After one more race at the Sailing World Cup Miami, Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) moved back to the top of the leaderboard, two points ahead of Zach Railey (USA) and Jorge Zarif (BRA). Behind them the race for Olympic qualification heats up with just two days to go.
Miami continues to test patience and skills of all the sailors. On Thursday the sailors had a five hour wait on shire with torrential rain and low visibility delaying racing. The scheduled three races ended up being just one race after the fleet didn’t get away until nearly 4.30 in the afternoon. But the conditions were frisky with a solid breeze for the first time this week.
The right side looked favoured on the first upwind with most of the fleet soon on port tack. Then a 20 degree shift half way up brought the left side up, with Anders Pedersen (NOR) rounding first from Høgh-Christensen, Antonio Poncell (CHI). Regatta leader Caleb Paine (USA) was stranded on the left and rounded 16th.
Pedersen and Høgh-Christsen soon opened up a 100 metre gap on the fleet as they surfed downwind on the bumpy sea, while Railey moved up to third by the gate. The one sided second upwind started with another drag race to right with the Dane slowly hauling in Pedersen. The final approach was crucial as Høgh-Christensen slipped past the Norwegian to round first with Railey also moving up, to second. Nothing much changed on the run. Railey challenged Høgh-Christensen but couldn’t get past while Pedersen crossed in third.
While the points at the top are now even tighter – just five points separate the top six – there is an almost reversal in order. Høgh-Christensen moves back to the top from Railey and Zarif. But Railey, Zarif and fourth placed Jake Lilley (AUS) are on equal points with the ever-consistent Lei Gong (CHN) just one point behind, and level with Paine. With just one day of the opening series left how much closer could it get?
Høgh-Christsensen was pretty elated with his second bullet of the week. Perhaps even more so because the top three were all from the same training group that has been working hard in Florida since last Autumn.
“Between the massive rain showers the wind finally picked up. On the first beat the wind kept going left. I started 6-7 boats up from the pin and managed to tack and cross the fleet. Then it was a drag race to the right layline. With the wind going left it was a long port tack drag race. I sailed a good first run and just managed to pass Anders.”
“Both Zach and Anders were going faster than me upwind but I got the last two small shifts right at the top of the second beat and just managed to stay in front of them. Then Zach and I were duking it out down the last run and Zach was pushing hard but I kept him behind me for the win. Very happy with the day and with the training group finishing 1,2,3 in today’s race, we must be doing something right.”
Pedersen commented, "Today was a tough day staying on shore for 5 hours with an AP before we where sent out. It turned out to be a nice breeze, shifty but good conditions. So far, the regatta for me has not been the best. With three average results and a BFD, I'm not super happy but slowly getting there. I think our group has done a lot of the right things lately after the worlds, and I feel like we are all on the right path. I'm really looking forward to the next couple of months of training. Zach and Jonas are two top sailors, and I'm happy to work with them and learn from them. And it's good fun when we finish 1,2,3, but of course I would liked to have the bullet."
Railey commented, “It was a very tough day. We waited a long time to get that race in but we finally got the wind and weather to clear just in time. Credit to the Race Committee for making that race happen.”
“It was very unstable with the clouds and rain, and you just had to take what came down the course. I was left with Jonas and Anders and that paid off for us.”
Having only got back in the Finn last Autumn after a three year layoff since the London Olympics he is pleased with how it is coming together. “My speed is getting much better, though always room for improvement, but I am very happy with how the last five months of training is starting to come together. I came here as prepared as I could be to compete for the trials. The points are very close and there is another event to go after this one but I like the trajectory I have been on after the Takapuna Gold Cup.”
The results table shows an interesting picture in the various qualification battles going on in Miami. Though Railey, the 2008 Silver medallist, is only two points in front of Paine for the US trials, the results between the two is quite a contrast. Railey has three top twos, and two much deeper, while Paine is consistent, but with a slight hiccup today. Miami is stage 1 of a two part trials that concludes in March in Barcelona.
In the battle for the South American Olympic place, FINNTEAM member Facundo Olezza (ARG) is now leading a tight group of three sailors, and had just made it into the top 10, overtaking Poncell in 11th and Juan Ignacio Biava (ARG), in 13th.
For some sailors Friday will be crunch day. Three more races are scheduled from 10.20.
Results after five races
1 DEN 2 Jonas Hogh-Christensen 15
2 USA 4 Zach Railey 17
3 BRA 109 Jorge Zarif 17
4 AUS-41 Jake Lilley 17
5 CHN 1226 Lei Gong 18
6 USA 6 Caleb Paine 18
7 RUS 6 Arkadiy Kistanov 27
8 RUS 2 Aleksey Borisov 29
9 ARG 48 Facundo Olezza 35
10 NOR-1 Anders Pedersen 36
Full results: http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php