Caleb Paine (USA) rounded off an exceptional week's sailing by winning the enthralling Finn medal race at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami to take the gold medal from London 2012 Olympians Greg Douglas (CAN) and Jorge Zarif (BRA).
Paine had led from the first day and it never really looked as if he was heading for any other result. Five race wins from the 11 race series in fantastic sailing conditions gives him his second ISAF World Cup event win, after taking the Delta Lloyd Regatta last year. Runner-up Douglas had picked up an OCS in race three that left him struggling to make the podium, but he turned it around in the second half of the week with a string of top threes, including two race wins. Bronze medalist Jorge Zarif also sailed a great week after a conservative start and proved very fast on the downwinds.
One of the more intriguing storylines of the week was the return of Bruno Prada (BRA). The Brazilian 2011 Star World Champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist made the move back into the Finn three months ago and has been working hard to get re-adjusted to the boat. Before the regatta he said, “My objective in Miami is to hit the medal race and continue to improve. I’ll be sailing all the big regattas this year, including the World Championship in Estonia.” He certainly opened well, winning the first race, and was only once out of the top 10.
After Prada won the opening race, Paine won the next three to take and maintain the overall lead. The youngsters continued to dominate on the third and fourth days with Paine, Douglas and Zarif sharing the race wins. Brendan Casey (AUS) was also in the mix, with a string of top three placings keeping him in a podium slot, but it all went wrong for the world No, 1, and ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne winner, on day four. He picked up his second yellow flag for rocking and ended up with a DNE score of 29 points, which ended all chances of a consecutive ISAF Sailing World Cup victory.
It was perhaps a small consolation that he bounced back on the final day of the opening series to win both races, but in spite of that Paine extended his lead over Douglas to 10 points and over Zarif to 15 points. Paine had done enough to secure a medal, just the colour was to be decided.
Saturday's medal race was sailed in slightly lighter winds than most of the week, with a shifty 10-12 knots, and warm sunshine. With only Douglas and Zarif capable of beating Paine for the overall title going into the medal race, he kept them firmly behind him throughout.
The first upwind dominated by Douglas and Casey, but Paine came through on the downwind to round the gate ahead of Douglas, Lauri Väinsalu (EST) and Casey. In fact Vainsalu was the fastest man first downwind. He picked up four places and was just behind the leaders at the gate. The top three extended on the second upwind, with Casey not far behind and the final downwind turned into a big battle between the top three, all finishing within seconds of each other. In the end Paine took the race win from Vainsalu and Douglas to take a magnificent gold medal that will set him up nicely for the important season ahead.. Casey was only around 10 seconds further back. It was very close.
Casey was impressed with the new wave of talent in the Finn class. He said after day four, “I’ve come to Miami to race against the world’s best that are currently sailing to see where I stack up. I’m 35 years of age now, so I’m probably at the tail end of my sailing, but I’m still very competitive. The younger guys like Caleb Paine are at the start of their sailing journey and Greg Douglas too. Those are the two guys to watch out for in the future.”
For Väinsalu, fourth place was a victory against adversity following a serious knee injury in last year's medal race that took him out for most of the 2012 season. He said, “It has been a hard year for me so it's been a good week and a good result was something I needed badly. It was tight and high level sailing all week. This was the regatta where I wanted to see where I'm at after the injury and I was sailing well most of the week. I had bad day at the end but I finished up with a good medal race and managed to take the maximum I could from here.”
And the knee? “I can't say it's 100% healed. They repaired the meniscus instead of cutting it out so that’s why it's taking longer to heal. I have been going to physiotherapy, but in general it doesn't hurt me and I can do everything I need, but it's not as strong as it was yet.”
“For me Miami is the perfect place to start the new season. With the Finn Midwinters in Fort Lauderdale and Miami OCR I can do two high level competitions. Also I have a good friend Gordon Lamphere here I can train with. He also provides us with boats and a coach in Darrell Peck. So good high level training and coaching is always guaranteed.”
Runner up Douglas had this to say. “I'm happy with how the week went. I started the week a little bit off the pace but I was able to remain focused and improve during the week. Caleb Paine sailed very well during the week and didn't give me much of a chance to catch him at the end.”
Douglas has been juggling college and training for the past few months but feels he has made valuable progress since the Olympics. “This winter we have being working on the basics to get everything ready for this season. Being in school and sailing is tough but I have a good balance this fall and winter which allows me to do both.”
“I have made some improvements in my game from last year, I have been working on my boat handling and downwinds with my coach Chris Cook. We have a really good training group right now which is mostly youngsters. As a group we feel that we have the opportunity to make a big leap this year so we have been extremely focused. We are ready to show the world what we can do.”
Results (medal race result in brackets)