Medallists Named In Paralympic Events; Medal Race Line Ups Decided At Rolex Miami OCR
After five days of racing on Biscayne Bay, gold, silver and bronze medallists were determined on Friday in three Paralympic events, whilst for the Olympic sailors the Medal Race lines up were confirmed at US SAILING's 2010 Rolex Miami OCR, the second of seven stops of the 2009-2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup.
USA racked up the most medals with four, followed by Canada with two and one apiece for Norway, Great Britain and The Netherlands. Also determined after five days of racing were the Olympic class sailors (four teams from Women's Match Racing and top-10 finishers from fleet racing in nine other events) who have earned a coveted spot in tomorrow's final Medal Races.
The Rolex Miami OCR, which this year hosted 448 teams (633 athletes) from 45 nations, is one of the world's most competitive regattas for those hoping to claim a sailing berth at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as such it offers hefty bragging rights for podium finishers as well as critical points on the ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit and for certain national team designations and rankings.
Canada's Paul Tingley secured the first gold of the regatta when his 2.4mR class sailed two back-to-back races (on the staggered-start schedule) in light air. Going into Friday, he was in the bronze medal position, with Thierry Schmitter (NED) leading and John Ruf (USA) in silver position, so he decided to get gutsy.
"I wasn't going to do it by not taking a risk," said Tingley, who, with a handful of others, chose the right-hand side of the course five minutes into the first race. "I saw them [Ruf and Schmitter] on the pin end of the start line and I was at the committee boat; I knew I would benefit if the wind went right, and to my good fortune it did, and I got the win." Meanwhile Schmitter finished ninth, and when Tingley stuck close to him in the second race for a third-place finish to Schmitter's second, it was game over. "The last race was mine to lose, so I knew I had to stay in Thierry's zip code, so to say."
When asked if he was happy with silver, Schmitter said with a gracious smile, "No and yes. Going into this morning I was first and now I'm second. When I went left with John Ruf [who claimed bronze in the end], that was our death. But it has been tight all week - John led one day, Paul one day, me one day - it's not like there was one guy through it all who was the leader."
Tingley won a 2.4mR gold medal at the 2008 Paralympics and a Sonar bronze in 2000. He finished third at the most recent 2.4mR Worlds, which hosted over 100 boats (sailed by both disabled and able-bodied sailors) and was won by Ruf. The 2.4mR is hugely popular because of its compact size - about 14 feet long (4.2 metres) - and the fact that it requires little physical exertion to sail. Its skipper remains seated, looking forward at all times with the majority of his body below the waterline, and has the choice of steering it by foot pedal or by "joy stick," making it an equal platform for sailors with varying physical restrictions.
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) members Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett (USA) continued their winning streak by clinching the gold medal with a race to spare today. USA's SKUD newcomers, Jennifer French and Jean-Paul Creignou won a silver medal, which was impressive considering this is only the second event they've sailed together. French and Creignou won both races today, but in the first race, they were called OCS for starting prematurely. Dorsett and Whitman's second became a first, which gave them the win. They chose not to sail the last race out of fairness to the rest of the fleet. The Canadian team of John McRoberts and Brenda Hopkin rounded out the fleet with a bronze medal after posting a 2, 2 today.
The race itself was a game of catch-up for Dorsett and Whitman who at first didn't know whether or not they were early at the start. To be cautious, they decided to restart to exonerate themselves. As they tried to catch up with the fleet, they hit another snag when they hooked a lobster pot, crash gybed and freed themselves off the line. They ended up rounding the mark in third, caught up with the Canadian team and fought them downwind to the finish.
"We pinned them out to the other side, had the leeward advantage and gybed back and beat them," said Whitman. He and Dorsett have been a dominant force in the SKUD18 over the last year, winning Rolex Miami OCR and Skandia Sail for Gold in Weymouth, Great Britain, the venue of the 2012 Paralympic Games. Their 2012 Paralympic campaign is in full force, as they plan to compete in as many national and international events as they can.
Norway's Sonar team of Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Marie Solberg grabbed gold after a low-scoring week littered with bullets, including a win in the last race of the series on Friday. Great Britain's John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas finished the event second overall, and USSTAG's Rick Doerr, Brad Kendall and Hugh Freund (USA) secured silver with a 2, 2 today.
"It's fantastic," said Wang-Hansen of his team's victory. "We came here hoping for a medal. Everything went smoothly … We had a little bit of luck. We tacked on the shifts and suddenly we were up front."
This is the second year in a row he won the Sonar event at Rolex Miami OCR, but last year he crewed for the British team. The common denominator was the boat itself, a Sonar chartered from Team Paradise. "It's a fast boat," he said. "It was good upwind and fantastic downwind. In the last race today, we rounded fourth and were first at the bottom."
He and his new team plan to return next year to defend their title as they move forward in their Paralympic campaign for a spot on Norway's Paralympic Team in 2012.
US skipper Doerr was pleased with his new team's performance this week, after getting off to a slower start on the first day of racing. "Today we stayed very patient," he said. "We tried to wait for our opportunities to attack. Coming from behind is very challenging -- especially when the guys you need to beat are in front of you."
Olympic Classes Gear Up For Medal Races
Going into Saturday's Medal Races for the Olympic classes, both Paige Railey (USA) and Nick Thompson (GBR), in the Laser Radial and Laser classes, respectively, are sitting pretty. The rules of Olympic sailing require them to race, but mathematically they have the gold wrapped up.
Thompson, the 2009 World Championship bronze medallist and the winner of the 2008-2009 ISAF Sailing World Cup series, mastered the tricky conditions out in Biscayne Bay all week to pick up an impressive six wins out of the ten races and amass an unassailable 44-point lead heading into Saturday's Medal Race.
The Skandia Team GBR sailor leaves his nearest rival, USA's Kyle Rogachenko, to fight it out for silver with Frenchman Jean Baptiste Bernaz and Brazil's Bruno Fontes.
Buoyed by the nature of his win, the 23-year-old admitted he couldn't resist the chance to put down a marker for the rest of the fleet in his first event of the season.
"Coming into this regatta it was more of a process and just trying to polish up a few things I've been working on over the winter," Thompson confessed.
"But then day one came and race one started and my emphasis changed to 'I'd like to win this and bring home the gold', so to do that is really pleasing.
"It's the first regatta of the year, and a chance to show what you're planning for the future!"
With gold already in the bag, Thompson could be forgiven for taking a relaxed approach to Saturday's Medal Race - but he has other ideas.
"I'd actually quite like to win the Medal Race. I've done quite a few of them but never actually quite managed to win one so that's kind of my goal!"
Victory was doubly sweet for Thompson, as his girlfriend - Railey - also sealed early victory in the Laser Radial class. Alicia Cebrian of Spain is assured of the silver medal, while Britain's Alison Young is still on track for her best ever World Cup result, in the bronze medal position with a healthy 13 point gap over the fourth-placed Swiss sailor Nathalie Brugger.
For others, it's a do-or-die situation. The USA's Anna Tunnicliffe with crew Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi and Britain's Lucy MacGregor, with crew Annie Lush and Ally Martin, will sail a first-to-three points match racing series that will determine gold and silver medals, while Australia's Nicky Souter, Stacey Jackson and Rayshele Martin and France's Claire Leroy, Marie Riou and Elodie Bertrand will sail off for bronze in the petit-finals.
Macgregor, Lush and Martin had another perfect day on the water, starting by wrapping up quarter-final match 3-0 against Denmark's Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen, before extending their unbeaten run at this event with another 3-0 victory of world #1 Leroy in the semis. Tunnicliffe, Vandemoer and Capozzi had a tougher passage to the final, wining a close match against reigning World Champion Souter 3-2.
The remaining Olympic classes get only one chance - a 30- to 40-minute race - to make or break their claim to a podium position. Emulating the Olympic format, the Medal Race counts double points and cannot be counted as the one allowed discard race when it is added to a sailor's score line from the rest of the series.
In the Finn class, Britain's Ed Wright must finish eighth or better to take the gold, and only his Skandia Team GBR teammate Giles Scott has a shot at blocking him. Wright is not worried, however. "He'll have a lot on, because Zach [Zach Railey (USA)] will be after him. That's a nice cushion going into the Medal Race." Railey is currently in bronze medal position behind Scott. Wright took over the lead in the 35-boat fleet two days ago and on Friday extended it by 12 points over Scott. Today, after two races, 14 points stand between them.
"I've been doing a lot of development, so I'm happy with my gear," said Wright, who almost cancelled coming to the regatta because of a severe foot injury inflicted by a power boat prop. "Luckily it was just the flesh; sailing is a lot easier than walking, especially in this light air since I don't have to hike as hard." Nevertheless, he hopes for stronger winds tomorrow. "That way I can stretch my legs a little."
In the Men's 470 fleet the standings could hardly be closer with the top four teams separated by just two points. Israel's Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela lead from Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS), Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Östling (SWE) and Nic Asher and Elliot Willis (GBR). It's a similar situation in the women's fleet, with the leading trio of reigning World Cup Champions Henriette Koch and Lene Sommer (DEN), Ingrid Petitjean and Nadège Douroux (FRA) and Amanda Clark and Sarah Chin (USA) all just two points apart.
Emmanuel Dyen and Stéphane Christidis (FRA) have an 11-point lead going into the 49er Medal Race, whilst in the Star fleet Andy Horton and James Lyne (USA) are three points ahead of Eivind Melleby and Petter Morland Pedersen (NOR).
Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED) and Ivan Pastor (ESP) look set to fight it out for gold in the Men's RS:X fleet, with just two points separating the two skippers who have dominated the competition all week long. Likewise in the women's fleet as the Spanish battle at the top between Blanca Manchon and Marina Alabau continues into Saturday's Medal Race.
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.
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