Monthly Archives: December 2018
Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau
Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche are the winners of the 2018 edition
For a second time a Brazilian crew claimed victory in the Star Sailors League Finals, but on this occasion it was not the bookies’ choice. Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening were favourites going into this event and completely dominated the last four days of Qualifier rounds off Nassau, but today it was Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche who won every stage. Aged 26 and 27 respectively, Zarif, the reigning Star World Champion and 2013 Finn Gold Cup winner, and Trouche, are the first crew younger than 40 to win the annual event that aims to determine the top ‘star’ of the sailing world.
“We are surprised we had this kind of dominance, because the level is so high,” admitted Zarif. “We sailed our best today. We gave 100%, hiking and pumping the whole time and that definitely made the difference. It is a privilege to be here and a privilege to beat those guys.”
Racing today took place under an overcast sky with the course moved back inside Nassau’s Montague Bay. The brisk easterly was blowing directly into the Bay with gusts at times reaching 20 knots.
The day kicked off with the eight quarter-finallists doing battle. Zarif and Trouche won this with the bottom three – Paul Cayard/Arthur Lopes, Lars Grael/Samuel Goncalves and Freddy Lööf/Edoardo Natucci eliminated; Cayard so dominant yesterday hampered after picking up a penalty on the first beat.
The young Brazilians next won the Semi Finals. In this Mark Mendelblatt/Brian Fatih, whose second place at the end of the Qualifiers yesterday had fast tracked them directly to the Semis, lost out despite finishing the race overlapped with Norway’s Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin. Mendelblatt and Fatih, the two time Star Sailors League Finals winners, were eliminated along with French duo Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot and Polish Olympic legend Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Życki.
Up the first beat of the Final, Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening made what the Olympic sailing star admitted was in retrospect a mistake: he tacked on Italian-German duo Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen, instead of having continued on to the right to take on his fellow countrymen. In the end the two teams fought it out for second and third spot, with Scheidt/Boening crossing the line ahead of Negri/Kleen.
“If we had crossed and gone all the way to him, then we would have got the leftie, but they are decisions you have to make in a second,” admitted Scheidt. He added of the winners and his compatriots: “They fully deserved today. They won three races by a large margin. They were fast and sailing well both upwind and downwind. Jorge has a bright future ahead of him.”
While Paul Cayard managed to turn on the afterburners yesterday having made rig adjustments the previous night, so Zarif and Trouche also had given their slender spar and rigging a thorough going-through last night. Zarif said this made all the difference:
“We had good starts, with great upwind speed and that made the job less difficult. We could put ourselves into a position where we could control the fleet a lot of the time.”
While they had speed, it had also been a huge physical effort for the young Brazilians: “We hiked super hard and we pumped super hard and that made a difference today. I am super tired now.”
While this was Zarif’s fourth participation in the Star Sailors League Finals, this was his crew Pedro Trouche’s first. Remarkably it was also the first time he and Zarif had sailed together, although they have known each other since they trained together in the Laser in 2005.
Zarif’s World Championship winning crew Guilherme de Almeida was tied up this week with his wedding. “It is the biggest thing I have won,” admitted Trouche, who next intends to compete in February’s inaugural Star Junior World Championship in Miami. “I have never sailed at a level like this before. It is the first time I have beaten Robert [Scheidt]. That is a nice feeling! He is a legend. I am very happy.”
For winning the Star Sailors League Finals, Zarif and Trouche not only gained the credo of beating many of the world’s top sailors, but also won US$ 40,000 of the total US$ 200,000 prize pot.
Highlights video on finals day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoiL03nd080&feature=youtu.be
Star Sailors League Finals – 4 boats raced the final
1st BRA Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche
2nd BRA Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening
3rd ITA Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen
4th NOR Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin
USA Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih – Out In Semi-final
POL Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki – Out In Semi-final
FRA Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot – Out In Semi-final
SWE Freddy Lööf and Edoardo Natucci – Out In Quarter final
USA Paul Cayard and Arthur Lopes – Out In Quarter final
BRA Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves – Out In Quarter final
HUN Zsombor Berecz and Michael Maier – Out In Quarter final
Final day of Star Sailors League Finals Qualifying
While the star performers today certainly were Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening and Paul Cayard, significant to more competitors was what was happening mid-fleet. For Friday was the final Qualifier races to be held at the Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau.
Crews finishing the Qualifiers in third to tenth positions would progress on to the Quarter Finals. From here the top five would go to the Semi-Finals and meet the second placed Qualifier finisher. The top three Semi-Finalists would then meet the winner of the Qualifiers in the Final. All these stages are single race affairs taking place on Saturday.
Sadly the 15 teams not making the top ten have been eliminated.
Four races were held today, on the same azure-coloured waters on the plateau off Montagu Bay as yesterday. Conditions with a 10-12 knot northeasterly and built to 15-18, shifting right for the fourth and final race.
Stand-out competitors were once again Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening. The Brazilian duo won three of the day’s four races. In eight out of the 11 races held during the Qualifiers, Scheidt and Boening have finished on the podium. This consistency caused them to finish Qualifiers 22 points ahead of Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih, with Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen in third.
“Yesterday we had a rig check and made a few adjustments,” said Scheidt. “The boat felt better and we were more confident with our speed. We had good starts too and picked the right spots, which put us in front right away. Then we had good speed – all those components together made a big difference. Henry did a great job in the manoeuvres and calling the wind. After we had two good races we felt confident and the rest of the day went really well.”
Paul Cayard and Brazilian Arthur Lopes found both an extra gear and a turbocharger, posting a 2-1-3-14. “We made a little adjustment to the mast last night, which turned out to be quite important and really made a big difference,” explained the Whitbread Round the World Race and Louis Vuitton Cup winner. “We were fast upwind. Perhaps through the confidence we were fast downwind as well.”
Both Cayard/Lopes and the Brazilians did well playing the top left today. “In the northeasterly breeze, that almost always pays and you have current with you,” said Cayard, who has raced here for some 40 years. “And you expect a geographical shift around Rose Island [the low-lying Bahama Island to weather of today’s course] in the morning, when the current is stronger.” Later in the day when the current reverses and the wind goes right, the opposite side can pay.
Today’s score elevated Cayard/Lopes from lowly 14th place to seventh place and into the Quarter Finals. “I am delighted,” continued Cayard. “It was frustrating how hard we were struggling over the first few days. To be fast in all four races today gave me a lot of confidence that we have resolved the problem.”
Around the vital 10th placed slot there were ‘snakes and ladders’. Among those on ‘ladders’ today were Swedish 2012 Star Olympic champion Freddie Lööf and Italian crew Edoardo Natucci. They started the day in 11th place but three results inside the top 10 left them eighth and with a berth in the Quarter Finals.
An OCS in today’s first race, caused Brazilian two time Olypmic medallist Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves, just to remain in the top 10. Not so lucky was Hungarian Finn Gold Cup winner Zsombor Berecz and his veteran Czech crew Michael Maier, who finished 11th despite being tied on points with Grael/Gonçalves.
Others packing their bags tonight include British three time Olympic medallist Iain Percy, racing here with Swedish Star bronze medallist, Anders Ekström. “It was very tiring, but really good fun,” said Percy.
11th hour business commitments sadly caused Percy to miss the first days of the regatta. Today they posted a 9-6-6-6. “I really enjoyed it, but we just turned up and were out of practice, but we didn’t find it frustrating which is nice. We were in the hunt and caught up when we were at the back. It feels great to be back in the boat, it keeps it real and keeps you sailing properly. I would love to come back next year.”
Others heading home include French 470 World Champion Kevin Peponnet, sailing this week with Star and America’s Cup veteran Mark Strube. “It is amazing to sail against these legends. They have shared a lot. I am really happy to be here and gain some knowledge of this boat.” However their performance today wasn’t ideal. “We broke the vang and the main sheet block.”
One of the great surprises has been the performance of Laser Radial Youth World and European Champion, Guido Gallinaro, and his German crew Kilian Weise. They finished the event 19th, their scoreline including an 8th yesterday – not bad for a 17-year-old. “It was a great experience for me,” said Gallinaro. “We had quite good races today. In one we were fourth at the top mark. It was a great week for us.”
Looking forward to tomorrow, Scheidt says they may have won the Qualifiers but now the competition starts afresh: “It doesn’t mean much. We are happy that we are in the Final, but we are going to sail against the best guys and we still have to win that race. It is going to be hard.”
Star Sailors League – Finals – After 11 races, 1 discard (provisional)
1st BRA Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening 33 pts
2nd USA Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih 55 pts
3rd BRA Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche 68 pts
4th POL Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki 75 pts
5th ITA Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen 78 pts
6th NOR Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin 81 pts
7th USA Paul Cayard and Arthur Lopes 94 pts
8th SWE Freddy Lööf and Edoardo Natucci 97 pts
9th FRA Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot 98 pts
10th HUN Zsombor Berecz and Michael Maier 99 pts
Event Qualification Cut-off
11th BRA Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves 100 pts
12th CRO Tonci Stipanovic and Frederico Melo 104 pts
13th ITA Francesco Bruni and Nando Colaninno 109 pts
14th NZL Hamish Pepper and Steve Mitchell 121 pts
15th SWE Max Salminen and Johan Tillander 129 pts
16th USA Augie Diaz and Bruno Prada 131 pts
17th USA George Szabo and Roger Cheer 137 pts
18th CYP Pavlos Kontides and Markus Koy 143 pts
19th CRO Šime Fantela and Antonio Arapovic 150 pts
20th ITA Guido Gallinaro and Kilian Weise 151 pts
21st FRA Kevin Peponnet and Mark Strube 176 pts
22nd GBR Iain Percy and Anders Ekström 183 pts
23rd CZE Ondrej Teplý and Antonis Tsotras 199 pts
24th ITA Ruggero Tita and Enrico Voltolini 206 pts
25th RUS Georgy Shayduko and Vitalii Kushnir 216 pts
Day 3 – Finals of the Star Sailors League in Nassau
Bahamas conditions set in on day three of the Star Sailors League Finals with 12-18 knots winds from the prevailing northeast-easterly direction. With this wind direction the race committee moved the course out of Montagu Bay, where there were bigger waves, with limited protection from the full force of the Atlantic.Despite being dominated by Olympic Finn sailors, the day ended with a new leader in Mark Mendelblatt and crew Brian Fatih, who now lead Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening by a mere point, going into the last day of the Qualifiers.Fatih, who has sailed with Mendelblatt since they teamed up for London 2012, observed:
“We’re fortunate to be in this position: Robert is an amazing sailor, the benchmark so if you can stay up with him, you’re happy.” However following their 15-4-4 score today, gaining the lead was a surprise.
“It was a struggle – we didn’t feel great on the boat. We weren’t terrible, it just wasn’t as smooth as normal.” However while today’s first race became their discard, Scheidt and Boening had to count their 12th in race two.It may also have been due to the more choppy conditions. “It was a battle trying to keep it in the groove downwind,” Fatih continued.
“Usually from this direction the left is pretty solid, but it was back and forth with some light spots.”
Top scoring helm today was Finn sailor, was Jorge Zarif, the 2013 Finn Gold Cup winner and this year’s Star World Champion, and Pedro Trouche, scoring 4-1-2 today elevated the young Brazilians into third overall.“In the free pumping conditions today – I am from the Finn and that is one of the most important things we do,” Zarif explained.
“We tried to pump and rock as much as we could, although you have to play the waves and shifts as well.”Their race win today came after taking the lead on the second beat after benefitting from a favourable shift on the left. “There was a huge shift there because of the geography,” said Zarif. “But in the third race there was a huge right. There weren’t any clouds saying that. Sometimes you have to follow your gut.
”Losing the race to Zarif was Kiwi-Anglo duo, Hamish Pepper and Steve Mitchell, who had done a fine job recovering from their dismasting in yesterday’s breezy last race.
“It required a bit of effort to tidy up the boat and get rid of all the damage and to find a rig suitable,” admitted Pepper. “We finished it off this morning and our timing pretty good.”Of their day Pepper, the 2006 Star World Champion, was pleased.
“We had two good races – an 8th and a second.” Of race two: “On the second beat we played the middle because it was getting shifty. There were a lot of gains and losses. You couldn’t protect both sides and in the end it favoured the guys on the left.
”This year’s Finn Gold Cup winner, Hungarian Zsombor Berecz posted today’s second best score – 3-6-9 with Czech four time Finn Masters World Champion Michael Maier as crew, leaving them 10th overall. This was despite not finishing yesterday’s last race when they broke a spreader, turning their mast to spaghetti, requiring them to fit a replacement overnight.
“On the water sometimes we had very good speed, but not always. We’ve only had five days on the boat …” said Berecz. “Downwind we were playing it quite safe. We didn’t put the mast forward enough, because we didn’t want to break it.
”Winner of today’s first race were Star veterans France’s Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot, who also benefitted from the left side of the first beat. They lead at the top mark and then were never challenged. “It is a good to have a good plan and to be able to run with it to the end, to play the shifts and be a little bit in front of the pack…it was really a text book race,” said Rohart.
While many found fortune on the top left of the course, in today’s final race Brazilian veteran Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves repeated their tactic from yesterday’s second race, by going hard right, with the same outcome – victory. This has raised them to seven overall.Tomorrow is the final day of Qualifiers at the Star Sailors League Finals and the target is to finish within the top 10 to progress through to Saturday’s Quarter Final. As Zarif observed:
“We have four races to go. It is a long way. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.” At present any of the top 22 teams could still make the cut.
The winner of the Qualifiers fast tracks directly to the Final Race, while second place heads directly to the Semi Final. Those that finish the Qualifiers in third to tenth places, get to race in the Quarter Finals. The top five Quarter Finallists progress through to the Semi Final. The top three from the Semi Finals join the winner of the Qualifiers in the Finals.Winner of the Star Sailors League Finals receives US$ 40,000 from a prize pot of US$ 200,000.
Daily highlights video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T-gbXQ_ZkI&feature=youtu.be
Star Sailors League Finals – after 7 races, 1 discard
1st USA Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih – 22 pts
2nd BRA Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening – 23 pts
3rd BRA Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche – 31 pts
4th ITA Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen – 32 pts
5th NOR Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin – 39 pts
6th POL Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki – 48 pts
7th BRA Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves – 51 pts
8th FRA Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot – 54 pts
9th USA Augie Diaz and Bruno Prada — 54 pts
10th HUN Zsombor Berecz and Michael Maier – 56 pts
11th SWE Freddy Lööf and Edoardo Natucci – 58 pts
12th CRO Tonci Stipanovic and Frederico Melo – 64 pts
13th NZL Hamish Pepper and Steve Mitchell – 70 pts
14th USA Paul Cayard and Arthur Lopes – 74 pts
15th SWE Max Salminen and Johan Tillander – 74 pts
16th CYP Pavlos Kontides and Markus Koy – 78 pts
17th USA George Szabo and Roger Cheer – 79 pts
18th ITA Francesco Bruni and Nando Colaninno – 81 pts
19th ITA Guido Gallinaro and Kilian Weise – 82 pts
20th CRO Šime Fantela and Antonio Arapovic – 90 pts
21st FRA Kevin Peponnet and Mark Strube – 93 pts
22nd ITA Ruggero Tita and Enrico Voltolini – 121 pts
23rd RUS Georgy Shayduko and Vitalii Kushnir – 126 pts
24th CZE Ondrej Teplý and Antonis Tsotras – 133 pts
25th GBR Iain Percy and Anders Ekström – 156 pts
Day 2 – Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau
Racing at this sixth edition of the Star Sailors League Finals got off to a dramatic first day of competition in Nassau, with four races held, four different winners and a last race in which a squall brought driving rain and 25 knot gusts that claimed one rig and caused one man overboard.
In a 10-12 knot northerly Brazil started strongly with Olympic legends Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening claiming the first race and Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves the second.
“We made a good choice starting at the race committee and tacking to the right – we had a very good puff on the right to cross the fleet,” explained double Olympic medallist Grael, who performance here is all the more remarkable as he has just one leg. “Once you are ahead you have a margin to protect and the sailing gets much easier, whereas if you get stuck in the crowd it is very tough.”
Mark Mendelblatt, historically the Star Sailors League Finals’ most successful helm, sailing with his regular crew Brian Fatih, relieved Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Życki of the lead in race three. The American recounted his race: “We took the line bias, which was pin-favoured, and managed to get across the fleet pretty early. We got a little rightie at the end and rounded third and at the bottom we chose the right gate, which was the correct one. Then we were able to get to the right of Mateusz at the top of the second beat when the big rightie came in and that got us around him and we were able to hold on down the run. In this fleet when you get ahead, it makes the race a lot easier…”
Hamish Pepper loses his mast – c Gilles Morelle
A front had been forecast to arrive in the afternoon and this finally stuck half way through the final race, when the skies darkened, rain began plummeting and breeze kicking up a sharp chop. Despite this Miami’s Augie Diaz, this year’s Star European Champion, made it look easy.
“We kept thinking the right would come in like that,” Diaz explained. “We had a great start at the committee boat and were first boat off the line. We held for a little bit and then as soon as we felt we had a little phase to go right on, we went hard right and then it was a case of the rich getting richer. But Cayard went all the way left and he came in second at the top mark!”
As the squall hit, Diaz said they had had such a lead that played it safe by reaching downwind, a technique making it easier to gybe.
Meanwhile Grael admitted he was slightly surprised to have finished this race fifth. “We were in the worst position. We broached when we gybed, but then made a good run. It was very puffy and some moments we got a little bit scared about sinking the boat – but it was under control!”
Others were not so fortunate. On the last run the rig broke on Hamish Pepper and Steve Mitchell’s boat, meanwhile one of the race favourites fell out of his boat at the top mark: Diego Negri, sailing here with defending champion Frithjof Kleen as crew, received a penalty at the top mark and while carrying out their turn coincided a gust hit, causing Negri to be ejected from the cockpit. Fortunately the Italian Olympic veteran managed to hang to first the rudder and then the main, but by the time he had been hauled back on board, they had dropped to last place. Despite this they ended the day third overall.
After four races and with one discard applied, Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening lead the Star Sailors League Finals by two points, the Brazilians having won the first race.
“We started at the pin and chose the left side of the course and the shift went our way,” explained Scheidt of that race. “If you can go around the top mark in the top three, life gets a lot easier. It was a tough day. It was quite shifty with flat water and towards the end of the day we had the big right shift with the wind increasing.
“We managed to climb back from some bad situations, which was good, but we still need more boat speed upwind and we had bad starts in two races. The level is very high and it is difficult to do everything well. We are happy – we’ll keep chipping away, but with four races a day a lot of things can happen. You see guys breaking masts and it is very easy to start over early and risk too much at the start.”
The forecast for tomorrow is for the northeasterly wind to resume. “Hopefully we’ll get more waves which will make things more interesting, especially downwind,” concluded Scheidt.
Racing for the full fleet runs through the Qualifiers until Friday, followed on Saturday with the Quarter Final, Semi Final and Final Races. Winner of the Qualifiers fast tracks directly to the Final Race, while second place heads directly to the Semi Final. Those that finish the Qualifiers in third to tenth places, get to race in the Quarter Finals. The top five Quarter Finallists progress through to the Semi Final. The top three from the Semi Finals join the winner of the Qualifiers in the Finals.
Winner of the Star Sailors League Finals receives US$ 40,000 from a prize pot of US$ 200,000.
Daily highlights video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS6tJANRfc4&feature=youtu.be
Star Sailors League – Finals – after 4 races, 1 discard
1st BRA Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening 6 pts
2nd USA Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih 8 pts
3rd ITA Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen 13 pts
4th USA Augie Diaz and Bruno Prada 15 pts
5th POL Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki 15 pts
6th NOR Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin 19 pts
7th BRA Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche 24 pts
8th BRA Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves 25 pts
9th SWE Freddy Lööf and Edoardo Natucci 25 pts
10th USA George Szabo and Roger Cheer 29 pts
11th ITA Francesco Bruni and Nando Colaninno 30 pts
12th USA Paul Cayard and Arthur Lopes 31 pts
13th FRA Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot 31 pts
14th CRO Tonci Stipanovic and Frederico Melo 35 pts
15th CYP Pavlos Kontides and Markus Koy 35 pts
16th FRA Kevin Peponnet and Mark Strube 35 pts
17th HUN Zsombor Berecz and Michael Maier 38 pts
18th NZL Hamish Pepper and Steve Mitchell 40 pts
19th SWE Max Salminen and Johan Tillander 41 pts
20th ITA Guido Gallinaro and Kilian Weise 45 pts
21st CRO Šime Fantela and Antonio Arapovic 46 pts
22nd ITA Ruggero Tita and Enrico Voltolini 55 pts
23rd CZE Ondrej Teplý and Antonis Tsotras 60 pts
24th GBR Iain Percy and Anders Ekström DNC pts
25th RUS Georgy Shayduko and Vitalii Kushnir DNC pts
From wily old sea dogs to the latest fresh-faced talent – the top talent in our sport will take to the warm, azure blue waters of Nassau’s Montagu Bay this week for the Star Sailors League Finals, to determine the ‘star’ of sailing.
The breadth of the field this year is exceptional. Across the 25 teams and 50 sailors are 21 Olympic sailing medals and some of the greatest Olympic sailors of all time, such as Brazil’s Robert Scheidt, one of only three people ever to win five Olympic sailing medals, to Britain’s Iain Percy who holds two golds and a silver.
Percy is competing at the Star Sailors League Finals for the very first time and following the tragic loss of his long term crew Andrew Simpson, will sail with an old on-the-water adversary of his and Bart’s – Swede Anders Ekström, himself the Beijing Star Olympic bronze medallist and World Champion with Freddy Lööf. Lööf, another triple Olympic medallist and the last gold medallist in the Star class is back, this time sailing with Italy’s Edoardo Natucci, a previous winner of the Star Sailors League Finals with George Szabo in 2015. Unusually, Lööf’s London 2012 gold medal-winning crew is also competing here but as a helm – Max Salminen competed at Rio 2016 in the Finn and was 2017 World Champion in the heavyweight Men’s singlehander.
Others from the generation of sailors who made the transition from the Laser or the Finn to the Star during the 2000s include New Zealand’s Hamish Pepper, who was World Champion in the former Olympic keelboat in 2006 (sailing here with the 2002 Star World Champion, Britain’s Steve Mitchell). France’s Xavier Rohart, the Athens 2004 Star bronze medallist is back once again with Pierre-Alexis Ponsot. Although he never coaxed out an Olympic medal, the USA’s Mark Mendelblatt returns as the Star Sailors League Finals’ most successful competitor having a 3-1-1-3 record here with his London 2012 crew Brian Fatih.
Always making the top 10 here in Nassau, having competed in every edition of the Star Sailors League Finals, is Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz, a two time Finn Olympic medallist, sailing as usual with Dominik Życki. Taking time off from his duties as helmsman for the latest Luna Rossa America’s Cup challenge is Francesco Bruni, sailing here with Nando Colaninno and hoping to improve on his 10th place finish last year. Also in this group is Norway’s Eivind Melleby, last year’s Star World Champion, sailing with the USA’s Joshua Revkin.
One of the strongest entries is likely to be Italian three time Olympian Diego Negri. The present leader of the Star Sailors League ranking ahead of Robert Scheidt and Paul Cayard, Negri has as his crew German Frithjof Kleen, who won Star Sailors League Final last year with Paul Goodison.
Kleen comes to Nassau race fit from the Star class’ Commodores Cup in Miami and also having spent the year coaching and training up new Star boat sailors out of the Star Sailors League training centre he runs in Riva del Garda. Many competitors have passed through the centre this year.
“This time I think the old Star sailors will really have to watch out, because the young guys coming through are not only fantastic sailors, but this time they are also prepared,” Kleen warns. “Those who haven’t trained are going to look very stupid!” As to sailing with Negri, Kleen says they ran a successful campaign in 2012-2013. “I know him very well – both his good and bad sides! He always made it through the round robins. We know our boat and our sails – all these variables are knocked out. Now it is all about us, but it will be tough as it is every year.”
Since its inception the Star Sailors League has also invited the top of the latest crop of Olympic sailors but this year has surpassed itself with five champions fresh from the Hempel Sailing World Championships in Aarhus: Rio 470 gold medallist turned 49er World Champion Šime Fantela and Laser silver medallist and two time World Champion Pavlos Kontides and the reigning 470, Finn and Nacra 17 World Champions, respectively Kevin Peponnet, Zsombor Berecz and Ruggero Tita.
For both Fantela and Kontides this will be their second time at the Star Sailors League Finals. Kontides, who is Cyprus’ only ever Olympic medallist (in any sport), is in with a particularly good chance, sailing with one of the most experienced and successful Star boat crew in German three time European champion, Markus Koy. “It is a great feeling to be able to compete against the sailing legends, the people I grew up looking at, admiring and getting inspiration from, who helped me to set my goals and dreams high. Having the chance to be on the same start line as them is fantastic,” said Kontides.
As to whether it is intimidating crossing swords with heroes like Robert Scheidt and Iain Percy, Kontides continues: “We are all sailing at a very high level and it is boat-on-boat. Of course you have to respect the rules and the best one will win. For us, not being from the Star class, it is not easy to know what to expect. We are not familiar with how well we will be able to perform or how badly.”
According to Kontides, Paul Goodison’s victory in 2017 has given hope to competitors who are not Star veterans. Nonetheless the learning curve remains steep: “You make steps forwards fast. When there is some breeze and you have to hike more, it is easier for the Laser sailors to have good steering technique and it is much easier if you make a slightly mistake to accelerate the boat back up again. In light winds it is harder and you need more experience. It is easy to slow the boat down, but then it takes longer to get it back up to speed.”
This year the Star Sailors League also features its youngest ever skipper in Guido Gallinaro, the 17-year-old Laser Radial Youth World and European Championship from Italy.
While hopes are being placed on the young blades, in fact some of the top results in recent major Star events have come from the more ‘experienced’ end of the age spectrum. 64-year-old Augie Diaz was this year’s Star European champion and two years ago was World Champion, sailing with Brazilian legend Bruno Prada, who has two Olympic Star medals from when he sailed with Robert Scheidt.
Similarly sailing legend Paul Cayard is back for his fifth Star Sailors League Finals, very much at the top of his game, having finished third at this year’s Star Worlds with Brazilian crew Arthur Lopes. Among his numerous accolades winning the Star Worlds 30 years ago remains one of Cayard’s proudest achievements.
“I have put a lot of time into the Star starting with the Star Sailors League last year – I had a good result and that encouraged me to try hard,” says the 59-year-old former Whitbread Round the World Race winner and America’s Cup veteran. “I bought a P-star, because I was a little slow downwind in the Finals last year, which has helped me a bit. I feel pretty good. Every year there are some new faces and they are all quality sailors. To be invited here you have to be an Olympic medallist or a World Champion or have some credentials for sure.
“The Star Sailors League Finals is the most unique, exceptionally good event in sailing in a long, long time. Everything from the format, the quality of the sailors to the concept of being able to race against a great Laser sailor or Franck Cammas, a great offshore sailor [who competed in 2017] or Xavier Rohart who is 105kg – you can only do that in the Star class. It is the perfect boat for that.
“You see everything here, but before this happens, the SSL provides training for the people who don’t know the Star so it cultivates and nurtures sailing. The format where we have a constant knock-out on the last day is easy for the public to understand. In fact everything the public can’t understand has been done away with.”
Racing for the full fleet continues through the Qualifiers (from Tuesday until Friday), concluding on Saturday with the Quarter Final, Semi Final and Final Races. Winner of the Qualifiers fast tracks directly to the Final Race, while second place heads directly to the Semi Final. Those that finish the Qualifiers in third to tenth places, get to race in the Quarter Finals. The top five Quarter Finallists progress through to the Semi Final. The top three from the Semi Finals join the winner of the Qualifiers in the Finals. The winner of the Star Sailors League Finals receives US$ 40,000 from a prize pot of US$ 200,000.
You can follow all the action live and for free, streamed on the internet with expert commentary from special studio guests. On the water, the latest in hi-tech camera technology, as well as Virtual Eye 3D Graphics, will provide thrilling viewing. If you have a website and are interested in embedding the live video stream please contact us.
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2018 Star Sailors Legue Finals – Entries
Iain Percy (GBR) – Anders Ekström (SWE)
Šime Fantela (CRO) – Antonio Arapovic (CRO)
Robert Scheidt (BRA) – Henry Boenig (BRA)
Freddy Lööf (SWE ) – Edoardo Natucci (ITA)
Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL) – Dominik Zycki (POL)
Max Salminen (SWE) – Johan Tillander (SWE)
Paul Cayard (USA) – Arthur Lopes (BRA)
Diego Negri (ITA) – Frithjof Kleen (GER)
Pavlos Kontides (CYP) – Markus Koy (GER)
Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) – Frederico Melo (POR)
Gerogy Shayduko (RUS) – Vitalii Kushnir (UKR)
Lars Grael (BRA) – Samuel Gonçalves (BRA)
Xavier Rohart (FRA) – Pierre-Alexis Ponsot (FRA)
Jorge Zarif (BRA) – Pedro Trouche (BRA)
Ruggero Tita (ITA ) – Enrico Voltolini (ITA)
Zsombor Berecz (HUN) – Michael Maier (CZE)
Kevin Peponnet (FRA) – Mark Strube (USA)
Hamish Pepper (NZL) – Steve Mitchell (GBR)
Francesco Bruni (ITA) – Nando Colaninno (ITA)
Mark Mendelblatt (USA) – Brian Fatih (USA)
Eivind Melleby (NOR) – Joshua Revkin (USA)
Geroge Szabo (USA) – Roger Cheer (CAN)
Augie Diaz (USA) – Bruno Prada (BRA)
Ondrej Teplý (CZE ) – Antonis Tsotras (GRE)
Guido Gallinaro (ITA) – Kilian Weise (GER)