Biscayne Bay is a simply spectacular sailing venue that offers reliable breeze, protected waters, and the support of countless volunteers at various yacht clubs and sailing centers who each host one or two classes. Every January, all the serious Olympic hopefuls come to town for a week or a month or even longer, partly because Miami is the winter venue of choice—but mostly because it is home to the first ISAF World Cup event of 2011. You can watch the racing live all week on all seven circles.
Today, Wednesday, is what former USSailing High Performance Director Gary Bodie would call “moving day.” After two days of racing, the third will solidify the standings in most classes. It’s a chance for the cream to rise to the top, the halfway point of this five day regatta. Only the top ten teams (and the top four in Women’s Match Racing) will earn the privilege to sail in Saturday’s finals.
And if today is moving day, 2011 is the “moving year” of this quadrennium. Many countries, including the US, will conclude most of their Trials for the 2012 Olympic Games in early December. This first event of 2011 is a chance for sailors to build confidence in their training plan and also to evaluate what they still need to work on, in order to peak at the even more important events later in the year.
Though each country gets only one slot per class for the actual Olympics, most classes at the World Cup events are essentially open. (The exception is Women’s Match Racing, which is limited to 24 teams.) That gives us a chance to look at the depth of a country’s sailing team, and on this scale Great Britain is certainly leading: there are twelve GBR teams in the top three across all the disciplines. (After six races in the 49er class, GBR sailors are 1,2,3.) USSailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) has five teams in the top three, followed closely by France and the Netherlands with four. You can check out the full results on the Rolex Miami OCR website.
You will find sailors in Miami this week who are blissfully oblivious to medal counts, training plans, and the joys and challenges of sailing full time. There are plenty of folks who still come to the event to soak up a little sun and enjoy some midwinter sailing. But the level of seriousness has climbed sharply in the past few years as the commitment level has grown to full-time and beyond. This is no longer a regatta for the weekend warrior looking to escape from the cold and snow up north.
More photos, daily video, results, and a live feed are available on the Rolex Miami OCR site.