By Rachele Vitello
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. 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.”
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 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 1100. Full coverage of all five days of action will be streamed live on the internet with expert commentary from special studio guests, including America’s Cup four time winner Dennis Conner and double Olympic champion Shirley Robertson. On the water, the latest in hi-tech camera technology, as well as Virtual Eye 3D Graphics, will provide thrilling viewing.