Anyway, it seemed to be shaping up as a beautiful day apart from nasty thunderstorm activity, due to bombard Biscayne Bay by mid to late afternoon. As a result, race organizers opted to ensure the safety of the 633 sailors who are competing here on 448 boats and representing 45 nations at one of the world’s most competitive regattas for Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.
According to Principal Race Officer Ross Wilson from Australia, only the race courses for the 49er class (Men’s Two Person Dinghy - High Performance) and Elliott 6ms (Women’s Match Racing) were deemed close enough for racing to begin, as the sailors could be called home safely, ahead of the storm threat. “The 49ers were sailing very close to a beach where they could retreat, but in the case of the Star (Men’s Keelboat) course, it was three miles away, which was too far.” After the storms -- true to predicted force -- had passed, Laser Radials (Women’s One Person Dinghy) and Lasers (Men’s One Person Dingy) joined the lucky classes that got to compete, completing a single race each. For the balance of classes, racing had already been cancelled for the day.
“We had three very good races today and a good start to the regatta,” said 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and US SAILING’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), who, with crew Molly Vandemoer (Redwood City, Calif.) and Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.), is one of the USA’s shining stars in the women’s match racing event, which will debut at the 2012 Olympics. “We had some aggressive pre-starts and we’re very happy with our boat handling in the big breeze.”
The match racing event features 24 teams divided into three groups of eight, sailing round-robin in a complex series of over 200 races, which eventually pare down the fleet to two boats, dueling for gold on Saturday, the last day of competition for the Olympic classes. (Paralympic classes finish on Friday.)
“We’re really looking forward to racing the higher seeds tomorrow,” said Tunnicliffe, who added that in today’s last race, the Israelis led them off the line, but the Americans had slightly better speed upwind and were able to get control of them on the right hand side. “It was quite shifty today – no side was ever favored.”
Vandemoer added: “It was action-packed and close at every mark. A lead in the Elliott 6m is never a comfortable thing. You have to be ‘game on’ at all times.”
In the 49er class, Australia’s Will and Sam Phillips led after posting victories in three of three races today, which were held in 14-19 knots of breeze. Following in second are Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis of France.
The Laser Radials and Lasers were able to squeeze one race in after a long postponement on-shore. Due to shifty breeze and several course changes, the Radials were able to start their one race around 4:45 pm in medium to light puffy air. Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) held a strong lead throughout the race to finish first, followed by Alberte Holm Lindberg (DEN) and Alison Young (GBR). “Paige rounded the leeward mark first and sailed a flawless second beat extended,” said USSTAG Coach Luther Carpenter (LaPorte, Texas).
The Laser fleet, which was split into two fleets, was also at the mercy of shifting breeze, and the Race Committee scrambled to adjust the race course and quickly started the race before sunset. During the first sequence, the first wave of the front appeared and the temperature dropped 10 degrees, while the wind shifted from the South to the West. At the beginning of the race, the wind was blowing in the high teens but dropped to 3-5 knots by the end. Canada’s Luke Ramsay and Chris Dold finished first and second in the blue fleet, while Nick Thompson (GBR) and Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) led the yellow fleet.
As for those who didn’t sail today, most adopted the attitude that Laser sailor Brad Funk (Plantation, Fla.) had while he was waiting on shore this morning. “It is what it is,” he said. “There’s plenty of good racing left to be had here.”
In this overwhelmingly international event, the USA has the largest contingent of sailors with 169, followed by Canada (83), France (46), Great Britain (41), The Netherlands (24), Germany (23), Denmark (18), and Sweden (18). Racing continues through Friday for Paralympic classes and Saturday for Olympic classes.