The international teams fought back strongly on day two of US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR, with the first full day of racing forl classes demonstrating the depth and breadth of talent at the second event of the 2009-2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Tuesday counted as a perfect day at US SAILING's 2010 Rolex Miami OCR, the second of seven stops of the 2009-2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup
. Especially after Monday's weather interruptions, no one minded this morning's slight cold snap that gave way to brilliant conditions on Biscayne Bay and allowed multiple races to be completed in the 13 Olympic and Paralympic classes represented here. The annual event, in its 21st year, has 45 nations represented on its roster of 448 teams (633 athletes), most of whom are top contenders for 2012 Olympic or Paralympic berths.
The US ended an abbreviated opening day as stars of the show, but Tuesday's full schedule of racing provided a much clearer picture of the international face of this year's competition in Miami. Across the 13 events, eight different nations - Australia, France, Great Britain, Israel, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the USA - hold leaderboard top spots.
Israel's Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela took pleasure in "three good races" that launched them to the top of the scoreboard in the Men's 470 class that runs 34 teams deep. (Racing was cancelled for this class on Monday.)
Even with an impressive scoreline of 2, 6, 4, however, Kliger was humble about his team's performance. "We only started sailing together one month ago, so I wouldn't have put ourselves in 'the teams to watch,' but it was a good day."
Kliger skippered in two Olympic Games (Athens and Beijing) and has claimed three bronze medals at 470 World Championships. He was quick to point out that his crew also holds a bronze medal from the Junior World Championship. "All the best guys are here, like at the Worlds," said Kliger. Nipping at his heels in overall standings is Luke Patience with crew Stuart Bithell (GBR), showing 17 points to Israel's 12, followed by Sven Coster and Kalle Coster (NED) with 22 points.
Mikee Anderson-Mitterling and David Hughes (USA), comprising the top-finishing US team (12th place) in this class, also felt a bit like newcomers today. "It was our first day back after not sailing for two and a half years since the Olympic Trials," said Anderson-Mitterling. "We're going to try to see at this point if we still think we have it, and if we feel we can do well, we might go full bore again for an Olympic campaign." As for holding their own, he admitted, "It's a deep fleet [in talent]; if you make a mistake they make you pay."
Only four points separated the top seven Women's 470 teams, proving how experience ruled the day as sailors played to the shifty conditions. Two French teams and two US teams rose to the top: Ingrid Petitjean and crew Nadège Douroux (FRA) posted the fewest points (13) in the low-point scoring system, with Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving (USA) following close behind with 14. After that, it's the same trade-out with France's Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron posting 15 points, followed by Amanda Clark and Sarah Chin (USA), also with 15 (but in fourth because of tie-breaking rules).
"It was difficult, with very shifty winds," said Petitjean, who noted that she knows Maxwell and Kinsolving almost as well as her own teammates here on the French national team. Such is the way of making friends the world-over while sailing an Olympic campaign. When asked who she would watch most closely tomorrow, Petitjean said, "After only three races, we are not watching anyone, we are competing against the whole fleet."
Kinsolving Farrar agreed the conditions were tricky but exciting: "You had to keep your head out of the boat and look around the whole time. It's never over until it's over. There's always room to be gained."
This is Clark and Chin's first major event after taking the last year off after competing at the 2008 Olympic Games, and they're eager to get back into the mix. "Changing places with other teams was really fun," said Clark. "The pumping flag was up, so we were able to be physical and play the waves."
In the 24-boat Star class, four American teams finished in the top five after three races today, with Andy Horton and James Lyne (USA) in the lead. On their course, the wind shifted 60 degrees right by the end of the day. "The U.S. teams did what they needed to do today: they hit about 75 percent of the shifts and had single digits for the majority of the races," said Mark Ivey (USA), who is here coaching the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics' Star teams. "The goal for everybody was for everyone in the top eight at all mark roundings ... which is what you have to do in a small boat fleet."
"It was pretty crazy," said Horton, whose goal is to finish in the top five this week. "It was pretty shifty and puffy, so [we had to] change gears a lot."
Horton said he felt lucky with their top results today, considering this is only the third regatta they've sailed together. "We're still trying to figure things out working as a team. There's so much communication in a Star boat - there's two of you, big sails and lots of kinetics in a big boat."
2009 Star World Champions George Szabo and Rick Peters (USA) finished the three races in fourth overall today. Szabo noted that it was a tough day to catch all the shifts and he was glad they didn't make any big errors that would take them out of the race. "It was really hard on the crews today; they had to work extra hard," he said.
In the Finn fleet, Britain's Giles Scott holds the overall lead after following up 2, 7 scores with a win the day's final race. Beijing Olympic silver medallist Zach Railey (USA) is just three points back in second.
Of the fleets who did manage to get some racing in on Monday, Australia's Will Phillips and Sam Phillips and Frenchmen Emmanuel Dyen and Stéphane Christidis remain first and second respectively in the 49er fleet. In the Laser, 2008-2009 ISAF Sailing World Cup winner Nick Thompson (GBR) added a sixth and two more bullets to his win in the opening race to take sole command at the top of the leaderboard. Paige Railey (USA) also built on her opening day win in the Women's Laser Radial fleet with another win and a fourth to extend her advantage over Marit Bouwmeester (NED) at the top of the leaderboard to 14 points. In the Women's Match Racing event, double ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion Claire Leroy and her French team of Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou remain undefeated, as do reigning ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions Lucy MacGregor, Annie Lush and Ally Martin (GBR).
Both Men's and Women's Windsurfer fleets got into their opening two races of the series. After dominating last year's World Cup series, Blanca Manchon (ESP) showed she's again going to be the board to beat with two wins putting her top of the Women's RS:X fleet. Fellow Spaniard and reigning World Champion Marina Alabau followed her teammate home in both races to lie second overall on four points. Dutch windsurfer Dorian Van Rijsselberge also posted two bullets in the men's fleet to lead from Canada's Kevin Stittle and 2009 World Champion Nick Dempsey (GBR).
In the Paralympic events, US skipper John Ruf leads a very fiercely-contested 2.4mR fleet, Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett (USA) are top in the SKUD18 and Norway' Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Marie Solberg hold first in the Sonar.
In addition to title sponsor Rolex Watch U.S.A., US SAILING's 2010 Rolex Miami OCR is also sponsored by AlphaGraphics, Atlantis WeatherGear, Sperry Top-Sider, Harken, Team McLube, and the University of Miami Hospital.
A complete roster can be viewed at the event website, http://rmocr.ussailing.org, where real-time regatta results, photos and updates will be posted daily once racing begins. Video highlights, produced by T2Productions, will air Wednesday through Saturday and can be viewed on the event website. Fans can also visit the Facebook fan page and Twitter page.
You can follow live coverage of this year's event on Sailgroove via the link below.
Click here for live the Sailgroove Miami page.