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This Article Last Updated: Oct 14th, 2010 - 15:13:49
Overall results to date and reports by Brad Nichol.
|Photo by Daneil Forster/Rolex |
Day Six: No wind, much controversy
Once again the weather failed to co-operate allowing no racing to be held on the final day of Rolex Baltic Week.
With no races sailed for yet another day, the Florida-based duo of Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube have won the Star European Championship with a score of just 10 points to the 25 of Brazilian three time Laser Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt and crewman Bruno Prada. Of the European entries it was Italian former Laser Olympic sailor Diego Negro and his crew Luigi Viale who came out on top and are the 2006 European Champions in this prestigious Olympic two man keel boat class.
“It feels great, excellent,” said a jubilant Mendelblatt. “It has been a good European tour for us.” “It was a long three days of waiting for the next race,” added his towering crew, Strube. Thanks to the light and shifting or non-existent wind conditions on the Bay of Lübeck this week there has been no Star racing at Rolex Baltic Week for the last three days.
With five races sailed there was some debate over whether this officially constituted an adequate number of races to be considered officially a European championship, however delving into the Star Class rule book, under rule 27.2 it states a championship of this calibre is considered invalid “if it not possible to complete four races”. “We'll take it any way we can get it,” summed up Mendelblatt.
The new Italian Star European Champion was elated by his win, having only moved into the class this year after a long tenure including two Olympic Games in the Laser. “It is my first time so high in the European results,” he said. “Last year I was fourth at the Laser Europeans and many times I have been in the top five - but never on the podium. This time to not only get on the podium but to be in the highest place is very good.” Negri and Viale are now off to Qingdao, China for the Olympic test event.
Once again the 80 strong Star boat fleet ventured out on to the chilly waters but the wind would not settle ultimately disappearing altogether. Exasperated the Race Committee could do nothing but send the men's Olympic keelboat class home. At present they have sailed five races but need to race one more for the series to comply with the minimum number of races for it to be considered a European Championship. After five races and having scored three wins in the first three races, Florida-based duo of Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube still dominate the championship on ten points, to the Brazilian Olympic triple medallist Robert Scheidt sailing with Bruno Prada on 25 and third placed Americans Andrew Horton and Brad Nicol on 27. Top European at present is Italian former Laser Olympic sailor Diego Negri and Lugi Viale.
Negri says he is surprised to be the European leader in this championship. “We are sailing in the Star class only since last November and we've only had three or four weeks in our new Lillia [their new boat]. But the feeling is coming better and better day after day and we are learning how to set up the boat and the results are coming too. The regatta is very difficult because the wind is shifty a lot and so I am using my Laser experience to try to get out of the fleet as soon as possible and try to sail well on the shifts.”
Day Four: Racing Abandoned
After two attempts at racing, all efforts were abandoned for the day due to light wind.
Day Three: New faces at the top
Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube's amazing run of consecutive race wins came to an end today at Rolex Baltic Week's Star European championship with New Zealand's Hamish Pepper/Carl Williams and US Americans Andrew Horton/Brad Nichol respectively scoring bullets in races four and five of this championship.
Under an overcast sky and in generally lighter winds than the first two days of Rolex Baltic Week, conditions on the Bay of Lübeck remained shifty in the extreme. “The breeze for these first five races has been extremely shifty and it can be hero to zero really quickly. It was extremely demanding,” warned Pepper, a former Laser sailor who left the Italian Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team America's Cup team at the beginning of the year to kick off his Olympic campaign in the Star.
Pepper and Williams started two thirds of the way down the line towards the pin and were able to stay up with the leaders after they tacked on the first left hand shift. Leaders at this point and first around the weather mark were German two times World Champion Alexander Hagen and crew Sebastian Munck. Pepper and Williams played the shifts well going up the first beat rounding the top mark fourth but it was only on the second run and penultimate leg that the Kiwi duo were able to pin out their German rivals, moving into the lead 200 m before the bottom mark.
Posting a sixth place in the second race today and with their discount kicking in today, Pepper and Williams have moved up to fourth place overall after five races. Given the variable conditions Pepper said: “Once you get ahead it is a lot easier to sail the right way - the leaders got richer.”
On the second race current leaders in the ISAF Star rankings, George Szabo and Eric Monroe from the USA were first to the top mark. Horton and Nichol started mid-line and sailed a first leg that involved tacking up the middle of the course, playing the shifts as they came. “It is a crazy place - it is shifting 30 degrees back and forth on every beat and every run. There hasn't been one stable leg for the whole regatta,” Horton said, agreed with Pepper about the conditions. They were third to the top mark behind Szabo/Monroe and Italian duo Francesco Bruni and Gilberto Nobili. On the first run both American teams gybed away and pulled into the lead, but then the right side of the run started to pay. Fortunately some bottom gate mark tactics and a wind shift put them into the lead.
“We reached to the bottom right hand mark and gave up about half our lead, got around that first and right as we got there it went another 15-20 degrees left, so we tacked onto port and that gave us a lot of breathing room.” They defended well on the second beat and managed to make their break on the second run. However it was not over. On the final beat they found themselves on the wrong side of a big right hand shift that saw their lead threatened. However it came good in the end allowing Horton and Nichol to win by a comfortable 20 boat lengths ahead of the consistent Italian duo Diego Negri and Lugi Viale and Germans Robert Stanjek and Frithjof Kleen.
With five races sailed and one discard now counting, Marks Mendelblatt and Strube remain comfortably in the lead discounting their disappointing 17th place in the first race on Wednesday. Brazilian triple Olympic Laser medallist Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada also had a disappointing first race finishing 27th.
“In the first race I believed I had to go to the left but there was a big shift to the right,” admitted Scheidt. “So we were really deep on that race but managed to catch up a few boats.” In the second race their position was looking more promising having at one stage moved up to second. “But we didn't play the shifts very well on the last beat and we ended up ninth,” continued Scheidt. “It was probably the hardest day so far in the regatta, but there is still a long way and we are going to fight to the end. In a fleet like this it is very hard not to have bad moments so we have to keep positive. There are still three races to go. We are here to improve our Star sailing - that is the most important for us.”
While a lay day for the Star European championship at Rolex Baltic Week was scheduled for Thursday the race organisers will now hold one race at 13:00 local time due to very light weather forecast for Friday.
Day Two: Hattrick for Mendelblatt/Strube
|First start was postponed on the 2nd day, Photo by Daniel Forster/Rolex |
In an unprecedented performance at a major Star championship American duo Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube added two more first place results to yesterday’s win, giving them a perfect record so far at the Star Europeans, part of Rolex Baltic Week, now in its third year.
The first race for the Stars today started with a giant wind shift to the left moments after the gun. This allowed German sailors Lars Kiewning and Uli Seeberger to make a do or die move, successfully port tacking the entire fleet – a brave tactic considering the high level of competition at this regatta. But on this occasion the Germans’ heroic bid paid off and they led around the course until the final run.
Mendelblatt and Strube’s start was more conservative in the middle of the line and they too tacked as the shift came through. “The guys who were to the left of us looked like they had us for a long time, but we were just able to hold our lane, while the guys who started out by the boat were well behind,” recounted Mendelblatt.
The Americans closed up on the German leaders up the second beat and on the final run, in what would turn into a nailbiter of a finish, edged ahead with 200m still to go. “We were pinning him [the Germans] out on starboard with one gybe left to the line and we gybed away because I was looking at the wrong finish line,” admits Mendelblatt. “When we gybed away we were on the wrong layline to the start boat which I thought was the finish boat, so we had to gybe again and he was ahead of us and then we had to pass him again…” They managed this, but by only the smallest of margins.
The second Star race today saw the Polish team of Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki come to the fore. The former Finn Gold medallist made a good start and did well playing the shifts up the first beat to lead from Danes Benny Andersen/Just Mogens and the German duo Matthias Miller/Manuel Vogt. While the lead duo remained the same at the leeward mark rounding, Mendelblatt and Strube had got into the lead by the time they reached the second weather mark.
“We were working the left early on the second beat and just sailed in phase with the shifts,” recounted Mendelblatt. “At that stage we were up to third and the two leaders Benny and Mateusz I think missed one phase and they got to the right and the wind went hard right and all of a sudden we were leading.”
Mendelblatt and Strube scored their third win in as many races, something which the former Laser Olympic sailor turned Star helmsman from Florida said that he hadn’t achieved since he sailed an Optimist as a child. “It’s been a while for sure. We’re happy. I’m sure it’ll turn around and the heat will come on tomorrow, but we are enjoying it while it lasts.”
The American duo’s consistency is all the more amazing considering the conditions today – even more shifty than yesterday thanks to the dominant offshore gradient breeze, ranging from 6-15 knots and very patchy across the Bay of Lübeck. “It was really up and down all day with bigger swings than yesterday,” said Mendelblatt.
Mateusz Kusznierewicz agreed: “It was strange: When we spent two weeks over here in Travemünde we always had a sea breeze which was a beautiful steady wind. Yesterday and today it has been really shifty. Sometime you can predict it and sometimes something strange happens. But the regatta is long - we have eight races and the average will show.”
Edmund Peel, crew for Irishman Maurice O’Connell, currently 21st overall, outlined the important of reading the wind shifts right. “We have been getting good starts and our boat speed seems fine, we’re just missing the shifts. On the first race we were in phase and it was great and we finished 14th - we were really happy with. But in the second we missed two shifts and the leaders were gone.” In the second race today they finished a disappointing 33rd.
Day Two: Miller/Voigt best Europeans
They are the surprise crew of the Rolex Baltic Week: With a solid achievement Matthias Miller and Manuel Voigt are in third overall at the Star European championship. The newcomers are behind Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube (the USA), who already have three sensational wins, and Brazilians Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada who are in 2nd. "We came here completely loose, and are going well," said the 24-year old Miller. Only since last October have they been sailing together in the Star boat.
For his sport career the former Laser sailor Voigt left his homeland Berlin and with his crew, who comes from Ulm, went to Rostock to the DSV Olympiastützpunkt crew. “We do not have pressure to achieve so it does not make us nervous," said the successful duo. After race finishes of eight, six and five they moved up to within three points of the Brazilians. Also on the way into the medal ranks were their training partners Robert Stanjek and Frithjof Kleen, residents in Rostock, where they all train together with Scheidt/Prada and Poland‘s Kusznierewicz/Zycki.
At the start of the 2nd race Stanjek/Kleen had a crossing situation with fellow NRV club members Michael Cook and Carsten Witt which led to a collision. "We had to actually give way, but Michael wanted to let us through," said Stanjek. The maneuver failed. Cook’s bow pushed itself over the trunk of Stanjek’s boat and bored a hole in the topsides. Afterwards not only was speed lost but also concentration. After finishing 30th in the race, Stanjek/Kleen are in twelfth overall.
Marc Aurel Pickel from Kiel and his Potsdamer crew Ingo Borkowski are in 14th overall. In the first race they finished 33, but improved that with a fourth in the 2nd race. “We started on the right but after a few hundred meters we got a 30 degree shift to the left,” said Pickel. Since the wind did not oscillate back again, the left remained favored. For Pickel that is no reason for worry: “We are not even at halftime yet, there is still everything in it."
Nevertheless it is looking as if the Americans Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube are unbeatable. In the Star boat scene nobody can remember when a crew in such a world class field has done such a “trick" with 3 firsts in a row. Only in the first race of the day was there was almost a German outsider crew to play David to Goliath. Lars Kiewning and Uli Seeberger from Villingen, who are in 30th overall, came to the finish line in a photo finish with Mendelblatt/Strube. "I had identified and would have driven past to a wrong finish line,” reported Mendelblatt. Relizing his error, with a clever maneuver he stopped the Germans and was again a race winner.
Day One:Mendelblatt fast out of the blocks
USA Olympic Laser sailor turned Star helm Mark Mendelblatt with crew Mark Strube gained an early advantage by winning today’s first race at the Star European Championship, part of Rolex Baltic Week, here at Neustadt, Germany.
The Baltic was in fine mood for today’s race with a 12 knot northwesterly and brilliant sunshine coinciding for the midday start on the Bay of Lübeck. With 80 examples of the two man Olympic keel boat competing, a long line was set, crews hiking hard as they powered away from the line up towards the weather mark off Neustadt.
Mendelblatt/Strube crossed the line-up midway up and headed out on one long tack to the left, tacked once and then was able to lay the weather mark. This was enough to get him into first place. While the Americans were convinced the left was the correct way to go, Swedish champion Frederick Loof was equally convinced the right side of the first beat would pay.
“We were a bit cautious in the start - we were slow and had to work our way back up the fleet,” said Loof, who started up at the committee boat end but was beaten out of the blocks by Brazilian triple Olympic Laser medallist Robert Scheidt, who also appeared to think right was right. “It was so puffy, up and down all the time, so it was just work, work, work and then try to get through,” continued Loof.
Heading in from port Mendelblatt/Strube were first to the weather mark ahead of Italy’s Diego Negri/Lugi Viale and the USA’s Andrew MacDonald/Brian Fatih. From here the US duo defended well as the Stars rolled their way downwind their small headsails polled out on the opposite side to their mainsails. At the leeward gate the lead trio remained the same.
The second beat saw the wind dropping and enabled Mendelblatt and Strube to consolidate their position. “We were in phase nicely going up the beat and at the top we extended a little bit when we got one or two shifts that the guys in second and third didn’t get,” Mendelblatt recounted. “Then on the last run we got our own pressure and the rest of the guys were tied up with each other. We got launched at that point.” By the time they crossed the finish line at the top of the third beat, they held a lead of around two minutes.
It was a photo finish for second place between Scheidt/Bruno Prada and Loof/Anders Ekström, the Brazilians winning out in the end. Loof had done well pulling back positions on the second run, when he had seen and been able to exploit some pressure out on the left side.
George Szabo/Eric Monroe the present world no.1s in the class finished fourth with the French defending champions Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau seventh. They had rounded the second weather mark behind Mendelblatt/Strube but had got on the wrong side of a shift on the second run. Leading German pair today were relative unknowns Matthias Miller and Manuel Voigt in eighth just ahead of favourites Marc Pickel and Ingo Borowski.
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