Olympic Qualification on the Line With Racing Underway in Miami

On Monday, January 10, 182 sailors from 45 nations demonstrated their skills on spectacular Biscayne Bay in the first of six days of racing at 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami.

Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz
Women’s Olympic 470 sailors Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz dominated the first day’s races of the Hempel World Sailing Cup Miami.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

The competition this week in Miami consists of fleet racing for all seven classes on Monday through Friday and Medal Races on Saturday, January 25 featuring the week’s top teams. Medal Races will be broadcast live on World Sailing’s YouTube Channel. Numerous sailors here have their sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition, only six months away. This event is the final opportunity for North American nations to qualify for the 2020 Games across the 470, RS:X, Laser, Laser Radial and Finn fleets.

Olympic qualification is paramount in the 23-boat Laser Radial fleet. Aruba’s Philipine van Aanholt, St. Lucia’s Stephanie Devaux-Lovell, Mexico’s Elena Oetling and Sofia Ximena Palacios, Puerto Rico’s Sylvette Perez Figueroa and Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Arrindell are all aiming for Tokyo 2020.

Oetling got off to a strong start by finishing third in Race 1 and 12th in Race 2 and she is in fifth place overall. Devaux-Lovell is in seventh place after posting a 6-15 scoreline on Monday.

"It’s such a small fleet, you can really see who is out there and I may have struggled with that today," said Devaux-Lovell. "I’m going to take that forward and tomorrow I’m going to just sail my own race. Usually I’m strong in these conditions. It was quite shifty with pressure differences. Sometimes you have to get your head out of the boat and see what’s going on and sail to the breeze."

Leading the Laser Radial fleet is Viktorija Andrulyte, of Lithuania, who placed first and second today. The top American is Erika Reineke who is in fourth place (4-3). In the Laser fleet, two race wins for Joaquin Blanco (ESP) puts him atop the fleet, with Andrew Lewis (TTO) and Stefano Peschiera (PER) close behind.

Bermuda’s Rockal Evans is going up against Mexican representatives Juan Perez Soltero and Alejandro Perez Ontiveros for the North American Tokyo 2020 Finn spot. "Today was a tricky day on the racecourse," said Evans. "We got a clear start in the first race, got a good lane, and just played the shifts upwind and downwind, so I’m happy with my results. The breeze picked up a bit in the second race and they put up the free pumping flag. We had another good start and two good downwind legs for another good result."

Along with racecourse and shifting conditions, Evans is also tracking his primary competition this week. "It’s a lot about the racecourse, but also the other countries, like Mexico, who are also going for the North American spot, so it’s a lot about keeping my eyes on them, plus playing the racecourse and getting boats in between us. It’s a lot of work."

The American selection process also continues this week in the Finn. After one event, Luke Muller has an 8-point advantage over Rio 2016 bronze medalist Caleb Paine. Muller earned the bronze medal last year in Miami.

Following wins in Race 1 and Race 2, Paine takes an early lead in the Finn. Two Americans are in the top four, as Muller is in fourth place (5-3). "I’m just focused on my own sailing this week," said Paine. "I’m working on fleet management and trying to minimize splitting away.

"We are also emphasizing downwinds, but it was a bit of a struggle today trying to get the right feel for the downwind. But all around it’s been much better, just a few minor mistakes that can be easily corrected."

The race for Olympic qualification for the 470 Men in North America is between Canada and Mexico, who each have three teams competing. Leading the way between these two countries are Hector and Jeronimo Guzman, of Mexico, who stand in 20th place overall after two races (14-25). "We are trying our best not to be too aggressive this week," said Guzman. "We want to sail as smart as possible and be faster than the other countries we are competing against for the Olympic spot. We need to focus on having good races so we can be at our best."

Fronting the 30-boat Men’s 470 fleet overall is Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström, of Sweden (3-2). The top American team is Stuart McNay and David Hughes, currently lying fourth overall (1-11).

French duo Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz already have a strong advantage in the 470 Women’s fleet, with two race wins putting them ahead of nearest competitors Elena Berta and Bianca Caruso (ITA) and Frederike Loewe and Anna Markfort (GER).

In the RS:X Men’s fleet, two wins out of three for Pedro Pascual (USA) sets him ahead of David Mier Y Teran (MEX) and Ignacio Berenguer (MEX).

Mexican athletes are also performing well in the RS:X Women’s fleet, with Mariana Aguilar and Demita Vega de Lille standing first and third respectively. Megumi Komine, of Japan, is second.