FIRST SET OF NORTH AMERICAN TOKYO 2020 SPOTS EARNED IN MIAMI24 Jan 2020
The fifth and final day of fleet racing wrapped-up Friday at the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami. Many of the 182 sailors from 45 nations raced with Olympic qualification on the line and targeting a spot in Saturday's pivotal Medal Races.
Hempel World Cup Series Miami is the final opportunity for North American nations to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games across the 470 fleets.
Canada booked their ticket to Tokyo in the Men's 470 and with the USA confirming their Women's 470 place.
The light breeze posed challenges again on Friday, testing the nerves of the sailors competing with so much at stake. An additional race was scheduled for the Men's and Women's 470 due to Thursday's conditions that limited the number of races completed.
Friday's weather forecast was mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid-70s. The breeze was on the low end throughout the day in the 5-6 knot range.
The Women's and Men's 470 classes each got one race completed this morning.
The competition at the top of the Men's 470 is extremely close. Australia's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan are in first place, but even on points with Japan's Keiju Okada and Jumpei Hokazono. Only seven points separates the top six teams in the class as they head into their Medal Race so it's all to play for.
Jordi Xammar Hernandez and Nicolás Rodriguez Garcia-Paz of Spain are in fourth place overall and placed eighth today. "At the end, we managed to beat a few of our direct rivals so we're a bit better in the overall results," said Garcia-Paz. "We're fourth now and tomorrow anything can happen. Seven or eight boats could win so we will see. We're happy, but we know we can do better. We have to push tomorrow and do our best. Miami is really important for us. It's the first race of the Olympic year and almost everyone came here to compete, so it's been good to race against them. Tomorrow we will fight for the medals."
Entering World Cup Miami, the race for Olympic qualification in North American for the Men's 470 was between Canada and Mexico, who have three teams respectively. Canada prevailed and qualified its nation for Tokyo 2020. They were led this week by Jacob Saunders and Oliver Bone. They had their best race of the regatta today by placing 13th.
"It was tricky out there for sure," said Saunders. "It can always be a little nerve racking going into a light race like that with an unsure forecast. We played it well. We kept making good decisions throughout the race and put up a solid score and were able to solidify the country spot for Canada. We now go into the final section trial for Canada in the lead so we're happy for that and feeling good."
"My crew Oliver and I, we started this campaign last minute," he explained. "We were both working full time and sort of came out of retirement to make this happen. We're happily surprised with how quickly we got back into the boat and how we felt sailing again. It's been pretty natural together. Oliver started coaching me nearly ten years ago, so we've had a long relationship and now we've started racing together. It's been going great and the attitude in the boat is really good and we're psyched to be back at it competing again. It's a lot of fun."
Bone was also pleased with today's performance in the light conditions. "Conditions were obviously challenging. We looked for wind but didn't necessarily get to it, but we felt our strategy went well and we kept it simple. We made some gains where we could, especially on our downwinds where we made some big jumps."
Greece had a strong day on the water today in the Women's 470 with tandem Maria Bozi and Rafailina Klonaridou. They moved into second place after finishing second in the single race. They now trail leaders Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz of France by nine points.
"So far we are satisfied with how we're going," said Klonaridou. "We've made some mistakes, but we're getting there. We hope for better conditions tomorrow so we'll see what happens."
The only nation in the running for the North American Tokyo 2020 spot in the Women's 470 is the USA. The event also acts as an American team qualifier with Nikola Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss, Carmen and Emma Cowles as well as Atlantic and Nora Brugman. The Brugmans and Cowles qualified for tomorrow's Medal Race by finishing the fleet racing stage in eight and ninth, respectively. The Brugmans won today's race and have a one-point edger over the Cowles.
As Miami is the final opportunity for North Americans to qualify for Tokyo 2020, the final opportunity for European sailors will be the 2020 Hempel World Cup Series in Genoa this April.
Early start times are planned for the Saturday's Medal Races, beginning just after 09:00 with the Women's 470.
Source: World Sailing