This event - the largest in its 18 years of blanketing Biscayne Bay and area clubs with elite sailors and their finely-tuned boats - also replicates the sailing format that will be followed at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games: fleet racing held over multiple days and a final Medal Race on Saturday for the top ten crews in each class.
'The number of racing participants here is about twice as many as will have the honour of representing their countries at the Games two years from now,' said Dean BRENNER, chairman of US SAILING's Olympic Sailing Committee, 'So that would be the only big difference. Sailors are definitely dealing with quantity, but it's really the quality of the competition that makes this one of the most important regattas on the world circuit.'
With the Rolex Miami OCR being sailed on waters familiar to the US Sailing Team and US Disabled Sailing Team, it is no wonder that American sailors are here in full force. US Sailing Team members Amanda CLARK and Sarah MERGENTHALER won the first race in the Women's 470 class while Erin MAXWELL and Isabelle KINSOLVING (USA) won the second. 'We had good speed downwind, a really firm grasp on the numbers and played them perfectly,' said MERGENTHALER. 'Our strategy, however, didn't work well in the second race. Whoever banged the left corner got out ahead and stayed ahead.'
CLARK and MERGENTHALER are fifth overall while MAXWELL and KINSOLVING are in second, behind double World Champions Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED). MAXWELL and KINSOLVING, an Athens Olympian, have only sailed together for two regattas, but their talent is testing positive for Olympic potential. 'Olympic sailing is the top of the sport,' said KINSOLVING. 'It's an incredible experience; we're only at the beginning of our road.'
Athens Olympic Silver Medalist Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) topped the scoreboard for a third consecutive day in Men's 470 class. Gustavo MARTINEZ and Dimas WOOD (ESP) are their closest rivals and won the day's second race after finishing tenth in the first race. ROGERS and GLANFIELD posted a 6,2 - which was enough to maintain their lead and keep the Spaniards six points behind them in overall scoring.
|Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn
ASHBY had their lead pegged
back in the Tornado
© US SAILING/Rolex
Other top American finishers today include Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA), the #1 ranked Laser Radial sailor on the US Sailing Team and in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, who leads the fleet after posting an impressive total of three bullets in six races - two on Monday and one on Wednesday. In contrast, 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Paige RAILEY (USA) endured a nightmare day - posting two scores of 36 for an OCS and DNF - and fell back to 26th overall.
The #1 ranked Yngling team on the US Sailing Team, Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA), is in second place after seven races, sharing 20 points with Anne LE HELLEY, Marion DEPLANQUE and Catherine LEPESANT (FRA). 49er sailors Morgan LARSON and Pete SPAULDING (USA) are in a four-way tie for the lead, sharing 19 points with European Champions Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES, reigning Olympic Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) and world #1 crew Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA).
Compared to the other fleets in Miami, Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) are beginning to establish a little daylight between themselves and the chasing Star pack. The Swedish crew went 1,2 for the day to move five points ahead of Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA). Similarly Laser World Champion Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) also managed to increase his overall lead to six points, with team mate Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) still chasing him hard in second place. Chilean Mathias DEL SOLAR moved up to third overall.
|World Champion Michael
BLACKBURN leads the Laser
© Dan Nerney/Rolex
In the Men's RS:X Samual LAUNAY (FRA) holds the lead after a seventh and then a bullet in races 4 and 5. Przeymslaw MIARCZYNSKI (POL) is tied with the Frenchman on 19 points, three ahead of Athens bronze medallist and current world #1 Nick DEMPSEY (GBR). After a great opening day, World Champion Casper BOUMAN (NED) has struggled in the lighter conditions and dropped to 12th overall after 17,27 finishes.
After a frustrating day for the Tornado fleet confined to shore on Tuesday due to the light winds, Leigh MCMILLAN and Will HOWDEN (GBR) came out with a bang on Wednesday, with a race win and a third helping them to equal first place on points with World Champions Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS).
Paralympic sailing at this event is at its finest ever, with the fleets having grown significantly over the years and, like the Olympic Classes, hosting top talent from around the world.
'The coaching is getting better, the technical equipment is getting better, and the Paralympic sailors are preparing better,' said Danny MCCOY, the international class president of the one-person keelboat 2.4 Metre class, which has 25 boats competing here. The 2.4 Metres turn heads, because the entire body of the skipper 'disappears' below the eight-inch freeboard and only their head is showing above the combing. 'It looks like the 12 Metre class boats of America's Cup fame, but one-fifth the size [14 feet long] and the steering is by hand [using a tiller] or by the feet [using pedals].'
|Helena LUCAS is third in the
© Dan Nerney/Rolex
After today's three races, Stellan BERLIN (SWE) is tied on points with Megan PASCOE (GBR), followed by Helena LUCAS (GBR) in third. BERLIN, a World Champion, is not disabled, but MCCOY explained that organizers did not prohibit able-bodied participants because the class typically does not, which is why up to 120 of them will show up at World Championships. 'It's the only class in the world that embraces everyone - women children, old, young, disabled, able-bodied - and can be sailed easily by all of them,' said MCCOY.
Being equal on the water, even with physical limits, is what draws disabled athletes to sailing, and the other two Paralympic classes - the Sonar and SKUD18 - deliver fully on the concept, especially when classifications for the sailors are applied. Disabled sailors are classified by number, from one to seven according to the degree of their disability (highest to lowest). The total classification for any Sonar competing in the Paralympics must be 14. For the SKUD18s, at least one of the two-person team must be classified as a number one, and one sailor must be a female.
'It plays out that most of the number one [sailors] are skippers on the SKUDs,' said Karen MITCHELL (USA), who with JP CREIGNOU (USA) holds on to second place overall after three races on Wednesday, behind Scott WHITMAN and Julia DORSETT (USA), 'Because we're paraplegics or quadriplegics and don't have the upper body strength to pull on lines in the front of the boat.' MITCHELL's crew, CREIGNOU, is blind and classified as a number seven. In 2006, he won the IFDS Blind Sailing World Championship and he is a Paralympic bronze medallist in the Sonar class.
Though the SKUD18 is similar in design to the speed-hungry skiff called the 49er, it has a heavy bulb keel that keeps it from skipping across the water like its Olympic counterpart. MITCHELL and her fellow sailors are testing and tweaking gear that is allowed to be modified on a boat that has only been available to sailors since June of 2006. It will make its Paralympic debut in 2008.
America's Cup Hall of Fame inductee, author and sailing broadcaster Gary JOBSON (USA) will provide a front row seat for spectators around the world with exclusive daily video reports from Miami. NBC will stream the reports as daily web casts on www.nbcsports.com, which will be linked from www.rolexmiamiocr.org. JOBSON's production will culminate with a wrap up special on the last day of the regatta.
Regatta Headquarters for the 2007 Rolex Miami OCR are at the US Sailing Centre, with classes hosted by other area sailing organizations and parks, which include: Coral Reef Yacht Club, Key Biscayne Yacht Club, Miami Yacht Club, Coconut Grove Sailing Club, Shake-A-Leg Miami, and Crandon Park Marina. The City of Miami and the Miami Dade Sports Commission also support the event.
In addition to title sponsor Rolex Watch U.S.A., the 2007 Rolex Miami OCR is also sponsored by all the partners that support the US Sailing Team: Nautica, Vanguard Sailboats, Zodiac, Gill, Harken, Sperry Top-Sider, Nikon, New England Ropes, Extrasport, and McLube. Rolex is also a sponsor of the US Sailing Team. The City of Miami has partnered with regatta organizers this year to help with the expansion of the sailing venues.
The Rolex Miami OCR will be included in the first running of the ISAF World Cup© series for the Olympic Classes. For more on the ISAF World Cup© CLICK HERE.For a complete list of all the news about the Rolex Miami OCR 2007 CLICK HERE.