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Debriefing the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami

by David Schmidt 28 Jan 16:00 GMT January 28, 2020
Pedro Pascual Gold Medalist and Top American at the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / World Sailing

After years of tough headlines for U.S. Olympic class sailors, last week's 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami (January 19-25) proved extraordinary, with three Gold Medal finishes, a critical country qualification earned, and other top-ten performances to be celebrated. The regatta, which is the only World Sailing World Cup event that unfurls on U.S. waters, featured a range of conditions that varied from light airs to blustery winds and big waves, pushing all sailors to demonstrate their top-shelf skills some six months before the starting guns begin sounding at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (July 24 to August 9).

The three most precious medals were earned by Men's RS:X sailor Pedro Pascual, Laser Radial sailor Erika Reineke, and Finn sailor (and Rio 2016 Olympics bronze medalist) Caleb Paine, all of whom delivered fantastic performances.

Pascual in particular proved especially dominant in the eight-strong Men's RS:X class, dropping a report card that read 1-1-3-1-2-2-3-3-2-1. This solidified his Gold Medal at the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami and earned him this year's Golden Torch, which is given to the top American at this regatta each January.

"It's awesome to win a World Cup," said Pascual in an official US Sailing press release. "It's my first time winning an event in the senior class and it was really hard to stay consistent this week. We had really different conditions. Today, I came into the Medal Race with a lead of 11 points, so I didn't necessarily have to win the race to win. I just focused on controlling the fleet and staying close to everyone but still sailing my own race."

A smart strategy, but a quick look at Pascual's results shows a bullet in the regatta's final exam, emphasizing his all-conquering performance at this high-level regatta.

While Reineke "only" earned a single bullet, she too proved consistent in her results in the 19-strong Laser Radial class, with her worst result being a sixth-place finish, which she dropped, followed by a fourth, a third and three second-place finishes. This great performance put her four points ahead of Greece's Vaselia Karachaliou, with whom she enjoyed a down-to-the-wire fight for the podium's top step.

This battle wasn't decided until the final downhill leg of the medal race, when Karachaliou was given a penalty by the jury.

"Off the start, I felt really good," said Reineke in an official team presser. "I tacked and I was at the front of the race and then I messed up one shift and my competitors split from me. Vasileia played the first beat extremely well and I tried to keep my head in the game and not give up. On the last downwind I covered her and unfortunately, she got a flag, but that's the sport. I had to beat her [Vasileia] in the race, and the Italian [Talluri] was also very close so I just went out there trying to win."

And in the Finn class, Caleb Paine delivered a master class to his 14-strong fleet by posting five bullets, four second-place finishes, and an 11th place finish, the latter of which was his discard race. Paine beat-out Canada's Kyle Martin and fellow American Luke Muller to secure his 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami gold medal. Paine's great performance meant that he secured victory a day ahead of the medal race, leaving it to Muller to fight for his bronze medal amongst a talent-riven fleet of Finn sailors.

"I took more risk than some of the other boats on the upwinds, but I did what I thought was going to pay," Muller said in an official team communication. "Then on the last downwind, because I was pushing so hard to pass as many boats as I could, I got a penalty. The points were such that if I pushed it and broke the [propulsion] rule, I would still be okay, but if they didn't penalize me, I was closer to getting silver. So, in my mind, it was a good risk."

This sets Muller and Paine up for a battle to determine which of these talented sailors will fly the letters "USA" at this summer's Olympic Games. As it currently stands, Muller leads Paine by six points, however this racecourse tussle won't be sorted out until the 2020 Finn Gold Cup (May 8-16).

As mentioned in last week's newsletter, the USA had qualified for all up-for-grabs events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ahead of the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami, save for the Women's 470. Fortunately, this unattended business was taken care of by three talented teams — the sisters Atlantic Brugman Cabot and Nora Brugman, the twin sisters Carmen and Emma Cowles, and Nikole Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss — so the USA will now officially be on the starting line of the Women's 470 class at this summer's Games.

While athlete selection for this spot won't be decided until the 2020 470 World Championship (March 13-21), the Cowles sisters took fifth place in the medal race, which put them in eighth place overall in the 16-strong Women's 470 class at Miami. Atlantic Brugman Cabot and Nora Brugman finished the regatta in ninth place, while Nikole Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss finished in 11th place.

Expect a tight fight at the 470 Worlds between these three teams, as the Brugmans will enter the regatta with a one-point advantage over the Cowles and a three-point margin over Barnes and Dallman-Weiss.

(N.B. the USA failed to qualify in the Men's 49er class ahead of Miami, however the USA is first in line to claim any forfeited spots from other countries in this high-performance class.)

Also of note amongst American performances, Farrah Hall finished fifth in the RS:X Women class, and Stu McNay and David Hughes finished in eighth place in the Men's 470 class.

Meanwhile, our north-of-the-border neighbors also enjoyed strong results, with Kyle Martin taking second place in the Finns (as previously mentioned), and five Canadian Laser sailors — Robert Davis (fifth), High Macrea (sixth), Fillah Karim (seventh), Luke Ruitenberg (ninth), and Matti Muru (tenth) — finishing in the top ten.

Sadly for Canada, these great Laser results were not enough to earn Canada an Olympic berth in the Laser, as Andrew Lewis, from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, took home a fourth place finish in Miami and the final Olympic berth that was open to North American Laser sailors.

"Olympics number three - here I come - amazing," said Lewis in an official press release. "It was hard out there. Five Canadians in the Medal Race. I don't think I've ever seen a Medal Race with that many sailors from one nation. Five of them were trying to prevent me from getting one position. Three of them could overtake and at one point during the race one of them had it. One went left, one went right, one nearly won the race. I wanted to push for the bronze medal but in that position, I didn't want to take the risk."

Sail-World congratulates all of these great sailors for fine performances, and we sincerely hope that this newfound momentum continues through this summer's Games.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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