After weathering a severe squall on opening day, the Rolex Miami OCR benefited from a fresh, though shifty, westerly breeze yesterday, allowing the Olympic and Paralympic classes to sail multiple races and solidify positions at the event's halfway mark.
The event, which continues tomorrow and concludes Friday, has attracted 503 sailors from 39 nations.
Some of the athletes competing here have already been chosen for their nation's Olympic teams and have traveled to Miami for the traditionally intense competition the event offers. U.S. athletes in six of the classes - Europe, Finn, 49er, Star, Tornado and Yngling - are using the regatta as a tune-up for the Olympic Trials that will take place in South Florida over the next two months, determining who goes to Athens.
Tim WADLOW (USA) and Pete SPAULDING (USA) embraced the good fortune of today's five races in the 49er class. After posting a ninth in yesterday's single race, they rose through the ranks to first overall today on the merit of a first, three seconds and a third. "We were the most consistent team out there today,"
said Spaulding, "but we're seeing that different people are having good races at different times. The other U.S. teams are in the hunt in every race, so, yes, it's a very good tune-up for the Trials."
Also making it to the top of the scoreboard today were Mark REYNOLDS (USA) and Steve ERICKSON in the Star class, while the USA's 2004 Olympic representative in the Laser, Mark MENDELBLATT rose to second behind Norway's Peer MOBERG. "Moberg seems to be the man to beat this week,"
said Mendelblatt. "The competition gets better and better every year. There are five or six guys here who have a chance at medaling in the Olympics."
In the Yngling fleet, six U.S. teams are competing, and the current US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Hannah SWETT (USA) sits in third behind yesterday's leader Sally BARKOW (USA), who allowed New Zealand's Sharon FERRIS to sneak by in the overall standings to lead.
"Everyone was up and down, because it was really shifty,"
said Swett. "It sure kept it interesting. It gave us a chance to check out the other American teams' speed. It's the Trials plus five or six more foreign boats."
Another Olympic hopeful, Kevin HALL (USA), who qualified the U.S. for its Finn Olympic berth at the 2003 world championship (finishing 27th), posted a 1-3-5-4 today to take third place behind Denmark's defending champion and fleet leader Jonas HOEGH CHRISTENSEN and 1996 Finn Olympic Gold medallist Mateus KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL), currently in second place overall. Hoegh Christensen and Kusznierewicz finished fourth and sixth, respectively, at the '03 worlds.
"Since the Finn Trials will be in Ft. Lauderdale in February, I have been training there since October,"
said Hall, who only announced his campaign last May after finishing his job with the OneWorld America's Cup campaign. "The conditions aren't the same here, but it's the quality of the racing…the benefit is that I'm sailing against some of the world's top Finn sailors."
Right behind Hall in fourth is Geoff EWENSON (USA), who also plans to compete in the Trials.
Racing continues through Friday, January 30. Regatta Headquarters are located at the US Sailing Center in Coconut Grove. Other Hosts for the event are the Coral Reef, Key Biscayne and Miami Yacht Clubs; the Coconut Grove Sailing Club; and Shake-A-Leg Miami.