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10 February 2003, 10:57 am
Huge Turnout, Big Names Accent Rolex Miami OCR
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Foester/Burnham (USA) © Daniel Forster

Rolex Miami OCR
Miami, Florida

Following the completion of the Event last weekend, we can now bring you a complete wrap up of who did what at the only ISAF Grade one event in the USA.

Despite cooler-than-normal temperatures in Southern Florida, 526 athletes generated their own kind of competitive heat as they raced in the 2003 Rolex Miami OCR over four days.

The global importance of the event, the only International Sailing Federation grade-one ranking event in the U.S. for Olympic and Paralympic classes, was reflected by the fact that more than half of the 328 boats sailing in the 11 Olympic and Paralympic classes were foreign entries. With 34 countries represented, Canada had the largest contingent with 55 entries, followed by Germany with 13, and Great Britain with 12. In its 14th year, the Rolex Miami OCR featured six courses on Biscayne Bay, providing a spectacular show for spectators as well as high-rise dwellers.

Turning in a best-of -show performance was Mark Mendelblatt (USA) who snatched the Laser title from defending champion Paul Goodison (GBR). Mendelblatt, leading after day one in the 49-boat fleet, slipped behind Goodison and trailed him by two points going into the last day. In the final two races, Mendelblatt shined, first making a remarkable comeback to finish sixth after a crippling wind shift seemingly had him pegged in 30th. Then he won the second race to count four firsts in his 11-race scoreline. "There were pretty much three of us who were battling," said Mendelblatt, indicating Goodison, who finished second, and final third-place finisher Andrew Campbell (USA). "I was just fortunate to have the comeback I did."

Like several sailors competing in Miami, Mendelblatt had come straight from New Zealand after his America's Cup team, OneWorld, was eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup. For his performance, Mendelblatt received the newly created "Golden Torch" award, presented to the U.S. competitor with the top overall performance in the regatta. The award is an Olympic Torch from the U.S.-boycotted 1980 Olympics presented by the Russian Olympic Committee to Andy Kostanecki, chairman of US SAILING's Olympic Sailing Committee during the '85-'88 quadrennium.

In the Star class, the largest at the regatta with 68 entrants, the America's Cup stars, Olympians and World Champions were ever apparent, but it was Bermuda's 2000 Olympians Peter Bromby and Lee White, who prevailed to win. It looked dicey going into the finals, as Bromby -- like Mendelblatt -- had fallen from his early regatta lead to trail the ultimate second-place finishers, Andy Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and crew Eric Oetgen (Savannah, Ga.). "We've been fortunate, in these light conditions, to have consistent races," said Bromby, looking back at his performance over nine races. "The list of good sailors here goes on forever." As for Lovell, his goal was to finish in the top ten overall. "It was a lofty goal," he said. "To finish second was outstanding." Among the notables skippering in the Star fleet were America's Cup veterans Paul Cayard (Kentfield, Calif.), Vince Brun (San Diego, Calif.), Tony Rey (Newport, R.I.) and Terry Hutchinson (Harwood, Md.); Volvo Ocean Race winner John Kostecki (Fairfax, Calif.); defending champion and 2000 Olympian Marc Pickel (GER); 2000 Star Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion Mark Reynolds (San Diego, Calif); and 2002 World Champion Iain Percy (GBR).

Turning in an amazing performance in the 470 Men's class were Paul Foerster (Rockwall, Texas), USA's 2000 470 Men's Olympic Silver Medallist, and his crew Kevin Burnham (Miami Beach, Fla.), the 470 Men's Olympic Silver Medallist (crew) from 1992. Foerster and Burnham won both races on the last day to knock off Steve Hunt (Hampton, Va.) and Michael Miller (Charleston, S.C.), who had been leading since day one. Their final margin was one point to win the 10-race series, with Hunt/Miller settling for second.

In the 470 Women's class, Katie McDowell (Barrington, R.I.) and Isabelle Kinsolving (New York, N.Y.) sailed steady throughout the ten-race series. The team never gave up its first-day lead and finished 14 points ahead of Erin Maxwell (Stonington, Conn.) and Jen Morgan (Seattle, Wash.). Coming out of retirement and causing a stir among the competitors were Allison Jolly (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Lynne Shore (Newport, R.I.), winners of the first-ever 470 Women's Olympic gold medals when the event debuted in 1988. Jolly and Shore finished fourth.

The Yngling fleet also hosted an upset on the last day when Sally Barkow/Carrie Howe/Debbie Capozzi (Nashotah, Wisc.) edged out leader Betsy Alison/Lee Icyda/Suzy Leech (Newport, R.I.) for a surprise victory. With a crew fresh from the college sailing circuit, Barkow's team had not been considered obvious contenders, especially after a premature start early in the series added 25 points to its score. However, after the drop race was figured into the scoring, the team moved into podium contention. Alison's team finished fifth overall. "We didn't put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but we sailed consistently," said Barkow. "This sky-rockets our confidence but we have a long road ahead of us for the Olympics." Finishing second was the team of Katerina Giakoumidou/Helena Dimitrakopoulou/Efi Mantzaaki who hail from Glyfada, Greece, staging area for the 2004 Olympic Regatta where the Yngling will make its debut as an Olympic class.

49er class leaders Tim Wadlow (Branford, Conn.) and Peter Spaulding (Coral Gables, Fla.) played the light, shifty conditions on day two to edge past their closest competitors Andy Mack (White Salmon, Wash.) and Adam Lowry (San Francisco, Calif.). The duo then made steady gains over the rest of the 11-race series to win. "There are four or five teams from the U.S. that are really tight here," said Wadlow. "Last year, the same teams were here and we finished fifth, so this year we feel good that we're on top." Mack/Lowry finished second overall.

Europe sailor Lenka Smidova (CZE) secured her position on the top of the podium, beating out defending champion Meg Gaillard (Jamestown, R.I.), who finished second overall.

In the Paralympic Sonar class, the team of John Ross-Duggan/JP Creignou/Mikey Ross (Newport Beach, Calif.) won half of the ten races, including three on the first day, to win overall. "I had a strong first day, obviously," said Ross-Duggan, who won the bronze medal at the Sonar demonstration event at the 1996 Paralympics, "but I had to keep watch on other strong teams. On any given day, things could have changed."

2.4 Metre
In the Paralympic 2.4 Metre class, Germany's 2000 Paralympic gold medallist Heiko Kroeger also posted three victories on day one and never slipped out of the lead.

In both Mistral events (men and women), one sailor dominated to win. For the men, it was 1996 Mistral Men's Gold Medallist Nikos Kaklamanakis (GRE), with six victories in nine races, and for women it was Anja Kaeser (SUI) with a 17-point lead over second-place finisher Dominique Vallee (Trois-Riveieres, CAN).

It was not until day three that Finn sailor Jonas Hoegh-Christensen (DEN) was able to snatch the lead from Chris Cook (CAN). Hoegh-Christensen then sailed solidly on day four to win the 10-race series.

Day three was also pivotal in the 28-boat Tornado fleet. Austria's 2000 Tornado Olympic Gold Medallists, Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher overtook Santiago Lange/Carlos Espinola (ARG) in the overall results. Hagara and Steinacher maintained their position on day four to win the nine-race series
For U.S. sailors in the Europe, Finn, 49er, Laser, Star, Tornado, Yngling, 2.4 Metre and Sonar classes, this event was a "must-sail" to count toward the 2003 US Sailing Team (USST) and US Disabled Sailing Team (USDST) rankings. For U.S. 470 sailors, it was the final ranking event for 2003. (The members of the 2003 USST in the Mistral class were determined at the conclusion of their Olympic Pre-Trials last October.)

"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." said US SAILING's Olympic Director Jonathan Harley (Middletown, R.I.). "Everyone needing to know where they stood on the world stage leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens made it a priority to be at the Rolex Miami OCR."
Barby MacGowan/ISAF News Editor
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