DAY ONE winners of the Star Sailors League Finals in Montagu Bay were Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada and Jorge Zarif and Henry Boening. Photos by Giles-Martin Raget/Star Sailors League
IT WAS a perfect first day for the second Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau with sun and wind in abundance. The racing had it all, including a sudden downpour, lots of jostling around the marks, collisions, penalties and, most importantly, neck-and-neck finishes with surprise winners.
Today’s winners were Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada and Jorge Zarif and Henry Boening. The series is scheduled for nine qualifying races over three days. The progressive elimination will lead to the grand finale on Saturday.
In Race 1, Americans Mendelblatt and Fatih took an early lead after a good start and the Virtual Eye 3D graphics showed them leading for at least 95 per cent of the one-hour race. At the first mark, their nearest rivals were Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertenghi, followed by Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada.
But the first shake-up of the race wasn’t long to arrive. The Brazilians were slapped with a penalty, which they took immediately. In Leg 2, Eivind Melleby and Mark Strube began moving up the fleet, posing a real threat to the leaders. In Leg 3, Emilios Papathanasiou and Antonis Tsotras gave the Americans plenty to worry about. The second windward leg put the result on a knife-edge. The finish was a real thriller, Mendelblatt and Fatih, Papathanasiou and Tsotras and Melleby and Strube, all crossing the line within a few blistering seconds of each other.
Race 2 was a totally different kettle of fish. The wind speed decreased and shifted to the east, which caused a few upsets in the result. Germans Johannes Polgar and Markus Koy got away to a fine start, but were overtaken by Scheidt and Prada and Rohart and Ponsot before the top mark.
On the second windward leg, 2014 Finn World Champion Giles Scott was the surprise contender, putting in a very impressive performance just a hair’s breadth behind the big boys.
By the end of the race, Scott and Milne had achieved a remarkable fourth place against glittering opposition. New Zealand rookie Josh Junior partnered with Bahamian Myles Pritchard put in a stunning performance to score sixth place. Unfortunately, a damaged mast resulted in Brazilian duo Marcelo Fuchs and Ronald Seifert retiring from Race 2.
Race 3 produced a tightly fought finale to the first day. After the race committee moved the top mark to the east, the light airs race was tense with the Star teams swapping places throughout.
Scott and Milne zipped to the fore and led at the start. Loof and Ekstrom found a good breeze line in the centre of the course and rounded the windward mark in pole position.
However, a day full of surprises continued with two-time Finn world champion Jorge Zarif partnered by Henry Boening taking the lead on the second leg.
2013 Star Sailors League champions Scheidt and Prada were applying immense pressure on the last upwind leg but Zarif and Boening held on to the lead. Scheidt and Prada are a dominant force downwind but Zarif and Boening held their nerve to win by 19 seconds.
After three races with a discard still a possibility, Scheidt and Prada lead the fleet by a single point from Mendelblatt and Fatih. Zarif and Boening’s dramatic win in the last race has propelled the young Brazilians into third place, on a count back from Rohart and Ponsot as well as Loof and Ekstrom.
To sum up the first day of racing at the Star Sailors League Finals in in one word -competitive. Just three points separate third from ninth place and the reigning champions, Scheidt and Prada, could only manage one win from three races.