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World Cup Series Miami, VOR inshore update, 2017 US Sailing Rolex awards

by David Schmidt 29 Jan 16:09 GMT January 29, 2018
Caleb Paine, Giles Scott and Alican Kaynar - 2018 World Cup Series, Miami © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy

If one's goal involves winning an Olympic medal, the road ahead is long, arduous and filled with intense international competition simply to qualify for a country berth to the Games. Once there, standing on the podium represents its own private K2 (read: significantly steeper than Mount Everest), and while the view from any of those podium steps must be as proud and grand as any Himalayan summit, there's no escaping the numerous high-level competitions required to ply the rarified waters of an Olympic racecourse, and by any yard stick the 2018 World Cup Series in Miami (January 21-28, 2018) ranks as one of the most important regattas of 2018 for any sailor fixing his or her gaze on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which are rapidly hoving into view for many of the world's fastest One Design sailors.

Much like the 2016 Rio Olympics, fans of American sailing once again had to settle for a single medal, again from Finn sailor Caleb Paine, who sailed a brilliant medal race in Miami to cinch the podium's second step. Paine was joined there by his old rival, Giles Scott (UK), who won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and by Alican Kaynar (TUR).

"For the first event back in the year and a half, it was a great result," reported Paine in an official US Sailing press release. "I look forward to improving that in the near future."

While Paine's medal is the only one earned by U.S. sailors at this year's 2018 World Cup Series in Miami, other U.S.-flagged sailors still put in strong performances in the other classes, including Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl, who took seventh in the Men's 470; Stephanie Roble and Margaret Shea, who took eighth in the 49erFX, and Judge Ryan and Alain Sign, who took ninth in the 49er.

Interestingly, American sailors are finding success in the Nacra 17 class, and while none of our sailors were in medal contention in Miami, we are seeing seriously strong potential in this mixed-sex class. Here, Ravi Parent and Christina Persson took ninth place, followed by Bora Gulari and Helena Scutt who took tenth place, and by Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg, who took eleventh place.

The simple fact that so many American-flagged teams were in the mix for a Top Ten finish in a class as technically demanding as the Nacra 17 bodes extremely well, as these teams will press each other hard to earn the single country berth to Tokyo. Hopefully this coming war-hardening will spell great things for U.S. Nacra 17 sailors on Japanese waters in 2020.

"The results this week in Miami I think are a good indication of exactly where our team is at, performance wise," said Malcolm Page (AUS), Chief of U.S. Olympic Sailing, in an official US Sailing press release. "We had one medal here with Caleb Paine in the Finn, but have also had some other class results in single digits. Although this is a marker of where we are today, it's certainly not an indicator of where we're going. We are steadily building a process and a system to take America back to the top of the podium."

Meanwhile, in big-boat sailing news, the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) hosted two events in Hong Kong, an in-port race (Saturday) and the Around Hong Kong Island Race (Sunday), that gave fans a great chance to see these offshore machines up close.

Skipper Simeon Tienpont (NED) and his Dutch-flagged Team AkzoNobel took first place in Saturday's shifty and puffy in-port race, followed by the Chinese-flagged Dongfeng Race Team and the Dutch-flagged Team Brunel. "We had a fantastic race, pretty exciting. We planned to sail our own race today. It was tricky enough with the tide and the windshifts," said Tienpont after cinching his in-port win.

Sunday's Around Hong Kong Island Race was an entirely different affair, with light and variable winds defining the day's challenge. French-flagged MAPFRE took the win in this second in-shore event at this stopover, followed by Dongfeng Race Team and hometown favourites Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, which flies the Hong Kong flag on their massive mainsail.

"With these inshore races you never know, because just as you can have the advantage one moment, the next you can lose it," said Juan Villa, MAPFRE navigator, in an official VOR press release. "Fortunately today it was more of a race in which the one in front always seemed to have better pressure. The transitions have also gone a little better for us and of course, the start and the moments afterward were key."

The results of Saturday's in-port race are averaged with Sunday's Around Hong Kong Island Race, tying Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE on points (25 each) for the Hong Kong in-port events, followed by Team Brunel (17 points) and Team AkzoNobel (16 points). Distance racing resumes again in the VOR on Thursday, February 1, when the fleet races a whopping 100 nautical miles from Hong Kong to the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

Sadly, Vestas/11th Hour Racing, which carries dual American and Danish flags, was not able to race in Hong Kong and will also sit out Leg 5 as their boat is repaired after a fatal collision with a fishing boat as the team was finishing Leg 4 (Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong). As of this writing it is not known if the team will be able to race the 6,100 nautical mile leg that will carry the fleet from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand.

Finally, news broke late last week that Peter Duncan (58; Rye, NY) and Erika Reineke (24; Fort Lauderdale, FL) won the prestigious US Sailing 2017 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards (respectively). Duncan earned his new Rolex timepiece by winning the 2017 J/70 Worlds in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy, besting a 161-boat fleet with teammates Jud Smith (tactician), Victor Diaz de Leon and Willem van Waay. "I love the competition and I enjoy racing in large fleets," said Duncan. "That to me is wildly exciting. But it's also about all the camaraderie and the people that you meet and the places you go."

Reineke earned her new chronometer for her strong results on both the college sailing (where she sails for Boston College) and Laser Radial class circuits, the later of which culminated in a gold medal at the Enoshima Olympic Week 2017, which was the first major multi-class regatta that was held at the same venue that will host the 2020 Games.

"It's definitely hard to balance the two worlds of school and sailing, but I think it was worth it," said Reineke. "I have learned a lot of different styles of sailing. I think I have a better perspective on sailing in general, and it was totally worth it."

Sail-World.com offers a huge congratulations to both Duncan and Reineke for winning their big 2017 achievements, and to Caleb Paine for his proud silver medal in Miami.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor

Seattle, USA