Video courtesy Star Sailors League.
Nassau – At the end of the fourth day of racing under perfect conditions with ten to eleven knots from the south east, the fleet’s ten finalists were decided: trailing the uncatchable Scheidt, the list comprises Mendelblatt, Negri, Rohart, Melleby, Stanjek, Kusznierewicz, Polgar, Diaz and Hestbaek. These ten skippers have qualified for the final phase of the inaugural edition of the Star Sailors League Finals underway in the Bahamas at Nassau, admittedly inspired by tennis’ ATP ranking.
Following today’s last two qualifying races, the ranking was shaken up right from the first positions, but only the first ten teams will qualify for the final phase’s direct eliminations. As is done in Formula One, some teams will be excluded, but will receive a cash prize for their participation.
In the last two of the nine races run, unfortunately three of the guest stars saw their hopes of racing Saturday slip away, all because of Augie Diaz, well known as one of the best helmsmen in Miami and the Caribbean waters. Neither the Kiwi Laser ace Maloney, with a fourth in the last race, nor Cayard, second in the eighth race, will be sailing tomorrow. An irrefutable protagonist of the world sailing scene, with his last Star event in Athens in 2004, Cayard managed two bright results in any case. Another name missing from the finals is Flavio Marazzi, winner of the memorable fourth race with five boats finishing together. The two wild cards are also eliminated, at their first event in the Star this week, with a promising performance in the middle of the fleet: Ed Wright, one of the most successful Finn sailors after Ben Ainslie, and his French colleague Lobert, winner of a bronze medal in London, who up until yesterday seemed solidly in the top ten. George Szabo, having won a Star Worlds, was never really in the running in Nassau, and sixth was the best result for the rookie of the year Hornos. Last placed was Finn sailor PJ Postma who scored a second in the fourth regatta in a photo-finish.
In the last two races the fight was fierce even among the teams already qualified. Three starts were needed to get the first race off today, as the right fleet compressed the fleet at the committee boat. But not all sailors grabbed the opportunity, only some of the experts managed to exploit the shift. Hestbaek led for most of the first windward leg. But after rounding the windward mark, Mendelblatt and Cayard seemed to have taken control of the situation, but during the last downwind leg Scheidt incredibly managed to pass four boats including Maloney and the American team.
In the second race Scheidt was untouchable, and behind him the battle raged between Hestbaek and Mendelblatt. On the first leg and at the leeward gate the left was favoured, which was where Scheidt and Mendelblatt began to consolidate their lead over the fleet. But during the last beat, the Dane overtook the American Olympian champion and controlled him right to the finish, earning his best finish of the series and qualification to the finals.
Three direct elimination races are scheduled for Saturday. In the first, the quarter finals, all ten teams start. Only the first seven finishers will gain the semifinals, and the finals with just the top four from the semis.
Quotes of the day from Dennis Conner about Star Sailors League: “Star Sailors League makes it possible to bring the best sailors in the world together, hire the Yacht Club, bring the media and arrange Virtual Eye coverage to go on YouTube. An amazing performance by the SSL. It’s nice to race here. But for sure without the SSL none of us would be possible. Without the SSL the competitors wouldn’t be here, they’d still be in Brazil or in France, so the SSL is the real hero here. The next thing that is important is we have some of the best sailors in the world here, from all over, not just from Europe but from NZ and America and from South America, and so I think to race a common boat that’s a one-design and to see who really is the best sailor, it’s not a matter of the best sails and mast and boat. What’s interesting to me is who’s really the best sailor and it’s quite apparent that Robert Scheidt is the world’s best right now. We know there have been ten great sailors in the world in the last hundred years: Paul Elvstrom, Lowell North, Dennis Conner, Ben Ainslie and Torben Grael… some amazing guys. But to me Robert Scheidt is the best sailor in the last 2 years at least. As I said before, what really matters is the SSL, because without raising the money to bring them here they’d still be home for Christmas.”
Star Sailors League Finals – Qualifier Results after 9 races (1 discard)
1. Robert Scheidt (BRA) / Bruno Prada (BRA) – 2,(4),1,3,1,2,2,1,1 – 13
2. Mark Mendelblatt (USA) / Brian Fatih (USA) – 6,2,3,5,3,7,(9),3,3 – 32
3. Diego Negri (ITA) / Sergio Lambertenghi (ITA) – 1,1,6,9,2,13,6,(15),11 – 49
4. Xavier Rohart (FRA) / Pierre-Alexis Ponsot (FRA) – 7,6,5,10,6,1,11,(17),5 – 51
5. Eivind Melleby (NOR) / Mark Strube (USA) – 3,8,10,4,(14),3,4,12,7 – 51