In the lightest breezes yet over six days of sailing on Biscayne Bay, ten Olympic classes racing in US Sailing's Rolex Miami OCR still managed to put on quite a show as they competed in their final medal races to determine gold, silver and bronze winners.
In Star class, Brazil's two-time Olympic medalists and that country's most successful and celebrated sailors, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada, won the gold after finishing third in today's medal race. "When you go into the medal race, many guys can win," said Scheidt. "You cannot focus only on one guy, so our strategy was to try to make a clean start, especially with speed, because the wind was very light; that was more important than getting to the favored end."
Sneaking into the top-three overall, where they had not been all week, was France's Xavier Rohart/Pierre Alexis Ponso, who finished second today. The performance secured them the silver medal with just the edge they needed over the bronze medalists Eivind Melleby/ Petter Moerland Pedersen (NOR), who finished sixth today and also had been in third at racing's end yesterday. Losing what seemed to be a sure podium position going into today was Fredrik Loof/Max Salminen's (SWE), who finished eighth in the medal race and fell to fourth overall from second yesterday, only one point out of medal reach.
"The wind made a big shift to the left on the first beat," said Scheidt, "but we weren't there. We were trying to cover the Swedish, and then we were able to tack on them two times and bounce them to the right. Then the left paid big, and we managed to round sixth at the top mark. From then on our race was a little more comfortable, but we were still afraid of the French who were doing really well. We climbed to fourth, and they were in third; in the end, we nailed a third and the French got second."
Scheidt added that all of the top four teams plus more here will be competing at the Olympics, "and they will be stronger, so I think it was very nice for us to win the first regatta of the year. It gives us confidence but we know we have a long way to go until Weymouth."
For Paul Goodison (GBR) and Bruno Fontes (BRA), it was all equal (point scores of 20 each) going into the Laser race today, so it was literally who-beat-whom that would determine gold.
"I decided to engage a little before the start but nothing too much," said Goodison, the 2008 Laser Olympic Gold Medalist and 2009 World Champion, who finished second to Fontes's fifth. "I won the right hand side of my competition and just pulled away from there. Once I was in front, it was just about extending the lead." With Fontes not able to sail away with anything less than a silver medal, it was David Wright's (CAN) focus to win the bronze, which he did by finishing fourth.
"All week the racing has been glamour--really good breeze, but today was quite tricky with it being much lighter and quite patchy," said Goodison. " Out of the first six races I won four of them, so I was really happy with that, and then going into the gold fleet (mid-week ), it was all about consolidating that lead."
Favored going into today's 49er race, Nico Karth/Nikolaus Resch (AUT) finished second to secure the gold, while Erik Storck/Trevor Moore (USA) won the race to maintain their second-place position from yesterday and take home silver.
"This week has been perfect for us," said Karth, who with Resch is a two-time Olympian and has qualified his country for the Olympics but has yet to be named to the Olympic Team. "We were struggling in the first few races, but by the end of the week we made it hard for them (Storck/Moore) to catch up." (The Austrians had a 19-point lead going into the medal race.) Winning the bronze was Lauri Lehtinen/Kalle Bask (FIN), who had been in third overall yesterday.
Lijia Xu, China's Laser Radial Olympic Bronze Medalist from 2008 and a 2006 World Champion, won the gold here after finishing eighth today to Marit Bouwmeester's (NED) ninth, which was good for silver.
"It was very competitive," said Xu, who positioned herself as close as possible to Bouwmeester today in order to control her. "We have the medalists from the 2011 World Championships in Perth and many other good sailors from all around the world." The Perth champions are Bouwmeester, Belgium's Evi Van Acker, and the USA's Paige Railey, and while Van Acker finished fourth today to take the bronze medal, Railey won the race. "Weymouth (where the Olympic Sailing Regatta will take place) could be light to medium breeze, so it is good practice," added Xu.
In 470 Men's, Australia's Mathew Belcher/Malcolm Page held the lead the entire week, and in today's medal race finished tenth to clinch the gold. Ahead of them in eighth place were Sven Coster/Kalle Coster (NED), who took the silver, with fourth-place finishers Panagoitis Kampouridis/Efstathios (GRE) taking the bronze.
To secure the gold in 470 Women's, Lisa Westerhof/Lobke Berkhout (NED), who are two-time World Champions and heading to the Olympic Games, had to make top-six in today's medal race and ended up taking third. "It was very tricky and very light," said Westerhof, adding that waves from spectator boats sometimes stopped them in their tracks. After day two, Westerhof/Berkhout had jumped ahead of Great Britain's Hannah Mills and Saskia Clarke, who took the silver today after finishing fourth. "The British spilled some points on one day, and we kept sailing very strong," said Westerhof. The bronze was won by Sophie Weguelin/Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) after they won today's race.
Lucy Macgregor/Annie Lush/ Kate Macgregor (GBR) won the gold medal in Women's Match Racing with a 3-1 win over Olivia Price/Nina Curtis/Lucinda Whitty (AUS), who had to settle for silver after their fates were sealed in the final match of their first-to-three flight. The race looked to be going the Aussies' way when GBR lagged as much as 12 boat lengths behind during the first lap of the twice-around course. Their momentum was halted, however, on the second upwind leg when they hit some major waves and tried to tack with too little speed while GBR closed the gap. Back in the game, GBR sailed to a lead that exchanged mouse for cat, and with plenty of further batting around, proved that match racing is one of the most exciting Olympic disciplines to watch.
Taking bronze in the Petit Finals after battling with Australia's Olivia Price/Nina Curtis/Lucinda Whitty was the USA's Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.)/Elizabeth Kratzig-Burnham (Miami, Fla.)/Alana O'Reilly (Charleston, S.C.).
Demita Vega De Lille (MEX) considers her gold medal here in RS:X Women's another notch in the harness she wears while pursuing her Olympic dreams."This event will not give me any points for the Olympic Games, but it is very good for me for the training," said Vega De Lille, who has not yet made her country's Olympic Team. "I am very happy to be here, and I hope to qualify in Spain at the World Championships."
Taking the silver was Farrah Hall (USA), who has won the right among fellow teammates to go to the Olympic Games but has yet to qualify her country, while winning bronze was Dominique Vallee (CAN).
Nick Dempsey (GBR), who will represent his country at the Olympic Games, was rehearsing all week for his victory today in the RS:X Men's windsurfing race. In fact, this was his 11th straight win in as many races here. Fellow teammate Elliot Carney clinched the silver with 31 overall points to Dempsey's 11, while Sebastian Wang-Hansen (NOR) took the bronze with 38 points overall.
If anyone else's performance here could be called decisive for the gold it would have to be Zach Railey's (Clearwater, Fla., USA) in the 25-boat Finn class. With a 12-point lead over Denmark's Jonas Hogh Christensen going into today and nothing worse than a third-place finish in his 10-race lead-up series, Railey won today's race for good measure, leaving Hogh Christensen to take fourth for silver. With 18 points separating those two in the final standings, Canada's Greg Douglas finished third today to add six points to his score line (another 12 points behind Hogh Christensen) and post a final 45 points for bronze.
"Miami is where I went to college and it all started here, training full time and wanting to make the push towards the Olympic Games," said Railey, who graduated in 2006 and won an Olympic Silver Medal at the 2008 Games, "and now I'm going back to the Games in 2012, and to have my first World Cup victory here in Miami makes it sweeter."
About today's race, Railey said, "I definitely knew that there was going to be some pressure from the Danish sailor. We were locked in a pretty tight match race there before the start, but I was able to break away from him and sail my own race. The goal going in was to capitalize on my performance this week and go out in a good dominating fashion."
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