Jorge Zarif (BRA) kept his cool in the tense and exciting medal race at the Sailing World Cup Miami to keep his overnight lead and walk away with his first World Cup win. The London 2012 silver medallist, Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) had to settle for silver while Arkadiy Kistanov (RUS) sailed a exceptional race to take the race win and the bronze. It was a medal race that delivered excitement, upset and emotion in ample measures.
As well as being Zarif’s first ever Sailing World Cup regatta win it is his first major regatta win since he took the world title three years ago. He rounded the top mark in the lead from Anders Pedersen (NOR) and Kistanov. The Russian worked the right downwind and then took the lead after splitting tacks at the gate. Zarif had dropped to fourth at the next top mark and as the wind started to drop, the final downwind was tricky sailing in the choppy waters. Lei Gong (CHN), who had rounded the first top mark in tenth place found and shift to the left on the second beat to round fifth and with the American battle going on in front of him downwind, crossed the finish line in third. It was the same left shift that took Kistanov into the lead half way up the second beat. The race win for Kistanov gave him his first ever Sailing World Cup medal
Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) needed to beat Zarif to take gold, but was playing catch up the whole race. He just couldn’t find a way back and crossed the line in fifth, but maintained his overall silver medal position.
The America pair of Zach Railey (USA) and Caleb Paine (USA) were fighting tooth and nail the whole race as part of their Olympic selection. Paine held the early advantage, rounded the top mark in seventh to Railey’s eighth. They were still locked together downwind, but Railey took the opposite gate behind Kistanov and found better wind on the left to come back ahead of Paine. But Paine was still right behind. Railey needed to put two boats between himself and Paine, and coming into the bottom mark there was barely a boatlength between them. Railey attacked, letting both four boats, through but coming into the finish they were still together. Then Paine got a penalty and by the time he had completed his turn was in last place. The damage was done and with Railey crossing the line in sixth, he had done enough to leapfrog Paine overall and take the lead in the US Olympic selection trials.
Railey said of the day, “We had exciting conditions today. It was very shifty with up and down pressure and positions changing all the time."
On the decisive last race move on Paine, “On the last run I tired to slow the race down as much as I could to put boats between us and let other boats pass Caleb so I could reduce the overall spread between us. I have a lot of respect for Caleb and he has worked hard, but we are two competitors fighting for one spot. It's tough that only one of us gets to go, but it's going to be a hard fought battle. I'm going to do all I can to win that spot.”
“This was a solid first step for me and I will keep improving toward Barcelona. There are some things I need to improve, just going to keep getting fitter and working on my technique to get faster.”
Race winner Kistanov said, “It was a pretty nice race for me. I went left on the first upwind to round third on the mark, was probably second on the downwind and just controlled the same side. I felt pretty comfortable on the water with good speed.” Russia still has to qualify for the Olympics and the last chance for that is Palma, and on this week’s performance he said he was feeling fairly confident. “I think we have a good chance to complete the qualifying in Palma and go to Rio.”
Zarif commented on his regatta win. “Before the race I thought the left was a little bit better, so I tried to start to leeward of Jonas. I got very good pressure from there and rounded top mark first. Then I just tried to keep an eye on him and take the good shifts. I am satisfied with the week but it’s still a very long road until the Games. I am now looking forward to the Europeans in Barcelona.”
The sailors have a brief break before reassembling in Barcelona, Spain where the European Championship begins on 4 March.
The Finn medal race, and all the other classes, can be seen at: https://youtu.be/_V2YQYar0IU
Final results (medal race in brackets)
1 BRA 109 Jorge Zarif 38 (2)
2 DEN 2 Jonas Høgh-Christensen 45 (5)
3 RUS 6 Arkadiy Kistanov 46 (1)
4 AUS-41 Jake Lilley 51 (8)
5 USA 4 Zach Railey 57 (6)
6 USA 6 Caleb Paine 62 (dnf)
7 CHN 1226 Lei Gong 66 (3)
8 NOR-1 Anders Pedersen 67 (7)
9 RUS 2 Aleksey Borisov 84 (9)
10 ARG 48 Facundo Olezza 85 (8)
Full results: http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php