Sailors from 64 nations are gearing up for the first big showdown of Olympic and Paralympic sailing in 2016, with the Sailing World Cup Miami starting in Miami, Florida/USA on Monday, 25 January local time/EST (AEST minus 16hrs). Nearly 800 athletes will feature across the ten Olympic and two Paralympic events from Monday 25 to Saturday 30 January.
In the Olympic classes, Australian Sailing will be represented in Miami by 21 Australian Sailing Team (AST) and Squad (ASS) athletes in 12 boats across seven classes (49er/FX, Nacra 17, Laser, Women’s 470 and Finn). In the Paralympic classes, Australian Sailing Team’s Sonar crew will be at the start line in Miami.
With the calendar in an Olympic year, many of the sailors gathered in Coconut Grove this week will walk in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in less than 200 days and the Paralympic Games the following month. For the sailors with a confirmed spot in the Olympic Regatta, this event is about sharpening their tactical game, refining their equipment, and testing the opposition. Others have a more immediate focus as they are in the midst of a selection series.
While Australian Sailing has already qualified all of the three Paralympic classes as well as the nine Olympic classes it aimed to qualify for Rio 2016, final selection is still open in all but the 49er, Men’s 470 and Nacra 17.
Of those already selected by the Australian Olympic Committee in December to represent Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (see AOC media release here: http://rio2016.olympics.com.au/news/first-sailors-selected-include-three-defending-champions ), 2012 Olympic gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) as well Nacra 17 World #1 Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW) will be racing at Miami. Miami will be a welcome test event with the 49er/49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships following in Clearwater, Florida in February (7-14 February 2016).
World Champions and World #1 Mat Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD), who also have been already selected on to the Olympic Team, will not be in Miami, but will start their 2016 international season at the 470 World Championships in Argentina in February (20-27 February 2016).
Whilst the Paralympic racing wraps up on 29 January, the Olympic competitors will be fighting it out to appear in Saturday's live television broadcast of the Medal Races.
Set to be shown in front of a live audience on the World Sailing TV YouTube channel and on more than ten global broadcasters, Sailing World Cup Miami will provide sailing fans with a window of opportunity to see who is looking strong on the Road to Rio.
See AST video preview here: https://youtu.be/TpYJ8uF_C_s
At the head of the fleet Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) will spearhead a pack of 49 that includes high profile Nacra 17 contenders World #2 Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) will all be on the start line at Miami.
While the selection pressure is off for the two cousins, Miami will be a welcome benchmark opportunity ahead of the Nacra 17 Worlds in February.
“We just got selected, which has taken off a bit of the pressure off this event but we’ll use it as a benchmark, test our sailing, test our gear. Basically, we’ll make every day count as we prepare towards Rio. With over 50 Nacras it’s going to be pretty interesting racing out there. It’s a qualification event for a lot of teams so I think it will be pretty intense and a good benchmark for us leading into our World Champs in Clearwater in a few weeks time,” Lisa Darmanin said.
“The days are going by pretty fast and we’ve got less than 200 days to Rio, so we’re trying to get all the equipment and our settings as good as we can. Miami is a good way to test that and then we have the World Champs before we head to Europe for more World Cup events. There’s not a lot of time to Rio.”
Australian Sailing’s Euan McNicol (NSW) and Lucinda Whitty (NSW) are also contesting the event.
London 2012 Olympic gold medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen spearhead the Australian contingent of three boats in the 66-boat 49er fleet. The fleet features a strong and seasoned contingent of skiff racers, including defending champions Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) and Beijing 2008 gold medallist Jonas Warrer and crew Anders Thomsen (DEN).
“This is the first event of the season and we’ve just passed 200 days to go to the Olympics so it’s time to get serious, it’s time to train hard and it’s time to make the most of our time on the water,” Nathan Outteridge said.
“The last time I sailed here was back in 2007 in the lead up to the China Olympics. Normally we avoid this regatta as it’s summer in Australia, but come Olympic year you’ve got to get as many events in as you can so it’s a worthwhile trip for us.”
“The main reason we’re doing this event is that it is a good lead up event to the World Championships in Clearwater (Florida) in a couple of weeks and we’ve come a couple of weeks earlier to get some training in. Unfortunately we’ve had a few issues and our boat didn’t make it in time from Rio, so our race boat has been sent to Clearwater and we have chartered a boat here and had to fly in a few rigs and sails. So we’ve spent one week just getting the second-hand boat ready and only had one day on the water and it will be interesting how we go. But we were pretty happy how it went today and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
New combination of David Gilmour (WA) and Lewis Brake (QLD), who most recently won the 49er nationals, as well as Joel Turner (QLD) and Tom Siganto (QLD) complete the Australian skiff contingent in Miami.
“Coming to Miami is a perfect practice regatta in the lead up to our World Champs in Clearwater and that’s why we have so many Australian teams here. We’ve three boys teams here at this regatta. There have been a few crew changes in the other teams with Dave (Gilmour) now sailing with Lewis (Brake) and Joel (Turner) now sailing with Tom (Siganto). Unfortunately Will (Phillips) injured himself in training at the start of this month so he won’t be able to do this event or the worlds,” Nathan Outteridge explained.
Three Australian Sailing Squad 49erFX crews have entered the 49erFX class in Miami, which will make for an exciting Australian battle in the 36-boat fleet in the lead up to the World Championships in February.
Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price (NSW) and crew Eliza Solly (VIC) recently won the Australian Nationals. The pair only returned to the water in November after a knee injury at the Sailing World Cup in Weymouth in July last year sidelined Eliza Solly for a few months.
“We've been working hard at home on some skills and boat handling after competing in Rio in December. We raced at the nationals in Sydney over New Years, which enabled us to put this under pressure during racing and it was great to have so many FX's at the regatta this year,” Olivia Price said.
“Whilst being here in Miami, we've done a lot of sailing and feel comfortable with our progress since Eliza returned to sailing in November. The World Cup gives us a chance to compete in a large fleet again, and so looking to consolidate on everything we've been doing since then. We’ll be heading straight to Clearwater after the World Cup for the 49erFX worlds, which is going to be another good test for us to compete against the rest of the fleet.”
Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) as well as Haylee Outteridge (NSW) and Olympic silver medallist Nina Curtis (NSW) will join Price and Solly both at the World Cup as well as the World Championships.
Nina Curtis reunited in the 49erFX with her former sailing partner Haylee Outteridge after she missed out on selection to the Australian team in the Nacra 17 with skipper and dual Olympic silver medallist Darren Bundock at the end of last year.
It has been two years since the women paired up first in the 49erFX – women’s skiff class, which will feature on the Olympic program for the first time in Rio. They are aware that they have left their run late, but will race in Miami after some promising racing at Sail Sydney in December and the nationals in January.
“We are just trying to learn together as fast as possible,” Haylee Outteridge said. “We feel no pressure because we’ve come together so late. We are going to enjoy the process and see how far we can take it.”
And Nina Curtis added: “Our main goal is a good result at the world championship in February. I've learnt a lot sailing with Darren [Bundock] and I feel really lucky that while I’m behind on a lot of the FX aspects, being quite raw in the boat, maybe I can bring some new knowledge. I feel like I’ve learnt so much and am excited to transfer this to the new boat.”
The international Australian selection battle between World #1 Tom Burton (NSW) and #2 Matt Wearn (NSW) will continue in Miami with the two Australian Sailing Team sailors spearheading a fleet that includes key players on the road to Rio. Five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt (BRA) and 2014 world champion Nicholas Heiner (NED) will be amongst the front-runners looking to capture top honours alongside the Aussies.
“It’s the first World Cup of the year and we haven’t been selected so every regatta counts and you want to put in a good performance,” Tom Burton said.
“Last year this regatta went pretty badly for me after I was ill and the year before I came fourth, so I have never been on the podium here in Miami, which pretty much makes it the worst World Cup for me on the circuit and I will try to turn it around this week.”
Teammate Matt Wearn (WA) had a better run in Miami in 2015 when in finished with the bronze medal and is also looking forward to kick-start the Olympic season.
“Miami is a nice place to test out how you’re going, heading into the last months before the Games. It’s the first event of the season and it will be important to kick-start that flow throughout the new year. If you have a good regatta here, you can continue that throughout the events ahead. You always want to win the regatta and finish on top of the podium but it’s just a matter of building up the things we’ve learnt over the last 12 months and solidify all that. We’ve had some good preparation for the regatta with our strong squad at home and it’s all looking pretty good,” Matt Wearn said.
18 crews will sail on Biscayne Bay across the week with Carrie Smith (NSW) and Jaime Ryan (NSW) representing the Australian Sailing Team. The pair recently qualified for the Team after finishing ninth at the 470 World Champs in Israel at the end of October last year. They also qualified the boat class for Rio at the World Champs and are aiming for selection over the next few months and with the 470 World Champs on the agenda next (20-27 February 2016).
Forty-nine sailors will compete in the Finn class. Australian Sailing Squad’s Jake Lilley (QLD) will be running for the medals in a strong fleet including London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Jonas Hogh Christensen (DEN), and national favourites Zach Railey (USA) and Caleb Paine (USA)
Paralympic sailors had a fast paced finish to 2015 with back-to-back regattas in Melbourne. The Para World Sailing Championship was quickly followed by Sailing World Cup Melbourne in December with Australian Sailing Team’s Sonar crew of Colin Harrison (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW) and Russell Boaden (WA) finishing the year strongly by winning World Championship silver and World Cup gold.
In Miami, they will line up against the 2015 Sonar Para World Sailing Champions from Great Britain as well as the bronze medallists from Norway in the nine boat fleet.
Racing is set to commence at 10:00 local time on Monday 25 January across the ten Olympic and two Paralympic fleets. Medal Races on Saturday 30 January will bring Sailing World Cup Miami to a close with the races to be broadcast live on the World Sailing TV YouTube Channel – www.youtube.com/worldsailingtv
Australian Sailing Team & Squad athletes at Sailing World Cup Miami
Men’s Skiff – 49er
– Nathan Outteridge (NSW) & Iain Jensen (NSW) – AST
– David Gilmour (WA/AST) & Lewis Brake (QLD/ASS)
– Joel Turner (QLD/AST) & Tom Siganto (QLD/ASS)
Women's Skiff – 49erFX
– Tess Lloyd (VIC) & Caitlin Elks (WA) – ASS
– Olivia Price (NSW) & Eliza Solly (VIC) – ASS
– Haylee Outteridge (NSW) & Nina Curtis (NSW) – ASS
Mixed Multi-hull – Nacra 17
– Jason Waterhouse (NSW) & Lisa Darmanin (NSW) – AST
– Euan McNicol (NSW) & Lucinda Whitty (NSW) – ASS
Men's One Person Dinghy – Laser
– Tom Burton (NSW) – AST
– Matt Wearn (WA) – AST
Women's Two Person Dinghy – 470W
– Carrie Smith (WA) & Jaime Ryan (QLD) – ASS
Men's One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) – Finn
– Jake Lilley (QLD) – ASS
Paralympic Boat Classes
Three-Person keelboat – Sonar
– Colin Harrison (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW), Russell Boaden (WA) – AST
– Cora Zillich/AST