|District 20 Regatta Report|| |
Wed Dec 4th, 2013 through Mon Dec 9th, 2013
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Reports by SSL - Alex d'Agosta
Italy's Diego Negri with Sergio Lambertenghi were the undisputed leaders of the first two races, while Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada claimed a great win in race three. Switzerland's Marazzi brothers tasted the success in the day's nail-biting, fourth race that was marked by a 5-boat photo finish.
In the opening regatta Scheidt and Prada went into a great start battle with Paul Cayard and Austin Sperry but the skipper from Gruppo Sportivo Fiamme Gialle got a clear lead just some minutes later. At the first top mark there were not many surprises in the rounding order: Negri, Mendelblatt, Scheidt, Kusznierewicz, Melleby, Rohart, Cayard, Marazzi, Polgar, Szabo. But the last upwind mark highlighted the debut of Tomas Hornos and Joshua Revkin, rookie of the year in the Star Sailors League Ranking, in the top ten of the fleet. The victory in race 1 was taken by Diego Negri, followed by Scheidt and Melleby.
Negri had another great start in race 2 and the majority of the fleet headed to the left of the race course, the favored side throughout the entire day. But the first leg will be mostly remembered from the people who followed the regatta live as they watched for the first time the American Hornos leading the fleet according to the official tracking service, followed by his compatriot Mendelblatt when fighting with Polgar, Rohart. The first mark was very crowded as the top 12 entered the turning area within few seconds. At that point Rohart and Stanjek where in front but before the second mark they were passed again by Negri. At the third mark Rohart and Stajek handed the lead to Negri and Mendeblatt came second.
Swiss Marazzi won the start of race 3 but Stanjek showed his strength again when rounding the weather mark in the dominating position. Leg 2 and 3 appeared to be following a similar pattern until Scheidt changed his pace and flew into a comfortable lead.
Competitors were very surprised to see such an exciting and aggressive fourth race of the day. The Dutch Postma made a big surprise staying for a long time at the lead of the fleet when probably the top tiers didn't expect there was room for a newcomer at the day 1. But it wasn't the only highlight of race 4: the last race will be remembered for a long thanks to a thrilling finish athletics-style when 5 boats approached the line in a compact bunch, crossing it within 2 seconds each other.
This is only the beginning of the Star Sailors League Finals, but is already a proof of the high level of competition that comes from merging Star legends with the unquestionable champions from Finn and Laser.
Day One report from Paul Cayard: Perfect Star sailing conditions were delivered in Nassau today. 8-12 knots from the east and sunshine made the sailing spectacular for this elite fleet.
Four races were held on Montague Bay at the east end of Nassau, each about 40 minutes. With just 18 boats on the track, and all of them very good, the racing was very tight.
For Austin and me it went about as predicted. We struggled at the corners and shifting gears. We had some good starts and decent speed at times. But we aren't consistent yet. Often it is just a matter of inches at the top mark that separates 4th from 12th. Same as it ever was.
We are currently 16th and need to be in the top 10 after Friday's racing. No doubt we will get better each day as I scrape a little more rust off.
Robert Scheidt (BRA) and Bruno Prada were at the top of the field today and that is really no surprise. The Italian, Diego Negri, sailed well to hold second overall and Mark Mendleblatt, the USA Star representative the London Olympics in 2012, sailed very consistently and is in 3rd.
When we hit the dock, Robert Scheidt says to me, "Four races was a bit too much, don't you think!" I said, "Did you just say that to me?" For those who don't know, Robert is the epitomy of fitness and just won the laser worlds last week for the 9th time. Anyway, after a few minutes I decided it made me feel good to hear even Robert say that, it was a long day!
Day Two - Scheidt continues to dominate Star Sailors League Finals.
In the opening race Negri won the pin end at the start and sailed upwind on the left side of the course, coming in first at the top mark, while Scheidt, in the middle of the line, didn't get a great start for the day. But the Brazilian superstar erased the gap just before the first bottom mark. In the third leg Scheidt chose not to cover the fleet, but his speed and correct route were enough to control a 30m advantage. In the meantime it was exciting to watch newcomers Postma and Maloney ahead of star medalists. The victory was taken by Scheidt after a super close fight with Negri, Mendelblatt and Cayard until the last meters.
At the beginning of race 6 an individual recall was unfortunately misunderstood from Wright and Szabo when the "guilty" was Postma, who continued his race for a while leading to a certain disqualification. In leg 1 Rohart took the lead and went into a very crowded mark rounding which the following three teams did simultaneously: Melleby, Hornos, and Stanjek. Rohart held on for first as well and Melleby for second. But Scheidt climbed at the third mark advancing 4 positions and concluding his race after Rohart and ahead of Melleby, Lobert, Polgar, Hornos, Mendelblatt, Maloney, Hestbaek and Stanjek.
The initial leg of race 7 had a big group going to the right and for many tacks Mateusz Kusznierewicz was in front of the fleet, rounding the weather mark in the lead. Later the Polish skipper couldn’t hold his momentum to defend his position when Scheidt swept ahead of his longtime rival into the lead. In the third leg Johannes Polgar caught the former Star World Champion, not giving him a chance for another dominant race as the German crossed the line first, celebrating a big resurgence after a poor beginning day.
Seven out of nine races now are completed and the highest ranked are not afraid of the top 10 cut as they are already mathematically qualified for Saturday's Finals.
Day two report from Paul Cayard:
Austin and I got off to a good start with a fourth place in the first race of the day. We had a great start, good speed upwind so we were able to stay ahead of the heavy traffic.
In the next two races we made mistakes of various types and finished near the back each time. Those races were humbling.
The German team that was last after yesterday's racing had a 5, 5, 1 and moved up to 7th.
We are 17th overall, 9 points out of 10th place. It is all very tight. We have to put together two good races tomorrow and just see where the points fall.
It has been "jumping into the fire" for me to race in this elite regatta after a four year hiatus from the Star. But the upside is I am getting one hell if a tune-up for the Star regattas I plan on sailing next spring.
Following today's last two qualifying races, the ranking was shaken up right from the first positions, but only the first ten teams will qualify for the final phase's direct eliminations. As is done in Formula One, some teams will be excluded, but will receive a cash prize for their participation.
In the last two of the nine races run, unfortunately three of the guest stars saw their hopes of racing Saturday slip away, all because of Augie Diaz, well known as one of the best helmsmen in Miami and the Caribbean waters. Neither the Kiwi Laser ace Maloney, with a fourth in the last race, nor Cayard, second in the eighth race, will be sailing tomorrow. An irrefutable protagonist of the world sailing scene, with his last Star event in Athens in 2004, Cayard managed two bright results in any case. Another name missing from the finals is Flavio Marazzi, winner of the memorable fourth race with five boats finishing together. The two wild cards are also eliminated, at their first event in the Star this week, with a promising performance in the middle of the fleet: Ed Wright, one of the most successful Finn sailors after Ben Ainslie, and his French colleague Lobert, winner of a bronze medal in London, who up until yesterday seemed solidly in the top ten. George Szabo, having won a Star Worlds, was never really in the running in Nassau, and sixth was the best result for the rookie of the year Hornos. Last placed was Finn sailor PJ Postma who scored a second in the fourth regatta in a photo-finish.
In the last two races the fight was fierce even among the teams already qualified. Three starts were needed to get the first race off today, as the right fleet compressed the fleet at the committee boat. But not all sailors grabbed the opportunity, only some of the experts managed to exploit the shift. Hestbaek led for most of the first windward leg. But after rounding the windward mark, Mendelblatt and Cayard seemed to have taken control of the situation, but during the last downwind leg Scheidt incredibly managed to pass four boats including Maloney and the American team.
In the second race Scheidt was untouchable, and behind him the battle raged between Hestbaek and Mendelblatt. On the first leg and at the leeward gate the left was favoured, which was where Scheidt and Mendelblatt began to consolidate their lead over the fleet. But during the last beat, the Dane overtook the American Olympian champion and controlled him right to the finish, earning his best finish of the series and qualification to the finals.
Three direct elimination races are scheduled for Saturday. In the first, the quarter finals, all ten teams start. Only the first seven finishers will gain the semifinals, and the finals with just the top four from the semis.
Paul Cayard on Day Three
We got off to a great start leading race 1 around the first lap, losing the lead to Mark Mendleblatt at the second windward mark, and then regaining the lead only to be finally overhauled by the king, Robert Scheidt, on the final run.
At that point we were in 11th place, 5 points out of 10th, which we needed to be in in order to move on to tomorrows racing. We had a decent start in the second race but didn't do so well up the first beat and were near the back after the first lap. We tightened things up on the second lap and came home with a 13th.
That put us 12th overall, 8 points off the cut for the semi finals tomorrow. Honestly, I don't deserve to be better than 12th in this fleet right now and I didn't deserve to beat Robert in race 1 today. He works very hard to be as good as he is. There is no way a guy who hasn't sailed in 4 years should be able to walk into this class and win a race in this fleet. That's why I race Stars.
Since concluding the Cup last summer, it has been my plan to get back into the Star. I was thinking of starting out with some regattas in Miami this winter and working up to the Bacardi Cup in March. But I jumped in to the deep end instead and I am leaving Nassau better for it. I feel energized to be out competing again and looking forward to more soon.
I think the SSL is a great concept and Michel Niklaus has made an innovative step forward in sailing at the highest level. The format, having several "cuts" is exciting and tomorrow's semi-finals and finals races will be a first in sailing. Robert is definitely the torch bearer at the moment, however as the points get zero'd out at every stage, it will take just one good race by someone else to take the top prize of $40k.
Day Four: quarter finals, semi-finals and final:
We caught up with Robert Scheidt after the last race of the day.
What's your secret to be so successful even if you didn't train in a Star since more than 1 year?
Any America's Cup aspirations?
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