|MIAMI, FL. USA-(23-1-2006) For the 610 sailors at US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR, the weather on this opening day couldn't have been more perfect nor the competition more high-caliber. The morning's brisk breeze slowly lessened through the day and combined with sunny, cloudless skies to form near-perfect conditions on Biscayne Bay, where competition is taking place on seven circles and in ten Olympic classes and one Paralympic class. Representing 40 countries, a total of 406 boats are sailing, while among the ranks are no less than seven reigning world champions. In its 16-year history, the event has been bigger only twice, and that was in the year of and prior to the `home-court` 1996 Olympic Games in Savannah, Georgia.
`With only two years to go before the Olympic Games in Beijing, sailors have flocked to this event to see how they stack up against the best Olympic and Paralympic talent the world has to offer,` said Dean Brenner (Wallingford, Conn.), chairman of US SAILING's Olympic Sailing Committee, which organizes the event.
That was certainly the case with today's Finn class leader Rafael Trujillo (Santander, Spain), who won a silver medal in Athens. `In our class, there are eight people here in the top 20 on the ISAF World Ranking list, so it is a good regatta,` Trujillo said. `In the first two races, I was going good upwind, but the second race I was fighting really close with the UK sailor (Edward Wright). I need to work more on my downwind sailing--that is the definition of the day.` Trujillo posted a 1-1-5 for a spot at the top of the scoreboard, with defending champion Christopher Cook (Toronto, Canada) taking the next spot with a 3-2-3.
In the Tornado class, defending champions and 2004 Olympic silver medalists John Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and Charlie Ogletree (Kemah, Texas) `put the whole package together,` winning both of today's races. `We were going fast, sailing well,` said Lovell matter-of-factly. He added that the current world champions, Spain's Fernando Echávarri and Antón Paz (both from Galicia), were right behind them the whole time. With finish positions of 2-4, the Spanish team sits four points behind the U.S., in second place overall.
The Yngling world champions from the USA--Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) and Deborah Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.)--turned in a not-so-surprising performance today, winning all three of their races.
Also posting perfect scores in two races today was reigning Laser Radial world champion Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.).
The 470 results replicated the final results of last week's 470 North Americans here in Miami. At that event, Great Britain's Nic Asher (Lowestoft) and Elliot Willis (Sevenoaks) and France's Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux (both Marseille) topped the men and women's fleets, respectively.
The Australian Star team of Iain Murray (Clareville) and Andrew Palfrey (Avalon) topped that highly competitive fleet, edging out by only one point the current world champions from France, Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau (Martigues/La Rochelle).With 70 boats, the Star class is hosting the most sailors (140) in this regatta.
American sailors Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Ezra Culver (Miami, Fla.) and Mike Ross (Encinitas, Calif.) came out strong to lead the Sonar class, one of three Paralympic classes that will be sailed in the 2008 Paralympic class. The team is closely followed by a fellow American team skippered by David Schroeder (Miami, Fla.).
British sailors dominated the remaining classes today. Nick Dempsey (Weymouth) and Bryony Shaw (Weymouth) lead in the Neil Pryde RS:X Men's and Women's classes, respectively, while the team of Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks (both Portland) lead in the 49er class and Paul Goodison (Rotherham) leads in Lasers.
US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR is an International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade 1 event, a designation that indicates its importance in world rankings. It also is a qualifying event for the members of the 2006 US Sailing Team and a country qualifier for the 2007 Pan Am Games. In addition to Rolex, sponsors for US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR are Nautica, Extrasport, Gill, Harken, McLube, New England Ropes, Nikon, Sperry Top-Sider, Vanguard Sailboats, Vineyard Vines, and Zodiac. Rolex and Nautica are also sponsors of the US Sailing Teams.
Headquarters for US SAILING's 2006 Rolex Miami OCR are at the US Sailing Center, with classes hosted by the US Sailing Center; Coral Reef, Key Biscayne and Miami Yacht Clubs; the Coconut Grove Sailing Club; and Shake-A-Leg-Miami. The event is organized by US SAILING, the national governing body of the sport.