Next week, the USA's Olympic sailing hopefuls will have a chance to gauge themselves against the world's best as they prepare for Athens 2004.
In fact, more than 470 athletes representing over 30 countries will be competing on Biscayne Bay as the Rolex Miami OCR gets underway. In its 14th year, the Rolex Miami OCR has not seen a turnout like this since the two years leading up to the '96 Savannah Olympic Regatta, when foreign sailors targeted the event for testing themselves on U.S. waters. Registration ends next Tuesday, before racing begins on Wednesday, January 29.
In the 470 Men's class, 2000 470 Men's Olympic Silver Medallist Paul Foerster (Rockwall, Texas) will team up with Miami's Kevin Burnham, a 470 Olympic Silver Medallist (crew) from 1992. Considered yachting's elite "elders" at ages 38 and 45, respectively, Foerster and Burnham are considerable threats on the international circuit after a second-place finish at last fall's U.S. Olympic Pre-Trials, only their second regatta as a team.
On the women's side of this class, another intriguing duo, Allison Jolly (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Lynne Shore (Newport, R.I.), has made a comeback after a long sailing hiatus. The winners of the first-ever Olympic gold medals in the 470 Women's class when the event debuted in 1988, Jolly and Shore-ages 45 and 42, respectively--also dusted off their act as a team at the Olympic Pre-Trials. Jolly and Shore are both Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year.
Now that all the U.S. teams have been eliminated from the America's Cup, U.S. sailors returning from New Zealand are turning their focus to the Rolex Miami OCR -- especially in the Star class. Entries so far include skippers Paul Cayard (Kentfield, Calif.) from Oracle Racing, and Vince Brun (San Diego, Calif.), Tony Rey (Newport, R.I.) and Terry Hutchinson (Harwood, Md.), all from Stars & Stripes. Also from Stars & Stripes, Andrew Scott (Annapolis, Md.) will crew for Terry Hutchinson.
The teams will face stiff competition from two skippers--Bill Hardesty (San Diego, Calif.) and Andy Lovell (New Orleans, La.)--who are both College Sailors of the Year, as well as from John Kostecki (Fairfax, Calif.), winning skipper of the most recent Volvo Around the World race. 2000 Star Olympic Gold Medallists and World Champions Mark Reynolds (San Diego, Calif.) and Magnus Liljedahl (Miami, Fla.) are back with intentions of winning the Rolex Miami OCR a second time. (The team won in '99 and finished second in '98 and 2001.) The two are distinguished as Rolex Yachtsmen of the Year and ISAF Rolex Sailors of the Year.
On the foreign front, defending Rolex Miami OCR skipper and 2000 Olympian Marc Pickel (GER) will make an assault along with Great Britain's Iain Percy and crew Steve Mitchell, who are the 2002 Nautica Star World Champions. 2000 Olympians Peter Bromby/Martin Siese (BER), Bill Abbott (CAN) and Ross MacDonald (CAN) round out a field that has already climbed to 61 entries.
With the Yngling set to make its Olympic debut in 2004, the field in Miami is chock full of notable women's teams, including those skippered by the 2002 Yngling World Champion Monica Azon (ESP); Paula Lewin (BER); Anne LeHelley (FRA); and Sharon Ferris (NZL). The U.S. contingent, however, may offer the toughest battle for defending Rolex Miami OCR Champion Carol Cronin (Jamestown, R.I.). Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year Jody Swanson (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.), the Yngling Worlds Bronze Medallist, are in the ominous lineup.
Sonar and 2.4 Metre Highlights
In Paralympic sailing, Christopher Murphy (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) will take the helm of a Sonar to compete against the same man for whom he crewed when Paralympic sailing made its debut as a demonstration event at the 1996 Olympic Games. It was there that he and John Ross Duggan (Newport Beach, Calif.) won the Bronze medal.
In the single-person 2.4 Metre, a tough match-up between USA's 2000 Paralympic Bronze medallist Thomas Brown (Harbor, Maine) and Germany's 2000 Paralympic Gold Medallist Heiko Kroeger (GER) is inevitable.
Leading the charge will be defending Rolex Miami OCR champions and '01/'02 Tornado National Champions Lars Guck (Bristol, R.I.) and Jonathan Farrar (Miami Beach, Fla.). They must face, among others, two-time North American champions ('01/'02) Robert Daniel (Clearwater, Fla.) and crew Eric Jacobsen (Annapolis, Md.) and Germany's '96 Olympic Silver Medallist Andrew Landenberger.
Other Olympic classes competing are Finn, Laser, Mistral (men and women), 49er and Europe.
The Rolex Miami OCR is the only International Sailing Federation (ISAF) grade-one ranking event in the U.S. for Olympic and Paralympic classes. Hosts for the event are the U.S. Sailing Center; Coral Reef, Key Biscayne and Miami Yacht Clubs; the Coconut Grove Sailing Club; and Castle Harbor Sailing School.