The stakes were high yesterday as 610 sailors from 40 countries at the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR made their last bid for a berth in today's finals. It will be the second time ever that the new Olympic format which calls for a single 'Medal Race' to conclude the series for each of nine classes will be applied at a major Olympic preparation regatta.
The jury is far from out, since no one quite knows what to expect, but certainly the new system is foremost in competitors' minds as they strategize for the final.
Whereas a throwout has been allowed in the series leading up to it, the Medal Race must be counted in the scoreline and also counts double. Regardless of the size of a class's fleet, only the top ten go into the Medal Race. Umpires resolve all protests on the water, and the results are final almost immediately. (Since the Paralympic Games have not adopted the new format, the Sonar class competing here will sail the last two races planned for their series.)
'So many things can happen' said George SZABO
(USA), who with Eric MONROE (USA) is in second behind Xavier ROHART
and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA), and in front of defending champions Andrew HORTON
and Brad NICHOL (USA). 'Horton could have a really good day. The worst we could finish is sixth. It's fun though; it has been a fun week. Not often can you have so many mid-teen finishes and be in second place. It means it was a difficult regatta..'
In the typically small fleets at the Olympic Games, the odds are slim of someone sitting out their last race because they've mathematically won, but in the 69-boat Star fleet here, ROHART
and RAMBEAU built up a whopping 48-point lead that mathematically does allow them to sit out tomorrow's race.
'There are positives and negatives on every team, but for us we are consistent always,'
|George SZABO & Eric MONROE
© Dan Nerney/Rolex
, who with RAMBEAU claims two Star World titles, including the current one, and won the Star-class bronze medal in Athens. 'There are no bad things never. This is good, especially here, because everyone is great.'
Another team who does not have to sail tomorrow is that comprised of reigning Yngling world champions Sally BARKOW
, Carrie HOWE and Deborah CAPOZZI (USA).With a lead of 23 points over their closest competitors, they, too, are mathematically untouchable but will sail in the finals in the spirit of supporting the change.
'We were on it tactically all week,'
, recently named US SAILING's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.'Our team has been in the boat the longest, which is not to say the competition wasn't tough, but when we make a mistake we try to only make it once.'
The 49er team of Chris Draper
and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), Olympic bronze medalists and the top sailors on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, also clinched their series early.
Several of yesterday's leaders used today's 16-18 knot breezes to continue their lead. In the Laser class, British sailor Paul GOODISON
(GBR) increased his point spread, standing 11 points ahead of France's Felix PRUVOT (FRA) going into tomorrow's finals. GOODISON
's fellow countryman Nick DEMPSEY
(GBR), the leader since day one in the Neil Pryde RS:X Men's fleet, won all three races of the day. The week's consistent leaders in the Women's 470, Great Britain's Christina BASSADONE
and Saskia CLARK (GBR) have also maintained their lead. In the Tornado class, John LOVELL
and Charlie OGLETREE (USA) started off the day with a win and followed it with an 11th, but counted it as their dropout.
The day didn't go as well for Paige RAILEY
(USA), who until today was the consistent leader in the Laser Radial class. She started out by winning the first race of the day, but an OCS in today's second race for starting prematurely caused her to lose her grip on the regatta, adding 48 points to her total score. She now stands in third place overall with no chance of winning. That battle for the regatta title will now be between today's new leader Anna TUNNICLIFFE
(USA) and Canada's Jennifer SPALDING
In the Paralympic class Sonar, skipper Rick DOERR (USA) is closing in on leader David SCHROEDER (USA). With two wins in the two races of the day, DOERR is only two points overall behind Schroeder, who has been leading the fleet since day two.
The Spanish teams of Rafael TRUJILLO
(ESP) and Marina ALABAU
(ESP) still leads in the Finn and Neil Pryde RS:X Women's classes, respectively, while Israel's Gideon KLIGER
and Udi GAL (ISR) rose to first overall in 470 Men's class.
US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR is an International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade 1 event, a designation that indicates its importance in world rankings. It also is a qualifying event for the members of the 2006 US Sailing Team and a country qualifier for the 2007 Pan Am Games.
In addition to Rolex, sponsors for US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR are Nautica, Extrasport, Gill, Harken, McLube, New England Ropes, Nikon, Sperry Top-Sider, Vanguard Sailboats, Vineyard Vines, and Zodiac. Rolex and Nautica are also sponsors of the US Sailing Teams. Tonight's shoreside activities for competitors feature a special dinner sponsored by Nautica.
Headquarters for US SAILING's 2006 Rolex Miami OCR are at the US Sailing Center, with classes hosted by the US Sailing Center; Coral Reef, Key Biscayne and Miami Yacht Clubs; the Coconut Grove Sailing Club; and Shake-A-Leg-Miami. The event is organized by US SAILING, the national governing body of the sport.
For a complete list of all the news about the Rolex Miami OCR 2006 CLICK HERE.