The sun shone brilliantly and the winds blew 8-10 knots, providing a perfect wrap up for the competition, which hosted more sailors - 855 from 49 countries - than it ever has in its 18 year history. After five days of fleet racing, which concluded on Friday, medallists were determined in three Paralympic classes. The top ten overall finishers in the Olympic Classes advanced to Saturday's single Medal Race, replicating the new Olympic format that will debut in Qingdao, China in 2008.
USA Sailors took home three medals in the Olympic Classes and three in the Paralyampic Classes. Three of them were gold.
For 49er sailors Morgan LARSON and Pete SPAULDING (USA), who were in bronze medal position going into the Medal Race, it took some impressive plays to make the top step of the podium theirs. When overnight leaders and Olympic Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) started prematurely and failed to turn back, the gold medal was wide open.
LARSON and SPAULDING quickly covered Tim WADLOW and Christopher RAST (USA), fellow US Sailing Team members, who were one position ahead of them in overall scoring, and forced them to the course's far right corner. However, the left side of the course paid off, resulting in the two teams rounding the first mark in next-to-last and last positions. LARSON and SPAULDING, however, went on to recover, picking off several boats before using a left shift on the last beat to pass Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR), who seemed to be the gold medal's heir apparent. Final race positions were third for LARSON and SPAULDING and fourth for MORRISON and RHODES, who had to settle for the silver medal. Morgan LAGRAVIERE and Christidis STEPHANE (FRA) took the bronze, whilst WADLOW and RAST finished fourth overall.
Going into this event, our ultimate goal was to be the top American and to be on the podium,' said SPAULDING, who crewed for WADLOW in this class at the 2004 Olympic Games. 'Given the short amount of time we have sailed together in the last six months, we didn't expect to win the fleet. We were very happy.'
In the Yngling class, playing the numbers game became critical in the USA's battle for gold. 'We had to play with points, play with the competition and try to control everybody,' said Sally BARKOW, who with Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA) finished fourth to edge out their biggest threat - Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR) - in the overall standings.
'When we started, we had two boats to deal with: Great Britain and Finland,' said BARKOW. 'We were in a vulnerable position. We got pinned, so we jibed out and they passed us in the first run. Then we went into attack mode. We got on their breeze and did three or four jibes, rounded the gate we wanted and extended from there. It was a lot of fun. It was one of the best Medal Races we've had in a while.'
Great Britain finished seventh to take the silver while Anne LE HELLEY, Marion DEPLANQUE and Catherine LEPESANT (FRA) finished second for the bronze.
'It was really tough here this week - the whole fleet has increased its skill in the Ynglings,' added BARKOW. 'There are new team players and new ways to sail the boat; we have to make sure we stay one step ahead.'
|Gustavo LIMA won his battle
with Tom SLINGSBY to take
the Laser title
© Walter Cooper/Rolex
Equally close was the Laser Medal Race, where Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) started with a one point lead over Gustavo LIMA (POR). Whilst World Champion Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) took the bullet to secure the bronze medal, SLINGSBY and LIMA were battling further down the fleet for gold. The Portuguese skipper won out to record his first victory in an ISAF Grade 1 event since winning the ISAF Worlds in 2003.
The Finn competition also went to the wire, with Per MOBERG (NOR) winning the Medal Race to score his first victory in the Finn since switching from the Laser in 2005. World Champion Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) took the silver medal, with Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE) third.
In the Women's 470 fleet, 2005 and 2006 World Champions Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) finished the Medal Race in second to take the title from Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA). Victory for the Dutch team could well see them add the world #1 spot to their growing list of achievements when the ISAF World Sailing Rankings are next released on 7 February.
Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) completed an impressive week by securing the gold medal in the Star fleet with a final winning margin of 28 points. World Champion Hamish PEPPER and crew David GILES (NZL) made a late charge for silver by winning the Medal Race, whilst Athens silver medallists Ross MACDONALD and Mike WOLFS (CAN) came in the third overall.
British sailors came away with five medals but, although they finished with more silverware than any other nation, the Brits were left ruing missed opportunities. The chance of gold melted into silver as Leigh MCMILLAN and Will HOWDEN (GBR) were undone by another great Medal Race display from Tornado World Champions Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS), whilst Bryony SHAW (GBR) was unable to hold on her overnight lead in the Women's RS:X.
|Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn
ASHBY won out in the
Tornado Medal Race
© Dan Nerney/Rolex
Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) did clinch one gold for Great Britain in the Men's 470 fleet. With an almost unassailable 19 point lead heading into the final day - they just had to avoid any on water incidents which could see them disqualified - the Athens silver medallists produced a final flourish, with a second place from the Medal Race providing the icing on the cake.
'The whole event has gone really well for us,' explained ROGERS, whose eagerly anticipated comeback year to the Olympic sailing scene in 2006 with GLANFIELD suffered a setback when he broke his wrist at the start of the season. Consequently, the only major events they competed in during 2006 were the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao, which they won, and the 470 World Championships immediately afterwards, where they finished tenth.
'All of the world's best sailors in the 470 fleet are here - some might not have their best boats with them, but still it's been really pleasing to win against the top guys, to get racing and to see where there are areas we need to work on.'
In the Tornado, overnight leaders MCMILLAN and HOWDEN - already assured of a silver - just needed to keep within four boats of World Champions Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS) to secure a second gold for Great Britain. In spite of an aggressive start, with MCMILLAN and Howden immediately tacking onto the Australians, BUNDOCK and ASHBY broke free and made big gains through the fleet. With big wind shifts across the course, the Skandia Team GBR sailors never managed to recover and finished 10th to the Australian's second.
'It's a real shame not to have won today, but we have to look at the positives of this result,' said HOWDEN. 'It was only four weeks ago we were coming 19th at the Worlds so this is a huge improvement for us.'
SHAW also suffered with the 35 degree wind shifts which beset the RS:X course and could only manage an eighth place in the Women's Medal Race to see her fall from first to third overall. After losing the gold medal in the last few metres of the 2006 RS:X Worlds Medal Race, Marina ALABAU (ESP) posted a bullet on Biscayne Bay to take the title in Miami, ahead of Flavia TARTAGLINI (ITA). In the Men's RS:X fleet, Przeymslaw MIARCZYNSKI (POL) already had victory wrapped up.
|Sari MULTALA was a runaway
winner in the Radial
© Dan Nerney/Rolex
Sari MULTALA (FIN) also took an unassailable lead into the Medal Race and took the Laser Radial title. Following on from handing MULTALA the title by going OCS in Friday's final race, Gintare VOLUNGEVICIUTE (LTU) secured second with a win in the Medal Race, with Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) taking the bronze. After being a leading light in the Europe over the past two Olympic quadrennials, victory in Miami is MULTALA's first in the new Women's One Person Dinghy equipment and a warning shot across the bows of the rest of the Laser Radial fleet.
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.