines and distances. Plus, interviews with the sailors and some insight into the technical aspects of sailing a Star well. Full commentary from onshore and on the water will describe the action.
Virtual Regatta (www.virtualregatta.com) is proud and happy to invite its community of more than one million players to the first edition of the Star Sailors League Finals with Virtual Regatta INSHORE, the real-time race simulator. For the first time ever, thousands of players can take the helm of a Virtual Star boat, specially-created for this event, in order to pick the best of them. The winner will earn a prize of $1,000. More than 40,000 races have already been played in five days and this is just the beginning since, as always, the best comes last.
The culmination of the Star Sailors League lively competition is the huge US$ 200.000 prize money purse that will be distributed on the last day to all the teams according to their final classification.
Images from Carlo Borlenghi/www.borlenghi.com