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World Cup Series Miami - Day 5: Shifty conditions make Medal Races a test of nerve

by Stuart Streuli on 29 Jan 22-29 January 2016

With the World Cup Series secure going into the Medal Race, 49er sailors Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell (GBR) sailed a clean race and largely stayed out of the fray. They finished fifth, capping off an impressive start to the Tokyo 2020 quad for this new team.

"It feels like we've gelled pretty well," said Bithell, who won a silver medal at London 2012 in the 470. "There's still plenty of work to do, but it's nice to be on top of the podium."

The battle for second was more interesting. It was nip and tuck all the way through the Medal Race for Austria's Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl. And no point of the race was more anxious than just before the second windward mark, when Bildstein and Hussl tacked just in front of a pack of boats, one of whom thought the Austrian team might've broken the rules. But the judges waved off the protest and Bildstein and Hussl held fourth place to the finish to claim the silver.

"The plan was to get top three in the Medal Race and that way we can stay on the podium," said Hussl. "At one point [during the Medal Race] we were quite close to losing it, but at the end of the second upwind we [got in front of] some boats and it was like 'OK, we are safe here.'"

Carl Sylvan and Marcus Anjemark (SWE) started the race in third, but when they slipped to last late in the race, the door opened for the Spain's Diego Botin and Iago Lòpez Marra to seize bronze, which is what they did by finishing seventh.

Rio 2016 gold medallists Martine Soffiati Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) had a 17-point lead heading into the Medal Race, which meant that anything but last place would guarantee them the regatta win. They didn't take any chances and steadily worked through the fleet after a conservative start to win the Medal Race and the gold.

"Our main goal was to have a free start and sail every puff and shift," said a happy Kunze. "The first upwind was not good but we managed to come back and catch the Norwegians."

The race for second and third was decided at two distinct points. Being over the starting line early effectively eliminated Helene Naess and Marie Ronningen (NOR), who started the day three points out of third, from podium contention. A few minutes later, fellow Norwegians Ragna and Maia Agerup, who started the day with a five-point lead, stamped their claim on silver by taking the lead at the top mark.

While the Agerup twins ran into some rough water on the final run and finished third, that was still good enough to secure second place in the regatta. Victoria Travascio and Maria Branz (ARG) finished sixth in the Medal Race and third overall.

It was a British clean sweep in the Nacra 17 Medal Race with John Gimson and Anna Burnet taking the win, Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves in second and Tom Phipps and Nicola Boniface in third.

Saxton and Groves, who started the race with a nine-point lead over Phipps and Boniface, didn't appear interested in leaving anything to chance as they executed a text-book pin-end start and raced off toward the left side of the course with Gimson and Burnet close behind.

With the way the breeze was shifting around, it would seem to be a risk to bet so definitively on one side of the course. But Saxton and Groves, who were sailing their first event since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, had been next to flawless the second half of the regatta in similar conditions so there was every reason to think they'd made the correct choice.

By the windward mark it was apparent they had. Saxton and Groves rounded first followed closely by Gimson and Burnet. Those two teams would swap positions at the second windward mark, but that wouldn't impact the overall standings. In fact, the podium didn't change at all after the Medal Race with Phipps and Boniface taking silver and Nico Delle-Karth and Lauro Schöfegger (AUT) finishing seventh in the race and third overall.

"I think if you look at the beginning [of the regatta] that definitely shows a bit of rust," said Groves. "Then we kind of remembered how to do it and got back in to our routines as the week went on and our results showed that."

Yunxiu Lu showed very impressive downwind speed during the Women's RS:X Medal Race, twice making up significant ground on the downwind legs to preserve her overall lead and take the regatta win. A very pleased and humble Lu chalked the win up to a bit of luck, perhaps brought on by the Chinese New Year.

Veteran Spanish windsurfer Marina Alabau Neira won the race, keeping her in second place.

"It was tricky," Alabau said of the Medal Race wind conditions. "All the Chinese girls were pushing hard, pumping a lot. It was really hard to win the race. [This regatta] was really nice for me as it was super good training. It was one of my worst conditions; shifty, offshore winds. So I'm pretty happy [with silver]."

The big shift came in the battle for bronze. Three sailors started the race within four points of the final spot on the podium. Jiao Ma (CHN) seemingly put herself out of contention when she was called OCS. But she charged back to third place and fell just one point short of bronze when Manjia Zheng (CHN) finished fourth. Isobel Hamilton (GBR) who started the race in third place, finished sixth in the Medal Race and dropped to fifth overall.

With a 37-point lead, France's Louis Giard could've coasted through the Medal Race, finished last and still taken home the Miami title by at least 19 points. Instead however, he attacked it like he had the 12 previous races, charging from eighth at the first mark to first at the third mark before finishing third in the race.

Countryman Pierre Le Coq, the bronze medallist from Rio 2016, needed a similar comeback to hold second place in the regatta. He rounded the first mark in ninth before finishing fourth in the race, edging Mateo Sanz Lanz (SUI) by three points for second in the regatta.

Dutch sailor Kiran Badloe charged off the starting line in the Men's RS:X Medal Race like he had something to prove. After a stunning start to the regatta—five straight top-three finishes—Badloe struggled down the home stretch and dropped to fifth place, eight points off the podium. The Medal Race followed a similar pattern. He led at the first and second marks, but then things fell apart on the second beat.

"I misread the wind a bit and threw a bit of horsepower down on the first lap and that went well," said Badloe, who came into the regatta a little under the weather and struggled with his conditioning in the lighter winds when the RS:X requires the most effort, "but then I was just running out of breath and making mistakes and that sends you to the back pretty quick."

Mattia Camboni (ITA) won the Medal Race with a strong performance on the final two legs and went from sixth to fourth in the overall standings.

On day five we can now add Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) to the list of sailors who clinched a World Cup Series Miami win before the Medal Race. He has a 39-point lead over second placed Pavlos Kontides (CYP) who has also guaranteed himself a medal. Kontides has a 12-point lead over Nick Thompson (GBR) who will defend the final spot on the podium against Lorenzo Chiavarini (GBR) and Philipp Buhl (GER).

Baring some dramatic results, the Laser Radial podium is set. Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) has a 16-point lead over Evi Van Acker (BEL) in second who in turn is 17 points ahead of Mathilde de Kerangat (FRA). With fourth place 36 points further back there is no chance of anyone else breaking into the top three even, with the double points on offer in the Medal Race.

First place in the Finn is secure for Jorge Zarif (BRA), provided he finishes the final race. He has a 20-point lead over Ben Cornish (GBR). However, Cornish will need to stay ahead of Anders Pedersen (NOR) to keep silver. With just two points separating those two sailors—and the double-points Medal Race counting as the tie-breaker—it's a who-beats-who battle for second place. Alican Kaynar (TUR) and Luke Muller (USA) both have outside chances at the podium.

Stu McNay and David Hughes (USA) are assured of a medal and have an eight-point lead over second placed Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) in the Men's 470. Tetsuya Isozaki and Akira Takayanagi (JPN) hold third, but fourth through seventh still remain in medal contention.

The Women's 470 standings have four teams with a shot at first place. Afrodite Zeger and Annaloes van Veen (NED) are effectively tied with Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) for the overall lead while Silvia Mas Depares and Paula Barcelo Martin (ESP) can claim the championship by placing one boat between themselves and the British team, and two boats between themselves and the Dutch team. A second Spanish team, Bàrbara Cornudella Ravetllat and Sara López Ravetllat, also have a shot at each spot on the podium.

All medals will be confirmed on the final day of racing from Miami as the 470s, Lasers and Finn fight it out LIVE on World Sailing's YouTube channel and Facebook page. The Laser fleet will begin the Medal Races from Regatta Park, Coconut Grove and are scheduled to start at 12:05 local time.

Results for each class can be found here.

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