The countdown is at an end in Florida, where the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR begins tomorrow.
Though the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are four years away, it's not too early to begin serious training. That's why 2.4 Metre sailor Mark BRYANT
(USA) is at US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR in Coconut Grove where 375 sailors from 34 countries have converged to "test against the best."
BRYANT, a US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics member, last year lost the US Paralympic Team Trials for his class by one point, so he has been training with the French 2004 Paralympic gold medallist and two-time World Champion (2005,2007) Damien SEGUIN
to improve his game for the next time around. They will both compete in the Rolex Miami OCR, which starts tomorrow and continues through to Friday with fleet racing in four Olympic classes (Laser, Laser Radial, Star and Yngling) for able-bodied sailors and three Paralympic classes (2.4 Metre, SKUD18 and Sonar) for disabled sailors. Medal Races in the Olympic Classes will take place Saturday, replicating the format of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition which will take place in August in Qingdao, China.
"The best of the best are here, especially in the Yngling and Star classes, which both have their Worlds in Miami after this,"
said US SAILING's Olympic Committee Chair Dean BRENNER, noting that if it were not for the likes of BRYANT, there would be only two types of sailors at this year's Rolex Miami OCR: those who have been named to their 2008 national Olympic and Paralympic sailing teams and those who are hopeful they can still be named.
"That's what's giving the event a unique twist,"
said BRENNER. "It's an Olympic year so every major regatta is a major test for top athletes, and this event is the Olympic and Paralympic selection event for some countries. Many of the athletes are thinking about 2008 and some are thinking beyond to 2012."
SEGUIN will represent France in Qingdao, and indeed BRYANT will have to compete here against the USA's 2.4 Metre representative to the Paralympic Games, John RUF
, the fellow sailing team member he just missed edging out in the Trials.
"SEGUIN is the best in the world, so you might as well train against the best,"
said BRYANT. SEGUIN, who says France is cold this time of year, has come because the Rolex Miami OCR is an ISAF Grade 1 ranking event in a warm climate.
Other US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics members competing are:
Laser Radial - Anna TUNNICLIFFE, Paige RAILEY, Sarah LIHAN
Star - John DANE and Austin SPERRY; George SZABO sailing with crew Rick PETERS; Mark MENDELBLATT sailing with Mark NEWBROOK
Yngling - Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI
SKUD18 - Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER; Scott WHITMAN and Julia DORSETT
Sonar - Rick DOERR, Tim ANGLE and Bill DONOHUE; Paul CALLAHAN, Roger CLEWORTH and Tom BROWN; Bert FOSTER, David BURDETT and Jim THWEATT
Rolex Miami OCR - www.rolexmiamiocr.org