While the star performers today certainly were Robert Scheidt/Henry Boening and Paul Cayard, significant to more competitors was what was happening mid-fleet. For today, Friday, the final Qualifier races were held at the Star Sailors League Finals in Nassau.
Crews finishing the Qualifier 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 Qualifer 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 tomorrow, 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 today’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 today, 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 London 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 feel 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.”