By Paul Heineken
One of the highest priorities for the St. Francis Sailing Foundation is to support American sailors who strive to represent the USA in the Olympic Games, and hopefully earn a medal. The 2016 Olympic Games are now less than 2 years away, so competitors are pushing very hard to place high in international regattas and earn their country an invitation for each sailing class in the Rio Games. The Miami ISAF World Cup event is the first really big event on the 2015 schedule. It has a long history of attracting the best sailors from all over the world to compete in variable conditions in wonderful Miami weather. Unfortunately, in recent years the weather is “too good” and racing has been very limited due to light wind.
This year’s Miami event was one of the best ever. More than 700 competitors were put to the test. The event started with 20-30 knot survival conditions and then progressively mellowed during the week. Overall, the Americans had some bright spots and some disappointments. Unfortunately there were no podium finishes. In a number of classes, the American team has not yet qualified for a spot in the Olympics, so further progress is needed at this summer’s World and Continental Championship events when more Olympic berths will be awarded.
The following is a rundown by class, with StFSF sailors in bold:
Laser Radial Women, 79 competitors
Paige Railey came back from a serious bicycle accident last year. After a long period of rehabilitation, she showed that she is ready to again sail at the highest level. Throughout the event he sailed consistently in the top ten and then won the double point medal race. This brought her up to 4th place overall, just eight points out of the silver medal position. Christine Neville qualified for the gold fleet and finished 38th overall. Many think that Paige, a former Rolex World Sailor of the Year, is the best American hope for a medal in the Rio Olympics.
Finn, Men’s, 39 competitors
The Brit, Giles Scott trounced the fleet. Caleb Paine qualified for the medal race, and finished 9th overall.
RSX Women, 37 competitors
After the San Francisco-like conditions on day one, Marion Lepert led the fleet with finishes of 1 and 4. However as the week progressed, she learned just how competitive this international fleet is in light and moderate air, leading to a16th overall finish. Farrah Hall, the 2012 US Olympic representative, had the opposite scoring trajectory. She moved up to 18th overall, but 36 points behind Marion.
49er Men, 57 teams
Overall, the 49er fleet was remarkably competitive. Out of 13 scored races, the gold medal Danish team never won a race. And after all those races, 4th was separated from 10th by just 17 points. The dominant American team, Brad Funk and Trevor Burd has been steadily improving and moved up to 7th in this event, finishing second in the medal race. The StFSF has supported a number of young teams some of which were cutting their teeth in their first international regatta. And are really pointing towards the 2020 games. The Bay Area team of David Liebenberg and Dan Morris, in their first international competition, surprised many by having some top 5 finishes, thereby making the gold fleet, and finishing 14th overall. The Strammer-Kushner team also made the gold fleet and finished 27th overall. Other StFSF supported teams sailed in silver with the following overall finishes: Barrows-Joe Morris 38th, Wilson-McBride 47th, and Ryan-Hans Henken 53rd.
49er FX, Women, 39 teams
StFSF-supported Paris Henken and Helen Scutt finished 29th overall while Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer finished 31st.
Nacra 17 catamaran, 48 teams, including 11 American teams
StFSF-supported Michael Easton and Katherine Pettibone just came together as a team and finished 21st, the top American score. John Casey and Kristen Lane finished 38th.