Inconsistent Conditions Make Sailing a Survival Contest
Miami, Fla. (January 25, 2007) - Mother Nature threw a nasty curveball at 855 competitors from 49 countries competing today at US SAILING's 2007 Rolex Miami OCR. In addition to the usual need for tactics and boat speed, a certain level of toughness was required, as sailors battled a wide range of elements on Biscayne Bay. Even for elite sailors who train full-time in their pursuit of Olympic medals, today's conditions tested their survival skills.
Racers left the dock in a warm, light southwesterly breeze under five knots and returned several hours later in a cold, rainy, northwesterly wind. A frontal passage that passed through the course during midday caused the drastic change in conditions, whipping up strong winds that filled from the southwest. The remainder of the day exhibited squally conditions, gusts up to 25 knots out of the north and intermittent rain. "We had four seasons in one day," said Sven Coster, a 470 sailor from The Netherlands. "It was awesome racing."
The Neil Pryde RS:X windsurfers and 49er skiffs faced particularly challenging conditions as they struggled to stay upright on the course. RS:X sailor Karen Marriott (Lakewood, Col.) said she was often pelted in the face with rain and couldn't see the course, but nonetheless, it was "a lot of fun." The strong winds translated into boat speed and excitement: "That's what windsurfing is all about," she said.
Poland's Przeymslaw Miarczynski, bronze medalist at the 2006 RS:X World Championship, leads the men's fleet after scoring two bullets and a second place in today's three races. Nick Dempsey of Great Britain and Samual Launay of France follow Miarczynski by 11 and 12 points, respectively. Great Britain's Bryony Shaw, who won the windsurfing fleet at last year's Rolex Miami OCR, leads the Women's fleet for the second consecutive day, while Marta Hlavaty of Poland and Marina Alabau of Spain lag slightly behind in second and third place.
The RS:X will make its debut in the windsurfing event at the 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao, China, replacing the Mistral. The first Men's windsurfing event debuted at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Calif., utilizing the Lechner II-brand board; the Women's event was introduced in 1992. The RS:X is a cross-over board that combines qualities of the traditional race board for sub-planing conditions with exciting racing in planing conditions from 8 to 12 knots. The sheer speed of the boards makes it look as if they are flying over the water, barely touching. Because they stand while sailing, board sailors depend on their upper body strength and athleticism to support and control their rigs.
The Stars managed to get in only one race today. The 67-boat fleet had split into gold and silver fleets, which were determined yesterday by standings after five races. Sweden's Fredrik Loof and Anders Ekstrom, who won the 2004 Star Worlds together, remain at the top of the scoreboard, where they've been for the last two racing days. 'We are sailing really consistently,' said Ekstrom, noting they are using a fourth-place finish as their allowed discard race. 'We will not do anything differently tomorrow.'
The USA's John Dane and son-in-law Austin Sperry, who led on day one, are now back to third in the overall standings, but the position is hardly secure. France's Olympic bronze medalist Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau are a mere four points behind them and Canada's Olympic silver medalist Ross MacDonald and Mike Wolfs are only six points behind.
'The goal is to stay in the running and win the medal race,' said Sperry, referring to the Olympic format that will be followed here on Saturday, whereby the top ten finishers from the fleet racing portion of the event will sail a final medal race, which will be worth double points and determine the gold, silver and bronze medalists in each class.
In the 49er class, Athens Olympian Tim Wadlow (Beverly, Mass.) and his crew Christopher Rast (Wake Forest, N.C.), capitalized on the conditions of the day to move from fifth to first place, just ahead of Spain's Iker Martinez de Lizarduy and Xabier Fernadez and US Sailing Teammates Morgan Larson (Capitola, Calif.) and Pete Spaulding (Lafayette, Ind.). Amanda Clark (Norwalk, Conn.) and Sarah Mergenthaler (New York, N.Y.) moved from fifth to third place in 470 Women's fleet, behind Marcelien de Koning and Lobke Berkhout of The Netherlands and Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux of France. The US Sailing Team's number-one ranked Yngling team of Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) and Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.) remains in second place, sharing 27 points with Great Britain's team of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson. In the SKUD-18 class, the team of Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Julia Dorsett (Boca Raton, Fla.) hold on to first, ahead of David Cook and Brenda Hopkin of Canada and Karen Mitchell (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.).
The same weather conditions that wreaked havoc on the racecourse today will offer terrific sailing tomorrow. "The frontal passage this morning made the conditions challenging for the sailors; however, the stronger northerly winds will continue tomorrow, providing a good day of sailing," said Jennifer Lilly, the forecaster for the US Sailing Team and a meteorologist at Sailing Weather Services, based in Watertown, Mass.
Online Information and Resources Updated Daily
For complete and up-to-the-minute regatta news and results, visit www.RolexMiamiOCR.org. Nightly video reports from America's Cup Hall of Fame inductee, author and sailing broadcaster Gary Jobson (Annapolis, Md.), will appear on www.NBCSports.com; for expanded video coverage, including more interviews and outtakes, visit www.RolexMiamiOCR.org or www.jobsonsailing.com
About US SAILING's 2007 Rolex Miami OCR
The Rolex Miami OCR is the only International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade-One ranking event in the U.S. for competition in all 14 Olympic and Paralympic classes selected for the next Olympic and Paralympic Games: 49er, 470 (Men & Women), Finn, Laser, Laser Radial, Neil Pryde RS:X (Men & Women), Star, Tornado; Yngling; 2.4mR, SKUD-18, and Sonar.
The regatta is especially important as a ranking regatta for American sailors hoping to qualify for the US Sailing Team and the US Disabled Sailing Team, which distinguish the top three sailors in each Olympic or Paralympic class.
Scheduled are five days of fleet racing through Friday, January 26, and one day of medal racing (for Olympic classes only) on Saturday, January 27. Saturday's medal races follow the new Olympic format, lining up the top 10 teams in each class on the starting line on the final day of racing.
Regatta Headquarters for the 2007 Rolex Miami OCR are at the US Sailing Center, 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.