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3 February 2008, 11:37 am
Medal Races Determine Champions In Miami
Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU
Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU took overall victory in the competitive Star fleet

Rolex Miami OCR 2008
Miami, Florida, USA

The USA, France, the Netherlands and Poland scored victories after the Medal Races at the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR in the USA.
After today's short 30-minute Medal Race in each of four Olympic Classes (Laser, Laser Radial, Star and Yngling), US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR officially concluded. The regatta, an ISAF Grade 1 World Ranking event that attracts elite sailors as well as up-and-comers, hosted 369 sailors from 34 countries and on Friday crowned champions in three Paralympic classes (SKUD18, Sonar and 2.4 Metre). The awarding of gold, silver and bronze medals in those classes were based on scores from fleet racing that began last Monday for everyone; however, because of a new sailing format that will debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao, China, the Olympic Class sailors stayed on for an extra day. Fleet racing scores determined these classes' top-ten sailors, who then advanced to the Medal Races, which counted double in the scoring and acutely effected strategy plays for medals.

"All I could think was 'I have to catch up, I have to catch up!,'" said the overall winner in the Laser Radial class Paige RAILEY (USA), who started prematurely in the Medal Race, and after re-starting behind the fleet found herself in last around the top mark of a twice-around course. Her closest competitor in overall scoring, Anna TUNNICLIFFE(USA), also had jumped the gun and was working her way up from sixth at that top mark to eventually win the race.

"I knew that if Anna got a first, I had to get at least an eighth to still win overall," said RAILEY, who began picking off boats by playing a lane that was clear of wind-shadowing boats. In the end, she finished seventh, a score good enough to put her three points ahead of TUNNICLIFFE in the final standings. Though RAILEY and TUNNICLIFFE are long-time rivals - TUNNICLIFFE edged out RAILEY at the US Olympic Team Trials for Sailing to become the USA's representative to the Olympic Games in August - the gold medal for RAILEY counted simply as a notable personal accomplishment on her campaign trail to the next Olympic Games.

"Anna is still another sailor, like so many good sailors here," said RAILEY, "so it's personal for me not just in beating her but also in beating them." While TUNNICLIFFE won the silver medal, Karin SODERSTROM (SWE) took the bronze.

France's Xavier ROHART, sailing with crew Pascal RAMBEAU, emerged as the overall Star class winner after winning that class's Medal Race. Even though he came into today's races in second overall, ROHART thought his chances of walking away with a gold medal were slim, due to the strength of previous leader Eivind MELLEBY and Petter Morland PEDERSEN (NOR) and the rest of the fleet, which has no less than six world champions in it, ROHART counting as one.

"There are so many good teams that were really faster than we were all this week, so we felt it would be difficult to gain so much," said ROHART. However, when the Norwegian team started prematurely, ROHART said "the plan got easier." MELLEBY and PEDERSEN finished seventh in today's race, good for the silver medal, while Flavio MARAZZI and Enrico DE MARIA (SUI) took the bronze.

Polish Laser sailor Maciej GRABOWSKI won the gold medal in the Laser fleet on the strength of a third-place finish today. With the USA's Kyle ROGACHENKO only six points behind him going into today, GRABOWSKI "couldn't let him go." He covered ROGACHENKO, as ROGACHENKO - a member of US SAILING's Elite Youth Development Team - was the only one who could steal away his gold medal.

"It was not necessary to win the race or take risks," said GRABOWSKI, who is a sure bet to represent his country at the Olympic Games. GRABOWSKI strayed from the norm by choosing to come to Miami rather than participate in the Laser World Championships in Australia this February. Conflicting World Championships were the reason, in fact, that seven of the 2008 Olympic classes were not included this year at the Rolex Miami OCR.

"For me it made sense to sail in a place with lighter winds that will be more like Qingdao," said GRABOWSKI. Winning today's Medal Race to take the silver medal was GRABOWSKI's fellow countryman Marcin RUDAWSKI, while Denmark's Anders NYHOLM won the bronze.

Yesterday's leading team in the Yngling class, Mandy MULDER, Marije FABER and Merel WITTEVEEN (NED), finished seventh today to take the gold medal over Ekaterina SKUDINA, Diana KRUTSKIKH and Natalia IVANOVA (RUS), who settled for silver.

"Going into today we had a four-point lead over Russia and we knew the third-place team from Great Britain could not catch us," said MULDER, who skippers. Her bow person WITTEVEEN added, "We controlled the Russian team only a little while we tried to sail our own race."

The Russians finished in last while another team from the Netherlands, Renee GROENEVELD, Annemieke BES and Marije KAMPEN, finished fourth to move into bronze-medal position. WITTEVEEN was quick to note that three teams from her country have been competing here, all with their sights set on Qingdao, but no one knows yet which combination of three from the nine girls will go. WITTEVEEN said that during training, the crews constantly rotate.

"It's hard to say which combination is best," said WITTEVEEN. "I'm just glad to know I'm not the coach who has to choose!"

This is WITTEVEEN's first Yngling regatta and the first time the trio has sailed in this combination for a regatta. Nevertheless, MULDER says her country has a very good chance to medal, as evidenced here.

"The conditions in China will suit us well," said MULDER.

US SAILING's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year (2005 and 2007) Sally BARKOW, with crew Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI won today's Medal Race but still fell short of the podium, finishing sixth overall. The trio, which has won this event four times, is on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics and hopes to represent the USA at the Olympic Games.

As the host country for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, China, which sent two teams to compete in the Ynglings and one in Stars, gets an automatic berth in each sailing class while other countries must earn theirs. The Yngling and Star classes are both holding their World Championships in Miami (next week and in April, respectively) to determine the last few countries to qualify.

"As the host country we are very happy to welcome all sailors coming to Qingdao," said China's Yngling skipper Xiaqun SONG, who was leading the Rolex Miami OCR fleet after opening day.

Results - click here
Rolex Miami OCR -

Barby MacGowan (As Amended By ISAF)
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