Sailors were rewarded for their patience and hours of onshore preparation with a full day of inconsistent and challenging conditions on Thursday at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. The pressure was on, to complete three to four races per fleet on Thursday to catch up to the desired race totals.
Sailors experienced slightly cooler temperatures this morning with considerable breeze ranging from 6 to 8 knots out of the Northwest under overcast skies. The breeze built up to 15 knots in the afternoon on some courses. The afternoon also featured isolated thunderstorms that steadily moved across Biscayne Bay bringing scattered showers.
In the Laser Yellow fleet, Nick Thompson (GBR) came from behind to win Race 4. He was just 12th around the first mark, but was able to diminish his deficit on each leg. Thompson trailed Matthew Ryder (CAN) by six seconds around the last mark, before pulling off the victory in the downwind sprint.
"It was a tricky day in general, as the breeze was light and all over with lots of clouds moving through,
" explained Thompson. "I am happy with both races today, as I was able to pull through the fleet and come back. On the first start, I thought most of the fleet was a bit punchy, so I held back and had to fight hard for a first and ninth place. My strategy to get to the top is to stay away from the corners and work my way through the middle of the fleet."
Thompson also commented on the light air this week, "The race committee has done a really nice job working through this and it's just a bit of bad luck for them as the weeks leading up to this have been really nice."
Race 5 belonged to Pavlos Kontides (CYP), silver medalist in the 2013 Laser World Championship and 2012 Olympics. He outlasted Giovanni Coccoluto (ITA) by 22 seconds at the finish line.
World #2 Tonci Stipanovi? (CRO) won his second consecutive race to start Thursday's racing in the Laser Blue fleet. He placed second in Race 5, just three seconds behind winner Alex Mills-Barton (GBR). Stipanovic leads overall by three points over World #1 Tom Burton (AUS).
The 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) made the most of Thursday's early afternoon gusts. She was dominant and won the first two of three races to move into second place behind defending champion Paige Railey (USA). In Race 4, Bouwmeester was in seventh at the first mark and sixth at the second. Nonetheless, the 2011 World Champion came from behind to win again. Race 5 was a duel between Bouwmeester, Railey and Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN). Bouwmeester had a slight lead around the first three marks, until Railey gained the advantage around the final mark. Bouwmeester bested Railey in the sprint to the finish by four seconds. Rindom was third.
The top four boats finished within 14 seconds of each other. Railey still holds an 11 point lead. Claire Merry (CAN) jumped to fourth place with a first place finish in Race 6.
Training partners Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) and Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) will go into the penultimate day tied on 36-points after the Italians notched up two race wins.
After light winds blighted the early part of the week the Nacra 17 fleet were playing catch up with four races scheduled.
The Italians came out flying and read every situation with sublime expertise taking the opening race win and backing it up with a second immediately after. A tenth blighted an otherwise perfect day as they took the final bullet.
"Racing was really shifty,"
commented Bissaro, "but we were on time with every shift and it was a really good day for us because we've grabbed first overall.
"For me and Silvia it's the first time Olympic campaigning so it's all new to us. We like everything, the ambience, the people, the spot where we're sailing and the Nacra 17's challenges. Every day you discover something new and you really get the feeling your increasing your knowledge day by day."
Whilst there's still work to be done Zajac is happy with how the week has played out so far, "It's good because we were training all winter with the Italians so for us as training partners, seeing us both on top, it's the best thing that could happen
Zajac and Frank have been an early front runner in the Nacra 17 but there's no secret to their success. "We were just working hard all winter,"
added Zajac. "And we haven't finished yet so we will continue. We are just sailing, trying more and not doing anything particularly special."
Both teams are 12-points clear of Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco (ESP) in third place and 14 points ahead of fourth place. Even though they hold a strong advantage, Bissaro knows there's a job to do, "Sailing is like tennis, you cannot say you're first and that be enough. You start from zero every time so we will approach the races tomorrow the same way we did today. We will keep pushing."
Just six points separates first to sixth in the 49er after six races.
Leading the way on 30-points is John Pink and Stuart Bithell (GBR). The Brits are sailing at their first regatta together after Bithell and Chris Grube, who is sailing in Miami with Stevie Morrison, parted ways.
Morrison and Grube sit fourth, four points off the leaders, and both sailors enjoy the rivalry they now share, "We've always been good mates me and Stuart,"
"We've come through the 470 together since we started and we're good mates but there is that rivalry there especially since we started new teams.
"We're mates on the water and competitors off the water which is kind of how it's always been since I sailed with Nick [Rogers] and he sailed with Luke [Patience]. It's always been the case."
Bithell shared his former crews thoughts, "Myself and Chris stopped sailing together for fairly logical reasons and we both accept that now. It's almost fun racing against each other and we're still great mates. As far as we're concerned now it's just another boat on the race course so we treat them just like everyone else."
Nothing has separated the 49er fleet throughout the week with no crew able to record consistent results. With the field wide open the remaining races will make for entertaining viewing.
Italy's Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich held onto their lead in the 49erFX in another day of tight tetchy racing.
The Italians have only finished out of the top eight on one occasion in the seven race series thus far. Their lead stands at four points over Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard (FRA). Juliana Senftt and Gabriela Sa (BRA).
Finn leader Oliver Tweddell (AUS) won Race 4 and had a significant advantage for most of the race. Tweddell's lead extended to 40 seconds around mark two. Jorge João Zarif (BRA) placed second, three seconds ahead of Gregory Douglas (CAN). World #3 Björn Allansson (SWE) captured Race 5 by nearly 40 seconds over Tweddell.
Zarif bounced back with a win in Race 6. The Finn Gold Cup Champion defeated Tweddell and Michele Paoletti (ITA) by 10 seconds. Paoletti had the lead around the first three marks.
Tweddell leads Giles Scott (GBR) by nine points. Scott has won five of his last six major international Finn regattas.
Tweddell commented about Thursday's competition, "The winning strategy was to get off the line clean, stay in the pressure, stay on the lifted tack and out of traffic at the marks. The conditions were tough because the pressure varied from 5 to 12 knots and 30 degree shifts. I am looking forward to the rest of the week and I'm just going to take things one race at a time."
The competition is heating up despite the chilly weather in the 470 Men's fleet. Leaders Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) retained the momentum they had from earlier in the week by winning Race 4. The win marked their third of the regatta. The World #6 tandem is aiming for their first ISAF Sailing World Cup victory. They crossed the finish line 10 seconds ahead of Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström (SWE).
However, Thursday belonged to last year's World Cup Miami champions Stuart McNay and David Hughes (USA). They captured Race 5 and 6 and closed out Thursday with a one point lead over Bouvet and Mion. They won by nearly one minute in Race 5 and by five seconds in Race 6.
An OCS bumped the former Open 470 European Champion Camille Lecointre and crew Hélène Defrance (FRA) from what appeared to be a convincing win in Race 4. Instead, the victory went to World #3 Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR). World #4 Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) placed second. Weguelin and McIntyre continued their successes with another win in Race 5. They led nearly from start to finish and defeated World #1 Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) by 29 seconds. Weguelin and McIntyre have collected four wins.
In Race 6, they were second behind Mrak Tina and Macarol Veronika (SLO). The Great British team holds an eight point advantage over Lecointre and Defrance atop the leaderboard.
Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) remains in control in the Men's RS:X fleet and holds a seven point lead over Nimrod Mashich (ISR).
Mashich was the stand out racer on the fourth day of racing. Two race wins and a fourth drew him to within touching distance of Kokkalanis. Ricardo Santos (BRA) is third, two points off Mashich.
Bryony Shaw (GBR) continues to lead the Women's RS:X. The British sailor has slowly increased her lead and after seven races the difference is ten between herself and Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) and Laura Linares (ITA).
It was a big day for John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (GBR) who won a pair of races Thursday, and trail leaders Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary (FRA) by just two points in the Sonars.
World #1 Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) had their perfect streak snapped in Race 5 today when they place fourth. They won Race 4 and have a three point lead over John McRoberts and Jackie Gay (CAN) in the SKUD18 event.
World #1 and defending champion Megan Pascoe (GBR) remains on top in the 2.4mR through five races with another solid performance. She won her second race of the regatta in Race 4 and finished third in Race 5. Pascoe holds a two point lead over Allan Leibel (CAN).
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