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2 February 2008, 09:17 am
Paralympic Classes Decided; Medal Races To Come In Miami
Eivind MELLEBY and Petter Morland PEDERSEN
Eivind MELLEBY and Petter Morland PEDERSEN have taken the lead in the competitive Star fleet

Rolex Miami OCR 2008
Miami, Florida, USA

The Paralympic competition concluded at the Rolex Miami OCR with success for the USA, Germany and France, whilst the Medal Race line ups were decided in the Olympic Classes.
Racing concluded on Friday for three Paralympic classes (SKUD-18, Sonar and 2.4mR) at US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR, and a final day of fleet racing for four Olympic Classes (Laser, Laser Radial, Star and Yngling) determined the top-ten sailors in each who will advance to Saturday's Medal Races. The ISAF Grade 1 regatta is hosting 369 sailors from 34 countries, with many of those sailors preparing for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games in China as members of their national teams.

In fact, all three overall winners in the Paralympic Classes here will represent their countries in the Paralympic Sailing Competition set for Qingdao, China, in September. They are USA's Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER in the SKUD18; Jens KROKER, Tobias SCHUETZ and Siegmund MAINKA (GER) in the Sonar; and Damien SEGUIN (FRA) in the 2.4 Metre.

KROKER, who could have bypassed sailing on Friday since his team's score was mathematically insurmountable, felt that the day's light winds would provide for good practice.

"This will be the conditions of Qingdao, so today was very important for experimenting with our rig and sails, knowing that even if we were disqualified today we would still win overall," he said.

KROKER used to sail 470s before he took up Sonar sailing. "In the 470, I really felt it that I was missing a hand, but with the Sonar I am only at the helm [steering] and not pulling lines," he explained.

His crew, new to sailing when they joined KROKER in 2006, makes him proud: "It has been a great achievement bringing them up to speed, and winning this regatta is again a top-notch achievement for us."

This will be KROKER's third Paralympic Games, and he notes that the competition level of Paralympic sailing has steadily risen throughout the world. "Many of these sailors here could win able-bodied championships."

Nowhere is KROKER's statement more true than with respect to the 2.4 Metre class, in which as many able-bodied as disabled sailors seem to sail. In fact, the 2.4 Metre class at the Rolex Miami OCR was open to both groups, attracting a half dozen top able-bodied sailors, which Paralympic sailors say helps them up their game. SEGUIN, France's gold medallist from the 2004 Paralympic Games, seemed to easily dominate, however, establishing his lead early in the 25-boat fleet. Asked if having already won a Paralympic medal took some pressure off here, SEGUIN said, "Not really. I want to do my best. It's a very big fighting group here, and it's a sport, period. Any number of countries has the ability to win the Paralympics."

In SKUD18s, which will debut at the 2008 Paralympic Games, SCANDONE and MCKINNON-TUCKER also dominated, winning the regatta's first five races and two of the remaining six. The duo sat out today's last of two races because they had the series sewn up.

"We've had our boat the longest compared to the other teams," said SCANDONE, whose margins of victory were impressive in the races he and MCKINNON-TUCKER won, "So the extra time in the boat paid off."

SCANDONE's long resume of sailing accomplishments, going back to before he was an ICSA Collegiate All-American and US SAILING's Rolex Yachtsman of the Year (2005), could also speak to why he has done so well. With progressive ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), SCANDONE says his focus between now and the Games is to get lots of rest between practice sessions with MCKINNON-TUCKER, which are more difficult to organize than for others. "Marblehead is about as far away as can be from Fountain Valley, but we'll stay in the game, stay healthy, and do our best to bring home the gold."

Olympic Classes To Continue Sailing

One of the most interesting battles setting up for tomorrow is the one in the Laser Radial fleet between between long-time rivals Paige RAILEY (USA), 2005 US SAILING Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, and Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA), the USA's representative to the Olympic Games. After sailing a first race at noon, the Laser Radial fleet was postponed for hours on the water before starting again. Though it fell short of exciting to watch, the second race had to have been one of the most challenging races of the week for RAILEY, who showed her true champion's colours when she won. She combined the victory with a second-place finish in the first race to replace TUNNICLIFFE at the top of the scoreboard. RAILEY's and TUNNICLIFFE's one-two overall positions are exactly opposite of those they posted at the end of the US Olympic Team Trials for sailing. In this case, however, the point spread between them is much larger. TUNNICLIFFE's finish positions of 8,16 today enabled RAILEY to soar to a 15-point lead.

In the Laser class, leader Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL) is still in a holding pattern over Kyle ROGACHENKO (USA), who is in second and a member of US SAILING's Elite Youth Development Team. Though this class is devoid of many of the World Champions who have attended in the past - the Rolex Miami OCR this year conflicts with the Laser World Championships in New Zealand - ROGACHENKO says it is still good practice and his goal early in the week was to set himself up for Saturday's races. "I'm definitely going for it for the next Trials," said ROGACHENKO.

In the aggressive and champion-studded Star fleet, the race committee's inability to conduct a second race today due to lack of wind proved a disappointment for many who poorly managed the 6-8 knots in the first race. US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics members John DANE and Austin SPERRY, the USA's representatives to the Games, missed the top ten when they finished 22nd and wound up 14th overall. Norway's Eivind MELLEBY and Petter Morland PEDERSEN moved into first overall on the merit of their second-place finish today, dropping yesterday's leaders, Flavio MARAZZI and Enrico DE MARIA (SUI), down to third, with Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) securing the runner-up spot with a sixth today. Hamish PEPPER and Carl WILLIAMS (NZL) were the "cut-off" tenth team after finishing 13th today.

Mandy MULDER, Marije FABER and Merel WITTEVEEN (NED) maintained their lead in the Yngling class today after two races in which they place 11th and 12th. Also maintaining was US SAILING's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year (2005 and 2007) Sally BARKOW with crew Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA). Finishing 13,2 today, the trio held on to yesterday's eighth position overall, not typical of their performances in world-class regattas but still the ticket to continuing in the competition tomorrow.

For tomorrow, back-to-back racing is planned for the classes, with Laser Radials starting first. With courses shortened for approximately 30-minute races, it should be a quick day, unless the wind causes postponements as it has on-and-off since Monday, when this event began. The stakes are high, just as they will be in the Olympic Games, with the single race weighing in for double in the sailors' score lines and not allowed as a discard.

Results - click here
Rolex Miami OCR - www.rolexmiamiocr.org

Barby MacGowan (As Amended By ISAF)
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