Today was the final day of racing here in Nassau. The quarter finals, followed by the semi finals and the final race, was the card. The wind was 14-18 knots from the south and the race course was tucked in Montague Bay so that made for some big wind shifts and the breeze passed over the eastern end of New Providence.
Phil and I made the quarter finals by finishing 4th in the qualification series during the past four days. In the quarterfinal race, we found ourselves to be fast upwind and led the fleet around the first mark. Unfortunately, we found ourselves to be slow downwind, a theme that plagued us all week. We managed to hang on to 5th and qualify for the semi final. The two Italians and Ben Saxon (GBR) with Steve Mitchell were eliminated from this round.
Six teams raced in the semi final. The wind shifted to the right soon after the start, and Phil and I were to the left of the fleet, so we were behind immediately. Our speed was good but we never managed to find an opportunity to get back into the race. British Laser Gold Medalist, Paul Goodison with crew Frithjof Kleen, sailed very fast down the final run and just managed to beat the German Team at the finish line to qualify for the final. Cayard/Trinter (USA) , the Polish team and the German team were eliminated from this round.
The final featured four teams: Mark Mendelblat(USA) who won the qualification series, Robert Scheidt(BRA), Xavier Rohart (FRA) and Paul Goodison (GBR). The conditions hadn’t changed. Mendelblat started to right of the fleet and controlled the first intersection. That small lead evaporated pretty quickly due to the wind shifts. At the first mark Goodison, Scheidt and Mendelblatt were all bow to stern. Rohart was not far behind. The group stayed in these positions the whole way around the track and once again, Goodsion won by just two meters. He who caught and surfed the last wave would have made the difference.
This was the toughest of the five SSL finals. The competitors were deeper than ever and the reasonably strong wind conditions required a lot of physical output. I, for one, am pretty tired after racing 13 races in 5 days. There are 11 Star World Champion skipper here. Only four qualified for the racing today. That tells me that the younger sailors coming from the smaller boats are very talented and sharp. They are picking up the particularities of the Star rather easily and their talent is pulling them ahead. I am very happy that the Star has been chosen to be the boat for this Allstar event. I think it is the perfect boat for the task.
I had thought of not coming this year as I was concerned about where I would finish. In finishing 7th, I exceeded my expectations. I feel extremely lucky and honored to be able to race against all the sailors in this fleet.
As competitors we all owe a great deal of gratitude to Michel Niklaus for his passion and vision in creating the Star Sailors League. His vision for the next 5 years is to have 4 “Grand Slam” events followed by the Finals each year. He is purchasing 100 Stars and setting up bases in various venues around the world to make this vision come true. He is continually upgrading the coverage of the event and the online following is growing exponentially. This is one of the brightest events to come along in our sport in a long time.
Phil and I want to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.