The stage is set for mixed multihull racing at Rio 2016. As one of two new Olympic events, the Nacra 17 is making its first appearance in the ISAF Sailing World Cup series this week in Miami.
These doublehanded teams are sorting out new strategies and techniques as they become more comfortable with this fast, light catamaran and its featured curved dagger boards.
Many of the sailors competing in the Nacra 17 are making the adjustment from another boat or class. In some cases, sailors are getting acquainted with new teammates as well.
Perhaps no team has made a smoother transition than Sarah Newberry and John Casey (USA). The duo has been dominant through three days of racing on Biscayne Bay. They have won five of the six races, including the last five. Sarah Streater and Matthew Whitehead (USA) have four second-place finishes and trail by four points.
"We've done a lot of training in the F16 and F18, and we're finding the Nacra 17 to fit in terms of power, but not in terms of how the boat actually sails," explained Newberry. "It's a whole new game with the curved foils."
"We worked really hard to find good settings for the breeze. The real challenge for the whole fleet has been dealing with the boats in bigger chop, which is more than what we see when training in the inner bay. When going downwind, the lift in the boat with the chop has made it challenging," she added.
Newberry and Casey have their sights set on the 2013 Nacra 17 World Championship this July in The Netherlands, which will serve as the selection event for US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider.
Puerto Rico's three-time Olympian, Enrique Figueroa, is ecstatic about the fact that multihull racing is back as an Olympic event. "I think it is one of the most exciting events in the Olympics, so having the catamaran come back was good for everybody especially as the sailing world nowadays has a big focus on catamarans," he said.
Figueroa is planning an Olympic campaign with wife Carla Malatrasi. He is making the switch from the Tornado to the Nacra 17. "Getting back into a spinnaker boat was a challenge, especially with a new crew and she's not used to the spinnaker and all it entails. It's been a learning experience for both of us. The Nacra is very physical. The curved boards and the way the boat is going to be sailed eventually is going to require a lot of balance and strength, so of course you've got to hit the gym hard," explained Figueroa.
Fred Strammer and Zach Brown (USA) extended their lead in the 49er class. A DNF in Race 9 halted their win streak at four. They lead the 49er fleet by nine points over Sweden's Sebastian Oestling and Kalle Torlen and American's Ryan Pesch and Trevor Burd.
Strammer commented on how pleased he is at the progress the team is making so far in their training. "Our big goal for 2013 was to focus on improving our speed and we've seen already, that our four months of hard work towards that goal has paid off this week. We had more speed yesterday than we really knew what to do with, so it was fantastic," explained Strammer.
"We are planning on racing the other World Cup events his year. Our training includes the World Championships in September and some training in San Francisco with the America's Cup. We're just trying to work on our fitness and gain some weight. One of the other goals is to do some other sailing, like team racing in the summer and other dinghy sailing," he said.
Brazil's Kahena Kunze and Martine Grael surged into the lead with a tremendous afternoon of racing in the 49erFX. They finished second in race seven and won races eight and nine to take a four point lead. Anna Tunnicliffe and Molly O'Bryan Vandemoer (USA) also made a run today with third- and second-place finishes. Tunnicliffe, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the Laser is also one of the top Women's Match Racers in the world. Tunnicliffe and Vandemoer are in second place.
The World #7 Stuart McNay and his crew David Hughes continue to challenge in the Men's 470. The Americans hold an edge over World #13 Matthias Schmid and Floran Reichstaedter (AUS). McNay and Hughes won the second of two races to take the lead. These two teams are pulling away from the rest of the fleet.
In the Women's 470, Brazil's Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Luiza Barbachan hold a seven point lead over China's Xiaomei Xu and Chunyan Yu.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Dorian Van Rijssbelberghe of The Netherlands continued his dominant ways today in the Men's RS:X. He captured first place in both races and has tallied four consecutive wins to take a seven point lead over Brazil's Ricardo Santos.
Defending champion Demita Vega of Mexico held on to the lead with her third place finishes. Today's top women's board sailor was Great Britain's Bryony Shaw. The 2012 Olympian won race five and trails Vega by a point.
Sweden's Jesper Stalheim pulled into the lead with a pair of wins in the Laser event. He took the lead over World #3 Bruno Fontes (BRA). Both Stalheim and Fontes have three wins in six races this week. Stalheim holds a close tie-breaker edge over Fontes. Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) is just one point behind the leaders. He won race five today.
Annalise Murphy (IRL) and Paige Railey (USA) enjoyed a great day on the bay this afternoon. They each won a race and finished third to take the leaderboard by storm. Murphy has a three point lead over Railey and has won two of the last three.
Caleb Paine (USA) has maintained his lead in the Finn event by six points. He was fourth and second today. Paine has won three of the six races. World #1 Brendan Casey (AUS) is in second place.
The 2012 Paralympic bronze medalists Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Kristiansen of Norway expanded their lead from two to four points on Wednesday in the Sonar event. Their day featured a win in race five.
Canadian Bruce Millar won race six to cap another strong performance in the 2.4 mR event. He leads fellow countryman Alan Leibel (CAN) by four.
Once again, Biscayne Bay was graced with strong winds that reached 20 knots by the afternoon and significant chop. The weather included mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s.
For the most updated standings, visit the results section of the event website at http://mocr.ussailing.org/index.php/results/.
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View full results here.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Website