This time around; however, the scales have been tipped by a three-quarters majority of sailors hailing from foreign countries - all of them Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls charting their courses to Beijing, China in 2008. While the USA has 170 boats entered, Canada is the second largest contingent with 70 boats. Great Britain and Germany follow with 39 and 25, respectively.
'All of the top world players are here in every class,' said US SAILING Head Coach Gary BODIE. 'There is no class more stacked than another; we're on the exact same footing as the world's other major Olympic classes regattas such as Olympic Sailing Week in Hyères, France; the Holland Regatta in Medemblik; and Kiel Week in Germany.'
'I can feel my heart rate increase as I read the entry list,' said Bill MCNIVEN, crew for Bermudian Olympian Peter BROMBY, who is entered in the star-studded Star class. 'The competition will be fierce.' The Star sailors have been sailing a preparation regatta for two days, and US Sailing Team member and Star skipper Andy MACDONALD observed that Great Britain's Iain PERCY and Andrew SIMPSON and Sweden's Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM were looking the toughest going into the Rolex Miami OCR. 'Five of the top six finishers [including PERCY's and LOOF's teams] in yesterday's races had gold stars on their sails, denoting that they are World Champions,' said MACDONALD.
The Rolex Miami OCR, an ISAF Grade 1 ranking event, will be raced in all the Olympic Classes: 49er, Men's and Women's 470, Finn, Laser, Laser Radial, Men's and Women's RS:X, Star, Tornado, and Yngling. In addition, racing will be held for all the classes selected for the 2008 Paralympic Games: 2.4 Metre, SKUD18, and Sonar.
If resumes speak for anything, Great Britain's team of John ROBERTSON, Hannah STODEL and Stephen THOMAS are favourites in the Sonar class, since they have won the gold medal at the IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships for the last two years running. In fact, almost the entire British national team - collectively known as Skandia Team GBR - is here to give the US Sailing Team, with its assumed home-court advantage, a run for its money. 'The team as a whole had its most successful year ever in terms of medals during 2006 - a total of 48 gained from World, European Championships and major Olympic Classes regattas,' said RYA Team GBR Communications Officer Lindsey BELL.
Because the Rolex Miami OCR is a qualifying event for the US Sailing Team and US Disabled Sailing Team, American sailors are perhaps more prepared than any who have travelled the greater distances to get here. 'Actually, we've all been training and competing around the world over the past year,' said Zach RAILEY (USA), the #1 ranked Finn sailor on the US Sailing Team. 'This is a great opportunity for the US sailors to test themselves against the best in the world on their home waters. That's really important.'
Obtaining a top three US ranking in an Olympic or Paralympic Class wins American sailors the distinguished honour of making the USA's national team in addition to giving them that extra competitive edge.
'This regatta gives you a chance to look at the competition two years before the Olympics,' said 2.4 Metre sailor Roger CLEWORTH (USA), 'And figure out their strengths and weaknesses and adjust what you have to do accordingly.'
Scheduled are five days of fleet racing through to Friday 26 January, and one day of Medal Racing (for Olympic Classes only) on Saturday 27 January. Saturday's Medal Races follow the new Olympic format, lining up the top ten teams in each class on the starting line on the final day of racing.
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. 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.