Early Leaders Put Money in the Bank

There was plenty of action on opening day of US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR, with all 13 Olympic and Paralympic classes completing multiple races in 12-14 knot breezes. On seven different courses on Biscayne Bay, 716 sailors from 53 countries worked as if there were no tomorrow to get to the top of the scoreboard, but tomorrow, as well as the following four days of racing (through Friday for Paralympic classes and Saturday for Olympic classes) will determine if early leaders are meant to be champions in the end.

Held on Biscayne Bay annually since 1990, the Rolex Miami OCR is the second stop on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup 2010-2011 circuit and is a key regatta in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For many, including the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG), it is a qualifier for positions on national teams.

In the 104-boat Laser class, the largest here, Olympian Michael Leigh (CAN) made an early deposit, winning the first of two races today in Blue fleet, then finishing sixth in race two to wind up fifth overall when scores were merged with the class’s Yellow fleet. “I’ll be in the hunt,” he said, explaining that the class is so large it must be split into two fleets, which also splits some of the top players from each other, but reunites them each day in a new mix. In today’s Yellow fleet, Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J., USA) finished 2-1 to secure his spot at the top of the overall leader board and regatta favorite Paul Goodison (GBR), an Olympic Gold medalist and the current leader in the world rankings, finished 1-2 to take the second-place slot. (Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray, who also won one race today, and Croatia’s Ivan Taritas are in third and fourth, respectively)

“The phases were quite long (for shifts to come back) and the pressure was up and down,” Leigh explained about the conditions, adding that he is nursing a bad back. “I haven’t raced since the Worlds in September, so I’m here to get back in phase. I’m not targeting any one person to beat; there are 10 good guys in each fleet who could win, so that’s a few too many to watch.”

In Finn class, with 40 boats, USSTAG member and 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) battled it out with two Brits, Giles Scott and Ben Ainslie. Scott won both races to top the scoreboard while Railey secured second overall with a 2-3. Ainslie, who is twice an Olympic medalist (in the Finn) and three-times an ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, finished third with a 5-2.

“It’s only the first two races,” said Railey, “so you can’t read too much into it. Certainly Giles and Ben are going really fast, but I feel pretty confident in my boat speed. I had a big confidence booster in the second race, when I was in 12th at the first mark and had a good comeback for the third. Trying to stay top-five is always what you’re looking to do–trying to stay consistent at the beginning of a regatta–and I had two of those races here today.

“It is a great test for me to be out on the racecourse and sail against the Brits, the Slovenians and the Swedish sailors. It’s great to see the improvements that we’ve made this winter in our training and identify the areas where we need to improve before the European season this year.”

Consistency showed in the scoreline of Evi Van Acker (BEL) when she topped the 58-boat Laser Radial fleet with finish scores of 2-2 today. USSTAG member Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) won the opener, while eventual second-place (overall) finisher Marit Bouwneester (NED) won the second race, but it was Nathalie Brugger (SUI) who filled the third-place slot when Railey and six others were black-flagged at the start of the second race and suffered extra points because of it.

“I am very happy, since last year I had a shocker regatta here–nothing seemed to go right,” said Van Acker, an Olympian and the 2006 and ’07 European Laser Radial Champion. “I made a couple of small mistakes today, but twice I had good starts and I hit the left corner twice to get out front. Downwind was difficult, as it was quite gusty and the fleet was spread out. At this point in the regatta, I try to be in front, and whoever is around I try to control them or catch up from behind. I won’t be concentrating on individuals until later in the regatta or during the medal races (Saturday).”

In the balance of the Olympic classes:

Star: Robert Scheidt and crew Bruno Prada (BRA) had a pay day with a 1-2 to lead 58 boats.

49er: The 49ers, with 30 boats, completed three races today, bringing Paul Brotherton/Mark Asquith (GBR) to the lead after posting a 1-3-2.

Men’s and Women’s RS:X: Marina Alabau (ESP) won both races today to top a 31-boat fleet, while Nick Dempsey (GBR), with two seconds today, topped 37 competitors.

Men’s and Women’s 470: Ingrid Petijean/ Nadege Douroux (FRA) are leading 24 boats after two races and finish scores of 1-2, while Nic Asher/Elliot Willis (GBR) lead 42 boats with a 1-3

Elliott 6m (women’s match racing): The 24 competing teams were divided into three groups: A, B and C. Three flights of round robin matches were completed today in all three groups, and in all three there were two teams that went undefeated.

In Group A, Nicky Souter/Jessica Eastwell/Olivia Price (AUS) and Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS) are tied with 3 wins, 0 losses.

Group B’s undefeated teams are Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS) and Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen/Christina Refn/Susanne Boidin (DEN)

And in Group C, the two undefeated teams are Lucy Macgregor/Annie Lush/ Kate Macgregor (GBR) and Anna Tunnicliffe(/Molly Vandemoer/Debbie Capozzi (Plantation, Fla., USA/Redwood City, Calif., USA/(Bayport, N.Y., USA)

In the three Paralympic classes:

2.4mR: Thierry Schmitter (NED) won both races today to lead 30 boats.

SKUD-18: Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch (AUS) won both races today to claim first overall in the seven-boat fleet.

In the three Paralympic classes:

2.4mR: Thierry Schmitter (NED) won both races today to lead 30 boats

SKUD-18: Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch won both races today to claim first overall in the seven-boat fleet.

Sonar: In a 12-boat fleet, Udo Hessels/ Mischa Rossen/Marcel van de Veen (NED) are leading after posting a 2-1 today.

For fleet racing in the Olympic classes, the regatta consists of a five-day opening series (Monday – Friday) and a double-point medal race (Saturday). The top 10 finishers in the opening series of each class will advance to the medal race. For match racing (Elliot 6m), which makes its debut in the 2012 Olympic Games, the regatta consists of an opening series, a knockout series, and a sail-off for boats not advancing to the knockout series. Competitors in the Paralympic classes will have five days of fleet racing (Monday-Friday) and no medal race. Medals will be awarded to the top three boats in each Olympic and Paralympic class on Saturday, January 29.

US SAILING has partnered with the city of Miami to provide world-class venues for competition. Additional hosts for the event include Coral Reef Yacht Club, Key Biscayne Yacht Club, Coconut Grove Sailing Club, Miami Rowing Club and Shake-a-Leg Miami. These sailing organizations host classes onshore, as well as help run the on-the-water racing. The Coral Reef Yacht Club also hosts the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

In addition to title sponsor Rolex Watch U.S.A., the 2011 Rolex Miami OCR is also sponsored by AlphaGraphics, Gowrie Group, Chubb Insurance, Sperry Top-Sider, Harken McLube, Trinity Yachts, University of Miami Hospital and Kattack.

A complete roster of competitors can be viewed at the event website, RMOCR.ussailing.org, where real-time racecourse blogging, commentary and fan interaction, regatta results, photos and news updates will be integrated into a live coverage platform once racing begins. Video highlights produced by Gary Jobson and presented by Rolex air daily and are available on-demand on the event website. Fans can also follow the event on Facebook/RMOCR and Twitter/RMOCR.

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(top-three results follow)

US SAILING’s 2011 Rolex Miami OCR

Top-three Finishes

Day 1

49er (30 boats) – 3 races

1. Paul Brotherton/Mark Asquith (GBR) 1, 3, 2 (6)

2. Dave Evans/Edward Powys (GBR) 2, 6, 1 (9)

3. John Pink/ Rick Peacock (GBR) 4, 1, 5 (10)

Laser Radial (59 boats) – 2 races

1. Evi Van Acker (BEL) 2, 2 (4)

2. Marit Bouwmeester (NED) 4, 1 (5)

3. Nathalie Brugger (SUI) 8, 3 (11)

Laser (107 boats)-2 races

1. Clay Johnson (USA) 2, 1 (3)

2. Paul Goodison (GBR) 1, 2 (3)

3. Julio Alsogaray (ARG) 5, 1 (6)

Finn (40 boats) – 2 races

1. Giles Scott (GBR) 1, 1 (2)

2. Zach Railey (USA) 2, 3 (5)

3. Ben Ainslie (GBR) 5, 2 (7)

470 Men (42 boats) – 2 races

1. Nic Asher/Elliot Willis (GBR) 1, 3 (4)

2. Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell (GBR) 3, 2 (5)

3. Sime Fantela/ Igor Marenic (CRO) 5, 4 (9)

470 Women (24 boats) – 2 races

1. Ingrid Petijean/ Nadege Douroux (FRA) 1, 2 (3)

2. Camille Lecointre/Mathilde Geron (FRA) 3, 1 (4)

3. Penny Clark/ Katrina Hughes (GBR) 4, 4 (8)

Skud-18 (7 boats) – 2 races

1. Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch (AUS) 1, 1 (2)

2. Scott Whitman/ Julia Dorsett(USA) 3, 2 (5)

3. Alexandra Rickham/Niki Birrell (GBR) 2, 4 (6)

Star (58 boats) – 2 races

1. Robert Scheidt/ Bruno Prada (BRA) 1, 2 (3)

2. Fredrik Loof/Max Salminen (SWE) 5, 3 (8)

3. Mark Mendelblatt/Brian Fatih (USA) 4, 4 (8)

RS: X Men (37 boats) – 2 races

1. Nick Dempsey (GBR) 2, 2 (4)

2. Ivan Pastor (ESP) 4, 1 (5)

3. Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) 1, 4 (5)

RS: X Women (31 boats) – 2 races

1. Marina Alabau (ESP) 1, 1 (2)

2. Charline Picon (FRA) 2, 6 (8)

3. Blanca Manchon (ESP) 4, 4 (8)

2.4mR (30 boats) – 2 races

1. Thierry Schmitter (NED) 1, 1 (2)

2. Allan Leibel (CAN) 3, 2 (5)

3. Damien Seguin (FRA) 2, 5 (7)

Sonar (12 boats) – 2 races

1. Udo Hessels/ Mischa Rossen/Marcel van de Veen (NED) 2, 1 (3)

2. John Roberston/ Hannah Stodel/ Steve Thomas (GBR) 3, 2 (5)

3. Paul Callahan/ Tom Brown/ Bradley Johnson (USA) 5, 5 (10)

Elliott 6m (women’s match racing)

Elliott 6m

Group A

Nicky Souter/Jessica Eastwell/Olivia Price (AUS); 3-0

Ekaterina Skudina/Elena Syuzeva/Irina Lotsmanova (RUS);3-0

Katie Spithill/Nina Curtis/Angela Farrell (AUS);2-1

Julie Bossard/Pauline Chalaux/ Nolwenn Combeaux (FRA);2-1

Silke Hahlbrock/ Kerstin Schult / Maren Hahlbrock GER);2-1

Rita Goncalves/Mariana Lobato/Diana Neves (POR); 0-3

Vesna Dekleva Paoli/ Katarina Kersevan/ Lena Koter (SLO); 0-3

Jinny Gordon/Crystle Numan/ Laurel Gordon-Taylor (CAN);0-3

Group B

Claire Leroy/ Elodie Bertrand/Marie Riou (FRA); 3-0

Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen/Christina Refn/Susanne Boidin (DEN); 3-0

Genny Tulloch/Alice Leanoard/Jennifer Chamberlin (Sausalito, CA.,USA/East Haven, CT., USA/Washington, DC., USA); 1-2

Renee Groeneveld/Mandy Mulder/Merel Witteveen(NED);2-1

Silja Lehtinen/Silja Kanerva/Mikaela Wulff(FIN);1-2

Juliana Senfft/Gabriela Sa/Daniela Adler (BRA);1-2

Renata Decnop/Fernanda Decnop/Tatiana Ribeiro (BRA)0-3

Annemiek Bekkering/ Brechtje van der Werf/ Annemiek Bes(NED)1-2

Group C

Lucy Macgregor/Annie Lush/ Kate Macgregor (GBR);3-0

Anna Tunnicliffe(/Molly Vandemoer/Debbie Capozzi (Plantation, Fla., USA/Palo Alto, Calif., USA/(Bayport, N.Y., USA);3-0

Anne-Claire Le Berre/ Alice Ponsar/ Myrtille Ponge (FRA);2-1

Sally Barkow (Nashotah, WI., USA)/ Alana O’Reilly (Charleston SC, USA)/ Elizabeth Kratzig-Burnham (Miami Beach FL, USA) 2-1

Anna Kjellberg/ Malin Kallstrom/ Lotta Harrysson (SWE);0-3

Stephanie Hazard/ Susannah Pyatt/ Jenna Hansen (NZL) 2-1

Rebecca Dellenbaugh (Easton CT, USA)/ Maggie Shea (Wilmette, IL USA)/ Janel Zarkowsky (Annapolis, MD USA); 0-3

Katie Abbott/ Joanne Prokop/ Caroline Kaars Sijpesteijn (CAN); 0-3