Monthly Archives: December 2017
Star Sailors League Final in Nassau
With racing taking place in a balmy, near perfect 15 knots on Nassau’s Montagu Bay, the ‘take no prisoners’ shoot out on the last day of the Star Sailors League Final saw the fleet narrow to seven teams after the Quarter Finals and to four after the Semis. Finally this left the finals being contested by France’s Xavier Rohart/Pierre-Alexis Ponsot, Britain’s Paul Goodison sailing with German Frithjof Kleen, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt/Henry Boening and the USA’s Mark Mendelblatt/Brian Fatih, the latter crew having ‘fast tracked’ straight through after decisively winning the qualifiers yesterday.
In the final race, Mendelblatt/Fatih led off the line and all the boats heading out to the left. Goodison/Kleen benefitted on the right and coming into the weather mark just squeaked in ahead of the Americans. At the second top mark rounding the Anglo-German duo looked marginally more secure but with veins of breeze coming down the course, the outcome was still far from decided. On the final approach to the finish line, Scheidt/Boening closed, rolling in with more pressure and on some good waves as Goodison/Kleen looked slow. However at the very last moment Goodison/Kleen picked up speed to win by a metre. It was a suitable ending to this ultimate ‘champion of champions’ regatta, where the winners gets to walk away with US$ 40,000 of a US$ 200,000 total prize purse.
Goodison described the final seconds: “I was desperate to soak low to come into towards the pin end (of the finish line) and Frida (Frithjof Kleen) was going ‘You’re Going Too Slow, You’re Going Too Slow – Come Up!’. So there was a little panic. It was a little too close for comfort.” Kleen added: “It is always super hard to protect yourself from Robert Scheidt because he is the best downwind sailor in the world and he caught us up quite well…”
In fact the two time Moth World Champion and his burly Star veteran crewman had become experts at photo finishes having had a similar experience in the Semi-Finals. On that occasion they were in a must-win battle against Germans Philipp Buhl and Markus Koy: The winner progressing to the final, the loser eliminated. Winning that particular race within a race had been especially important for Kleen. “I was working hard to catch the Germans in the Semi-Final! You could see the difference between us – we were rolling more and that helped us,” he observed.
Despite losing the final, Robert Scheidt said it had been a great race. “A lot happened – position changes, tacking on each other, penalties – and then we had a photo finish. We managed to do a good gybe on the inside and we got a little bit more pressure so that when we converged, I thought at one stage that we had got those guys. But in the end I couldn’t go low because I was blocked by the race committee boat. They deserved it and for us to be part of that was really exciting.”
It was interesting to note that three of the four finalists were former Laser sailors who competed at Athens Olympics in 2004. On that occasion Scheidt claimed gold, Goodison was fourth and Mendleblatt seventh. Throughout the Qualifiers this week, Mendelblatt and Fatih had been the stand-out crew but perhaps suffered from coming into the Finals cold whereas the other teams had already warmed up in the quarter finals and semis.
Goodison was delighted by the outcome: “I am over the moon – I didn’t expect this at all.” Given today’s slightly breezier conditions, the smart money had been on the Star veterans, rather than a newbie to the class like him. “This morning we had a look at the trophy and I saw Bart’s name on it (the late Andrew Simpson, who won Star Gold in Beijing 2008 as part of the British Olympic team with Goodison) and Frida mentioned that the top crew got the Andrew Simpson Trophy. Somewhere up there I am sure Bart was smiling on us and making us hike a little bit harder. It is a great honour to race against these guys and I feel so happy to have won and I feel so grateful to have had Frida who has been my mentor, my pain in the ass, my everything for the last 10 days.”
And what will he do with his share of the prize money? “Well, I have a new Moth being built, but I think my family might get some better Christmas presents this year!” concluded the two time Moth World Champion, Laser Olympic gold medallist and now Star Sailors League champion.
Tonight’s celebration will continue at the Nassau Yacht Club with a Gala Dinner, where Dennis Conner will hand out the prizes to the athletes – who will be wearing their Star Sailors League official blazers, kindly supplied by Think Pink.
The sixth edition of the Star Sailors League Finals will take place once again in Nassau, the Bahamas, from December 3rd to 8th 2018.
Highlights of finals of Star Sailors League
Day 4 of the Star Sailors League Finals
After three more races today on Nassau’s Montagu Bay, the full 11 Qualifier races of the Star Sailors League Final were completed to determine which ten of the 25 teams would progress through to tomorrow’s final rounds, when the US$ 200,000 prize pot will be distributed.
There was upset in the first race when another of the Star newbies won, beating the old hands of the former Olympic keelboat class. British Nacra 17 World Champion Ben Saxton, sailing with former Star World Champion Steve Mitchell, managed to hang on to their lead after winning the pin at the start and then fending off a persistent challenge from overall leaders the USA’s Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih.
“We were one boat length ahead for the whole race,” said Saxton. “On the second beat we only crossed ahead of Mark and Brian by two metres – it was awesomely close racing. Then on the last run we had the Poles, Paul Goodison and Mark/Brian alongside of us and it could have gone any way. It was a pretty big celebration when we finished.”
Italian Star veterans Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertenghi claimed the second race, their first bullet of the Qualifiers. But significant to the points tally was four teams being called OCS. This start line error would ultimately contribute to Brazil’s Lars Grael/Samuel Goncalves and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Freddie Lööf and Bruno Prada from making it past the Qualifiers.
After race two it was time for the teams to get their calculators out, to determine who would make it into the all-important top ten and would continuing and the 15 teams heading home. At this point 10th place was held by Italians Francesco Bruni/Nando Colaninno with France’s Xavier Rohart/Pierre-Alexis Ponsot seven points ahead of them, while a further five teams were all still in with a good chance, up to nine points behind. These included Lööf/Prada and Norwegian reigning Star World Champion, Eivind Melleby/Joshua Revkin.
The day had got off badly for Bruni/Colaninno, in the sixth when they got out of bed, but dropping to 10th going into the final race.
“We couldn’t get our head around the shifts and we are not very fast downwind,” admitted Bruni, adding that with too many boats to cover they just had to sail their best.
“On the final run we knew that Lööf was behind and Lars [Grael] wasn’t in the top three, so it would be pretty close between us and the Norwegians.”
Finally on the last run it came together: “We just pushed hard and finally we had one good downwind where we passed four boats.” Melleby/Revkin’s sixth place to their eighth was enough and Bruni/Colaninno were able to hang on to tenth securing their place in tomorrow’s racing, albeit tied on points with Saxton/Mitchell. “We are very happy,” said a beaming Bruni.
The day became a British double win with Laser gold medallist and two time Moth World Champion Paul Goodison, sailing with German Star veteran Frithjof Kleen, claiming the final Qualifier race. This left them in fifth place overall.
Coming out on top is the class act of the 2017 Star Sailors League Finals – Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih. The American defending champions posted a 4-2-4 making them top scoring boat of the day and leaving them 19 points clear of early leaders Brazilian Olympic veteran Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening. Having won the Qualifiers Mendelblatt/Fatih are fast-tracked straight through to the Finals while Scheidt-Boening bypass the Quarter Finals and move directly to the Semi-Finals.
The remaining eight boats, from third placed Negri/Lambertenghi down, will compete in the single Quarter Finals race tomorrow, starting at 1100. Five then go through to join Scheidt/Boening in the Semi Finals. The top three from this join Mendelblatt/Fatih in the Finals, the winner of which will be crowned the 2017 Star Sailors League champion.
1 Mendelblatt/Brian Fatih — Straight to Finals
2 Robert Scheidt/Henry Boening — bypass to Semi-Finals
3 Diego Negri/Sergio Lambertenghi
4 Paul Cayard/Phil Trinter
5 Paul Goodison/Frithjof Kleen
6 Xavier Rohart/Pierre-Alexis Ponsot
7 Philipp Buhl/Markus Koy
8 Mateusz Kusznierewicz
9 Ben Saxton/Steve Mitchell
10 Francesco Bruni/Nando Colaninno
Highlight video of day 4
Day 3 of the Star Sailors League Finals
Despite a second light day that perhaps should have favoured the lighter crews, US heavyweights Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih posted a solid 1-2 on day three of the Star Sailor’s League Final off Nassau to take the lead overall.
In truth, the US occupation of the top spot was equally down to the impressively consistent Brazilian Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening vacating it after an uncharacteristic error when they hooked the weather mark and had to carry out a penalty turn in today’s second race. This resulted in a 19th place finish and, despite discarding this, the Brazilians are now second, trailing Mendelblatt/Fatih by eight points.
“It was a great day – I am very happy with it. We survived the light air and then some, so that was good,” said a beaming Mendelblatt. “Brian has good movement in the boat, which is key as the big guy [ie crew]. You have to heel the boat right and always be moving with the pressure and the waves. He did a great job of keeping the boat powered up at the right angle. It felt good.”
While they are leading, Mendelblatt was not resting on his laurels, with up to three more races to go tomorrow in the culmination of the Qualifier round, after which all but the top ten are eliminated.
The first race got away successfully under a black flag on its second attempt. This still caused Poles Kusznierewicz/Zycki and the two veteran crews of Szabo/Natucci and Diaz/Sperry to be disqualified – especially costly for the Poles, who were OCS in yesterday’s second race.
With the start line committee-boat favoured, Mendelblatt/Fatih started conservatively by the committee boat and headed out to the right. The lead shifted between the sides of the course with the US team reaching the top mark third behind Franck Cammas and Mark Strube – an impressive performance by Cammas, the French Volvo Ocean Race winner, America’s Cup skipper but Star boat newbie. After a long battle on the final run with the two Italian crews Francesco Bruni/Nando Colaninno and Diego Negri/Sergio Lambertenghi, the Americans found better pressure to roll past their rivals to take their third bullet of the Star Sailors League Finals.
Aside from Mendelblatt/Fatih, the day belonged to the two Italian teams. Francesco Bruni has been out of the Star class for more than a decade, his previous campaign including a seventh place at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Coming into the Star Sailors League Finals he had had just one day of training and yet today he managed to post a 4-1.
In the latter race Brazilian Olympic legend Torben Grael and Guilherme de Almeida had made the best of the start – leaping ahead after tacking on a favourable left hand shift. However it was Bruni/Colaninno who read the conditions the best and were first to the top mark. Bruni said he was pleased with how they had positioned themselves, such as not going all the way to the port layline coming into the top mark.
“We made a good balance between risk and reward.”
This had also paid in the first race when on the first run they had held on starboard longer after everyone had gybed, a move that took them from sixth-seventh to level with the leaders coming into the leeward gate.
“The only bad part of the day was the last part of the first race when we went from first to fourth.” This Bruni attributed to his lack of experiencing of free pumping which was permitted as the wind marginally increased on that leg.
Fellow countrymen Diego Negri/Sergio Lambertenghi were the third stand-out performer of the day posting two thirds, leaving them third overall.
Young German Laser sailor Philipp Buhl continued to shine today on board with old Star boat hand, Markus Koy. Their 9-5 today elevated them to fifth place overall, an outstanding performance considering Buhl has had only five days of training in the former Olympic keelboat before the Finals.
Tomorrow up to three races can be held in this Qualifier round and all of the 25 crews will be gunning to make the top 10 that will enable them to progress through to the final rounds of racing on Saturday.
Highlight video of day 3
Paul Cayard & Phil Trinter on Day 2 © Gilles Morelle / Star Sailors League
Day two of the Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau
A lighter, longer, hotter second day of racing at the Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau, was one of mixed fortunes for the 25 crews competing for the US$ 200,000 prize purse in this international ‘Champion of Champions’ contest.
Italy’s two time World Championship runners-up Diego Negri/Sergio Lambertenghi were the lowest scorers today, while Star newbies, German Laser sailor Philipp Buhl and British Nacra 17 World Champion Ben Saxton, put in stand-out performances with their respective crews, towering Markus Koy and former Star World Champion Steve Mitchell.
US veterans Paul Cayard/Phil Trinter scored two bullets in the first and last races. Yet after this generally high scoring day, Brazilian Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening showed ultra-resilience retaining their lead, two points ahead of Mark Mendelblatt/Brian Fatih.
While two races were held yesterday, today there were four, the start time coming forward to 1100 hrs. The easterly started off lighter at nine knots, dropping to seven for the final race by which time an evil grey rain cloud was veering the wind.
Cayard was pleased with his and Phil Trinter’s two bullets, but less so about his race three 20th.
“We had some kelp round the keel right off the start and weren’t fast, which was strange because we are very fast. Then I made a bad tactical choice to go to the layline on starboard instead of tacking early.”
The Volvo Ocean Race/Louis Vuitton Cup winner was particularly pleased by how their pace downwind has improved.
“On Saturday we were getting our butts kicked. Now we are holding our own. If you can get to the weather mark in good shape and hold your own downwind, you are going to sail good races.”
In the fourth Cayard/Trinter, one of the most experienced crews competing, led at the first top mark rounding only to be rolled downwind by Ben Saxton/Steve Mitchell. The Brits led through the leeward gate only to be overhauled by the Americans on the second beat but still managed to hold second at the finish.
“We were struggling with speed downwind, but today we held our own, which meant we could put a race together,” explained Saxton.
He added they were almost more pleased with today’s second and third races when they successfully fought back from deep starts. After this they finally got a good start, up by the committee boat.
“We punched forwards off the line and then just led the bunch back from the left and tacked in and got a good lane,” said Saxton of the final race.
As to how it feels to be in the Star Sailors League finalists, Saxton adds: “It is an honour to line up against them. I am here because I can raise my game. It is wicked to see how these people put beats together. You can always learn off them.”
Ben Saxton & Steve Mitchell- Day 2 – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
While Saxton came close to winning race four, another 27-year-old Rio 2016 Olympian, Philipp Buhl had successfully claimed the race before. The German crew had been third around the top mark behind two Italian boats – Negri/Lambertenghi and America’s Cup tactician Francesco Bruni/Nando Colaninno. Buhl/Koy had pulled into the lead ahead of Negri/Lambertenghi at the second top mark rounding and held on to the finish.
“I thought I would struggle a bit more, but I’ve been sailing with confidence, maybe because we are sailing above my expectations,”said Buhl.
“I regard it as a super privilege to be invited to race against all these legends. When we won race three I realised we could sail on the same level as Robert Scheidt. That’s something we can be proud of because he’s had two Olympic Star boat campaigns…”
His towering crew, Markus Koy observed that having an ex-Olympic Laser sailor as a Star helm is a bonus.
“They do more course changes and use every wave.”
Italy’s Diego Negri/Sergio Lambertenghi have yet to win a race but today’s two seconds (in races one and three) enabled them be the lowest scoring crew today.
“It was very positive for us and it gives us a bit confidence to do well in the next few days,” said Negri, a two time Star European Champion.
“Tomorrow and Friday conditions will be similar to today’s and then very breezy on the final day, Saturday. This will make it more important to win the Qualification and get a bye straight to the Final – as we did last year. In windy conditions you can get tired and the boat can be damaged easier.”
With five races left to go in the Qualification series, tomorrow three races are scheduled with a start at 1100hrs.
Highlights video day 2 of racing
2017 Star Sailors League Finals – Day 1 © Gilles Morelle
Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau, Bahamas
International sailing’s premier Champion of Champions event got underway in Nassau with the first two races of the Star Sailors League Finals. Racing took place on Montagu Bay, a stone’s throw from the Nassau Yacht Club, this week playing host to the 25 Star teams. Among the all-star cast of sailors here are not just luminaries of the former Olympic keelboat, but three Volvo Ocean Race winning skippers, two Jules Verne Trophy winning skippers, America’s Cup winners plus countless Olympic medallists and World Champions.
On the Bahamas’ holiday brochure blues waters, racing took place in a relatively stable 12-15 knots easterly with ‘free pumping’ permitted.
On the first beat of race one, the boats on the left looked good including old US hands Paul Cayard/Phil Trinter and Mark Mendelblatt/Brian Fatih, but also invited VIP’s like double Moth World Champion Paul Goodison sailing with German Star legend Frithjof Kleen. At the top mark defending champions Mendelblatt/Fatih shows some of their old magic pulling out a solid five boatlength lead with Goodison/Kleen sneaking ahead of Cayard/Trinter to round second. But on the runs, experience paid: Mendelblatt/Fatih held position claiming the first race, while Brazilian Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening outsailed Goodison/Kleen, relieving them of second coming into the line.
“I know Goodie from our Laser days – I think he has got a good set up and a good crew and a good boat,” observed Scheidt. He added that with invited sailors such as his old British rival the line-up here is the toughest to date.
Robert Scheidt & Henry Boening – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
Mendelblatt/Fatih were also showing great pace, finishing comfortably ahead of the chasing pack. “It was pretty good downwind – better than in years past,” said Mendelblatt. “It was unlimited rocking and pumping today. Some guys go really hard and other go smoother. We are one of the smoother teams. Some of the big Finns guys can put a lot into it.”
In the second race, the left also paid on the first beat with Goodison/Kleen putting in another great performance, squeeze in from the port layline at the top mark just inside of Xavier Rohart and his London 2012 crew Pierre-Alexis Ponsot with Poles Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Dominik Zycki third.
On the first run, the French held on starboard gybe and took the lead coming into the leeward gate with Mendelblatt/Fatih also rolling past Goodison/Kleen. Rohart/Ponsot kept their noses clean for the rest of the race which was not the case for many other, including the likes of Mendelblatt/Fatih and reigning Star World Champion, Norway’s Eivind Melleby, sailing here with the USA’s Joshua Revkin all of whom infringed at the top mark and had to carry out penalty turns. Ultimately the Poles claimed third with Scheidt/Boening managing second to finish the opening day leading overall by a point from Kusznierewicz/Zycki, but with just three points separating the top five.
“It was a match – we took the right decision to stay outside at the top mark,” said race two winning crew Pierre-Alexis Ponsot. “Then it was about finding a good space with the waves for the oouching and pumping. Upwind it was hard because it is very choppy so we had to hike very much.”
Fleet ashore on day 1 – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
Coming off the water with the biggest grin was definitely Goodison.
“They have all been sailing for years and I have only down 10 days total,” he said of the competition. Of rediscovering long lost muscle groups after his first ever Star races, he added:
“It is almost like the old Laser days when you were a bit out of practice and not quite fit enough at the beginning of the year. It is amazing to be out there racing with all these guys. I was very worried coming into this that we would be way off the pace. I am very fortunate that this is Frida’s boat (Kleen) and he has a good feel for the numbers. I do a little bit of the ‘feel’ stuff and he does general set-up. Downwind it is very much like sailing a Laser – just the rocking and steering, only I’m not as strong as some of the big guys and can’t pump as hard.”
Highlights video of day 1 of racing