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30 January 2009, 11:58 pm
Paralympic and Match Racing Champions Named At Miami; Medal Races Tomorrow
Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN and her Danish team, left, take on the Italians led by Giulia CONTI in the Women's Match Racing final
Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN and her Danish team, left, take on the Italians led by Giulia CONTI in the Women's Match Racing final

Rolex Miami OCR 2009
Miami, Florida, USA

Denmark picked up a maximum 20 points towards the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings after winning the Women's Match Racing final at US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR, with the Paralympic events and Medal Race line ups also decided on Friday.
Good things happened today at US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR, where 444 sailors from 41 countries are competing.

Medals were determined in the three Paralympic events, the Sonar, SKUD18 and 2.4mR, as well as the Olympic Women's Match Racing event in the Laser SB3, while each of the remaining nine Olympic events (Finn, Men's 470, Women's 470, 49er, Laser, Laser Radial, Men's RS:X, Women's RS:X, Star) determined the top-ten sailors who will advance to tomorrow's Medal Race. The regatta replicates the format that will be used at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Competition and is the second of seven stops on the 2008-2009 ISAF Sailing World Cup for Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. It is also the USA's only qualifying regatta for determining its 2009 U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.

View our photo gallery of the best action from Miami here.

Squalls developed in Miami on Friday, making for testing conditions on Biscayne Bay.

"It was very little wind to very much," said Denmark's Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN, who with Tina SCHMIDT and Trine PALLUDAN won the gold medal in Women's Match Racing. "We tried it all today."

Denmark was the third-ranked boat going into today's four-boat semi finals. After they proceeded to the finals, their match-up was with none other than yesterday's leading Italian team of Giulia CONTI, Alessandra MARENZI and Alessandra ANGELINI. The final contest went all five races with PEDERSEN's team posting a final win-loss score of 3-2. The final race served up a photo finish after the boats changed leads twice in the last six boat lengths. "It was too windy to have our chutes up," said PEDERSEN, "and we just made a right decision. CONTE did a very good job."

PEDERSEN said two days ago she would have said her team could win, but four days ago she would have thought it impossible. "We didn't know the boat; our teamwork and coach were new, we've had a very increasing learning curve!" She added with a smile: "It is always important to win a regatta, but it's really great to win what is, in effect, the very first Olympic Match Racing event. It's a nice victory."

PEDERSEN, SCHMIDT and PALLUDAN earns an ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal for their success, along with the maximum 20 World Cup points. This puts them straight to the top of the World Cup Standings, as there was no Women's Match Racing event held at Sail Melbourne, the first round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.

Medal Races For Remaining Olympic Events

For tomorrow, back-to-back competition is planned for the Medal Races, to be held on two circles. With courses shortened for approximately 30-minute races, it should be a quick day, unless the wind causes postponements as it has on-and-off since Monday, when this event began. The stakes are high, just as they will be in the Games themselves, with the single race weighing in for double in the sailors' score lines and not allowed as a discard. All of the sailors qualifying for the Medal Race have already guaranteed themselves at least 11 World Cup points for finishing in the top 10 (20 points are awarded for the top finisher overall, 19 for second, down to 1 for 20th).

Nobody has established an unbeatable lead ahead of the double-points Medal Race and a number of tight battles at set for tomorrow. None more so than in the Finn fleet were Chris COOK (CAN), leader all week long, again saw his advantage at the top cut with Ed WRIGHT (GBR) now just one point behind the Canadian.

In the Men's and Women's One Person dinghy fleet there was another change at the top of the leaderboard after Friday's racing. Beijing Olympic gold medallist Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA) won both of the day's races to regain the lead in the Laser Radial, five points ahead of Paige RAILEY (USA). After winning the opening round of the World Cup at Melbourne, TUNNICLIFFE looks well placed to gain maximum points again in Miami. Nick THOMPSON (GBR) is also back at the head of the Laser fleet with Pavlos KONTIDES (CYP) dropping to second after being scored DNS in the final race of the series.

In the remaining six Olympic events, all of Thursday's leaders managed to hold on to their overall advantage. Rick MERRIMAN and Phil TRINTER (USA) keep the home flag flying in the Star fleet, taking a seven-point cushion into the Medal Race. Onan BARREIROS and Aaron SARMIENTO (ESP) have 10-point gap to Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL (USA) in the Men's 470, whilst six points separate Henriette KOCH and Lene SOMMER (DEN), leader of the Women's 470 fleet, from Erin MAXWELL and Isabelle KINSOLVING (USA).

Nico DELLE - KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH (AUT) won the final race of the 49er series to take a nine-point lead into tomorrow's Medal Race. Things are tighter in the two windsurfer fleets, with Dorian VAN RIJSSELBERGE (NED) seven points ahead of Ivan PASTOR (ESP), whilst Marina ALABAU (ESP) went OCS in the final race of the Women's RS:X series to see her lead over Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) cut back to just four points.

Paralympic Winners Named

While the Olympic fleets struggled with the wind oscillations, the Paralympic sailors competed in fair breezes, having sailed earlier in the day.

There was no pressure on SKUD18 sailors Scott WHITMAN and Julia DORSET to win their two races today and, thus, claim the gold medal. "We really didn't even have to sail at all," said WHITMAN, referencing nine victories in as many races held for this class since Monday, when the regatta began. "Most important was that it put us #1 on the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, which gets us more funding and resources. It's a great way to start the quadrennium."

Great Britain's Sonar team of John ROBERTSON, Hannah STODEL and Alek WANG-HANSEN also won two races today to take gold. "The wind came in quite nicely at 8-10 knots with 20 degree shifts," said ROBERTSON. "We've been quick enough, but we can use our speed a bit more if we get the shifts right as well." ROBERTSON represented his country in both the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games but finished out of the medal running each time. "After the disappointment of Qingdao," said ROBERTSON, who had won the test event preceding it and was favoured for a podium finish, "it's good to get back into winning form again. And it's always good coming to Miami as well."

ROBERTSON's closest rival all week was the USA's Paul CALLAHAN, sailing with crew Roger CLEWORTH and Tom BROWN. "It was a sorting-out thing for us this week, but we are proud and delighted to be #1 ranked," said CALLAHAN, who as top U.S. finisher, qualified his team for the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.

In the 2.4mR Class, it was an able-bodied sailor, Canada's Allan LEIBEL, who took the gold medal because of a dispensation in the rules allowing for open entry. (US SAILING has traditionally included able-bodied sailors in this popular class and decided to allow it again during this transition year of becoming a World Cup event.) LEIBEL fought off week-long advances from two-time Paralympic medallist Damien SEGUIN (FRA), who ultimately took the silver medal but will accumulate the maximum 20 World Cup points based on his beating out all other disabled entrants here.

"This class has a huge worldwide fleet in which 80 percent of the athletes are able-bodied," said LEIBEL. "It happens to be a boat that, with modifications, a disabled athlete can sail and be equal. I've been to three Olympic Games (1972, 1976, and 1980, sailing in Dragon, Tempest and Star classes, respectively), and these guys are as good as any. They are training full time, fully coached; just superb. I look at them as sailors, not anything else."

SEGUIN was happy to have the stiff competition from both types of sailors, since this was his first regatta since winning his silver medal in Qingdao. "It was training for me," he said. "It was a very good competition. I'm lucky to be here."

Regatta results, photos and updates are posted at www.RolexMiamiOCR.org. Video highlights, produced by t2p.tv, can be viewed at the same URL.

ISAF Sailing World Cup

The ISAF Sailing World Cup 2008-2009 consists of the following events:

16-21 Dec 2008 - Sail Melbourne The Asia Pacific Regatta, Melbourne, Australia
25-31 Jan 2009 - Rolex Miami OCR, Miami, USA
4-10 April 2009 - Trofeo SAR Princess Sofia MAPFRE, Palma, Spain
18-24 April 2009 - Semaine Olympique Francaise, Hyeres, France
27-31 May 2009 - Delta Lloyd Regatta, Medemblik, Netherlands
20-29 June 2009 - Kieler Woche, Kiel, Germany
14-19 Sept 2009 - Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, Weymouth, Great Britain

Find out more about the ISAF Sailing World Cup, including more on the seven events, the latest World Cup Standings, the scoring system and the Notice of Series at www.sailing.org/isafsailingworldcup.

Barby MacGowan
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