District 20  Regatta Report

Mon Dec 1st, 2014 through Wed Dec 17th, 2014

Podium photo by Gilles Martin-Raget

Podium photo by Gilles Martin-Raget

2014 Star Sailors League Finals


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Final Day: SSL Finals 2014 Mendelblatt and Fatih rule the waves in Nassau
By Alex d'AgostaNews, Press Release
The last day of the second Star Sailors League Finals in the tropical waters of the Bahamas held plenty of surprises. The direct elimination rule and shifty winds made the course extremely tactical. The defending champion, Brazilian supremo Robert Scheidt and SSL ranking list number 1, and Italian Diego Negri, both paid the price. Neither made it to the final which featured the four top qualifiers: Mendelblatt, Loof, Kusznierewicz and Zarif who finished in that order.

10 teams raced for the Quarter Finals with the top six yachts joining Freddy Loof and Anders Ekstrom in the semi. After two general recalls, the fleet finally got away. In the first few metres of this unforgettable day, the right-hand side seemed the place to be. But Negri/Lambertenghi and Gaspic/Sitic didnít get off to a great start. The Croats then chose to go to the far right of the course, while a good part of the fleet went left. In the second leg, Kusznierewicz, Scheidt, Mendelblatt and a rejuvenated Negri had the look of being in charge of the race but on the third leg, the Italian lost ground to Scott and Rohart. However, coming up to the second mark, the Poles took control of the fleet, ahead of Mendelblatt, Scheidt, Rohart and Scott. The last leg was incredibly exciting, the main aim was not to win outright but to stay in the top six to go forward to the semi-final. Negri/Lambertenghi spent most of the time in the middle in sixth position. The first of the challengers to the Italians were Polgar/Koy who tried to make up ground on the left. Zarif, Polgar and Negri made all the armchair sailors grip the edge of their seats. For the last 10 minutes, they were clustered together just two boat lengths apart. This group were continually swapping the important sixth position so often, it was hard to keep up with them even on Virtual Eye. Zarif, the young Brazilian Finn sailor racing with Boening, held sway in the end, sending Polgar, Negri, Stanjek and Gaspic back to the Nassau Yacht Club. The finish was incredible including a broken pole on the Italianís boat just metres from the line.

Semi-Final: Rohart and Ponsot seemed to come out worst at the start while Mendelblatt, Scheidt and Zarif fared best in the beat all the way to the first mark. In the last few metres, Mendelblatt taking a middle, as he has done all week, while Zarif was on the far-left and Scheidt and Scott were on the other side. The Americans were first to the top mark and behind them, a compact group formed with Loof, Scott, Zarif and Kusznierewicz all taking turns to chase the leaders. In Leg 3, Zarif flirted with leading, playing the slight shifts well. However one of the toughest and most experienced sailors out there, Mendelblatt stayed in control. On the offensive were Kusznierewicz and Rohart, who made a protest about Scott at the last buoy, resulting in a red flag then cost the young British sailor dearly. The fourth leg was the fieriest of all, with a memorable battle that will go down in the annals of the sport and definitely merits watching again and again. It was tough for everyone as the new free pumping proved extremely physically demanding. All the big names fared worst at the line, Scheidt/Prada, Rohart/Ponsot and Scott/Milneís aim of winning the Star Sailors League came to a shocking end as none of them made the cut.

The eagerly-awaited grand finale was a four- horse race: two Europeans, one American and a Brazilian. Zarif got off to the best start but Mendelblatt was ahead of him at the mark with Loof and Kusznierewicz third and fourth respectively. The American quickly proved well capable of holding the lead for two legs, followed the whole time by the Brazilian. The three chasers had the toughest battle Ė to stay on the podium yet pose some kind of threat to the leader who has been unwaveringly consistent all week long. But just when it all seemed sewn up, the wind shifted left moving the mark 20 degrees and turned everything on its head, with Loof now in front and Mendelblatt slipping back to fourth. Then once again in Leg 5, the third and final upwind in the series, Loof was behind and Mendelblatt in front. Kusznierewicz sliced in front of the American just a few metres from the turn with surgical precision. There was no protest as he snatched leadership but once again, he was only able to hold on to it for a few minutes. The last downwind seemed like it would be the do-or-die one. In the end, the last leg was the real decider. The much-hoped-for edge-of-the-seat three-boat gallop for the last kilometre materialised with Mendelblatt in the middle, Kusznierewicz to the right and Loof left. Zarif was lagging slightly behind. Despite the best efforts of the other three, however, the Tampa Bay skipper held sway. And Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih won the race of a lifetime with a two and a half-length lead on Freddy Loof and Anders Ekstrom, ahead of the two heroes that won Gold in the Star in the recent Olympics. For the record, Mendelblatt/Fatih also acquitted themselves very honourably last year taking the third step on a podium that also featured Scheidt and Kusznierewicz/Zycki. This year the podium was rounded off by the Pole but just a hairís breadth behind him was the 22 year old two-time Finn World Champion Jorge Zarif, definitely the strongest rookie of the week.

The SSL Finals delivered superbly competitive sailing that showcased the worldís finest talents and also added an important new chapter to the history of the sport because of the novelties introduced this year by the Star Sailors League, not least Virtual Eye 3D sports graphics. A spectacular event for which thanks must go to the hugely committed organisers, the Nassau Yacht Club for its hospitality and the beautiful backdrop of the Bahamas itself.

Day Three: Loof wins Star Sailors League qualifiers ahead of Scheidt and Mendelblatt
The third and final day of qualifying in Nassau was high-tension indeed. The Qualifying Series winners, Freddy Loof and Anders Ekstrom will skip the first race tomorrow and go directly to the semis finals. Ten crews will contest the single race quarter final: Scheidt/Prada, Mendelblatt/Fatih, Negri/Lambertenghi, Zarif/Boening, Rohart/Ponsot, Kusznierewicz/Zycki, Stanjek/Olesen, Gaspic/Sitic, Scott/Milne.

The top six will then join Loof for another single race semi-final and the top four will have a sudden death final race. Today's final three races in the nine race qualifying stages were high octane with over 30 knots blasting from the north east onto the race track and later in the day, adverse current produced a significant sea state.

In Race 7, Scheidt and Prada were main contenders for pole position but a sail problem ended their race almost immediately. Most of the fleet chose the left off the line, but Croatians Gaspic and Sitic chose the right-hand route, allowing them to switch left and pull in front near the mid-leg point. The lead swapped constantly between the top eight Stars up the leg. Greeks Papathanasiou and Tsotras and Americans Scott and Milne stuck to the right and could only watch as all the others pulled away on the left. The fleet spread out along the first downwind, and Loof/Ekstrom and Negri/Lambertenghi gained a 100m lead on the rest. Grael and Almeida came back to grab third position, keeping it through the bottom mark. Loof/Ekstrom and Negri/Lambertenghi had an advantage at the final turn, allowing them to hammer away an impressive 200m lead.

Conditions changed in this second race of the day, the current and wind coming together and rainclouds making most sailors choose the right half of the course in the first upwind. A strong race for Brazilians Scheidt/Prada and Zarif/Boening who stayed in the top 5 throughout and finished in 1st and 4th respectively. Scheidt/Prada and Polish duo Kusznierewicz/Zycki sparred at length with the Brazilians pulling away in the last leg and the Poles scoring 3rd place. Brits Scott and Milne badly damaged Polgar and Markusís boat, ending the day's racing for both duos also.

Race 9 had a difficult start with two general recalls and so an i-Flag was probably inevitable. The stakes were high and for many it was the last chance to get into the first 11. That included the legendary Torben Grael - a mark of the quality of the fleet. Because his boat had keel problems, the Brazilian champion was never really in the competition all week, only making it to the top 10 on three occasions.

The two leading teams battled for the wind and the Swedes managed to get the upper hand just as Stanjek and Olesen slid in between them before the downwind gate. Behind them, a tremendous battle ensued between Scheidt/Prada and Negri/Lambertenghi, which saw the Brazilians go forward to seize the second place.

It was not a great day for Mendelblatt, the provisional leader on Day 2. He handed the Swedes the top spot in the qualifiers giving them the right to skip the first race in the morning. However, it was a very pleasant surprise to see 3 Finns qualify for the grand final: Zarif/Boening, Gaspic/Sitic and Scott/Milne who've already achieved a lot for the week. The first of the disappointed duos, however, was Melleby/Strube, who began the series with a third place. Followed by Brazilians Grael/Almeida, hobbled by major technical issues, Kiwi SSL rookies Junior/Pritchard, Szabo/Natucci, Papathanasiou/Tsostras, Lawrence/Revkin, Diaz/Baltins, Patience/Buchan and Fuchs/Siefert.

Quotes of the day from Dennis Conner
, the Star Sailors League patron: "Surprising to see Mark Mendelblatt at the leader board yesterday. But in the breeze today the experience of Freddy Loof and Robert Scheidt came through, making for a very tight leader board at the top. I think another surprise for me was I thought Robert Scheidt so dominant downwind that he would always win these regattas but I'm very impressed with the speed Freddy Loof has downwind. He won the first race downwind on the second run and he won this last race with a nice lead at the top. But he extended on the run. I noticed the distance between Freddy Loof and Robert Scheidt was more at the end of the run than it was at the weather mark so that means Loof extended on Robert Scheidt downwind which is almost impossible to do."

What about tomorrow?
"For sure Loof is gonna be through, Robert Scheidt is gonna be through and Mendelblatt is gonna be through. Those guys are gonna be on the podium and the real battle is gonna be for fourth and fifth."

Day Two: Three Races
Today brought another great day of sailing in the Bahamas for the Star Sailors League Finals 2014. Once again the action was dominated by Americans Mendelblatt/Fatih, who snatched the leadership from Scheidt/Prada two-thirds of the way through qualifying. Spectators were treated to three races, in great wind, featuring fiery duels between the 20 excellent teams invited to this top-level event. Once again, a large following of fans watched the action live at live.starsailors.com. They witnessed a rare spectacle indeed: up-close-and-personal sparring, high tension manoeuvres and errors, surprise results and much more besides. All live in HD from the water backed up by Virtual Eye 3D sports graphics. To top it all off, the eventís main patronís four-time Americaís Cup winner and former Star Class World Champion, Dennis Conner, paid a visit to the studio.

15 to 20-knots of wind set the tone for the first race of Day 2 and the fourth in the Star Sailors League Finals. After an excellent start, Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih held onto their lead for the duration. Leg 1 brought lively sparring all the way to mark between the illustrious Germans Johannes Polgar and Markus Koy, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada, and Torben Grael and Guilherme de Almeida. The Americans rounded the windward mark first, followed by Polgar and Koy. Scheidt and Prada missed the first turn at the top buoy, losing four positions in a very close-knit race. In Leg 2, Mendelblatt and Fatih extended their lead on the rest. In the end, somewhat surprisingly, the first 10 across the line were Mendelblatt, Polgar, Loof, Kusznierewicz, Grael, Negri, Scheidt, Stanjek, Rohart and Gaspic with provisional overall leadership of the regatta going to the Americans.

The fleet stayed tight in this 2nd race of the day with excitement at every mark. Negri and Lambertenghi hit the front at the first upwind mark, as Papathanasiou and Tsotras scampered out of the way to avoid a collision. Melleby and Strube did a penalty turn just before the first downwind, but recovered to finish 13th. Negri and Lambertenghi and Rohart and Ponsot sparred for first place downwind, with just 20 metres between them. After a poor start, Scheidt and Prada clawed their way back to the top four in the final leg, battling hard with Rohart and Ponsot and Gaspic and Sitic. The Croatians stayed in the top five overall after finish 4th. Junior and Pritchard started the final leg in 6th and hung on in the top 10 overall, while Mendelblatt and Fatih led 150 metres at the line to take their second win of the day and now top the qualifying ranking.

In Race 6, the wind picked up and the current intensified. Loof and Ekstrom started behind everyone else but then zeroed in on the top 5 after the second leg. Grael and Almeida had a great start, but could only finish in 9th. Three of the four Brazilian teams worried the leaders throughout. However Zarif and Boening challenged early on, this time securing 3rd behind Mendelblatt and Fatih and Scheidt and Prada. After a fine start, Polgar and Koy took the lead at the second buoy and held it to the end. Adrenaline was high for the five leaders of the pack, helping them pull away in the final legs. Szabo and Natucci followed in 6th their best performance yet.

At the end of Day 2, the provisional rankings are topped by Mendelblatt and Fatih, a comfortable 10 points ahead of Scheidt/Prada and 13 in front of Polgar/Koy. Tomorrow evening, winner excluded, the crews ranked from 2nd to 11th will go forward to the final phases of the event. The winner from the qualifying races will get a bye for the first race. Up to three races may still be competed in the eliminators, but right now, there are six teams separated by less than 10 points.

3 races are scheduled for tomorrow with the first warning signal at 1100 local time with fierce competition expected to the very last.

Day One:
Three Races

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 lots of jostling around the marks, collisions, penalties and, most importantly, neck-and-neck finishes with surprise winners.

The new HD live streaming introduced this year together with Virtual Eye 3D sport graphics, worked perfectly with thousands of fans connected online, ensuring that the SSL Finals really are for everyone. Todayís 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% 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 wasnít 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 hairís 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 Boeningís 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 Nassau-competitive! Just three points separate third from ninth place and the reigning champions, Scheidt and Prada, could only manage one win from three races.

Place Boat Skipper Crew Sail #: Fleet 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 QF SF Final Total
1 MENDELBLATT   Mark Mendelblatt   Brian Fatih     TaB   1 10 3 1 1 2 [11] 11 9 2 1 1 38
2 LOOF   Fredrik Loof   Anders Ekstrom     SwB   4 [12] 4 3 6 5 1 2 1 -- 3 2 26
3 KUSZNIEREWICZ   Mateusz Kusznierewicz   Dominik Zycki     Isol   10 8 12 4 7 7 [13] 3 11 1 4 3 62
4 ZARIF   Jorge Zarif   Henry Raul Boening       15 7 1 [17] 11 3 8 4 6 6 2 4 55
5 SCHEIDT   Robert Scheidt   Bruno Prada     GuB   7 1 2 7 4 4 [DNF] 1 2 5 5 -- 28
6 ROHART   Xavier Rohart   Pierre Alexis Ponsot     NI   6 2 [13] 9 2 10 7 7 12 4 6 -- 55
7 SCOTT   Giles Scott   Stephen Milne       13 4 5 11 8 12 10 [DNF] 14 3 7 -- 76
8 POLGAR   Johannes Polgar   Markus Koy     Ess   9 3 6 2 13 1 6 [DNF] DNC 7 -- -- 61
9 NEGRI   Diego Negri   Sergio Lambertenghi     VE   5 5 [10] 6 5 8 2 8 3 8 -- -- 42
10 STANJEK   Robert Stanjek   Claus Olesen     BF   12 [18] 14 8 10 13 4 5 4 9 -- -- 70
11 GASPIC   Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic   Ante Sitic       [14] 14 7 10 3 11 5 13 7 10 -- -- 71
12 MELLEBY   Eivind Melleby   Mark Strube     Isol   3 15 15 15 [17] 15 12 6 5 -- -- -- 86
13 GRAEL   Torben Grael   Guilherme De Almeida     Gua   17 [19] 19 5 14 9 3 10 13 -- -- -- 90
14 JUNIOR   Josh Junior   Myles Pritchard       8 6 18 [20] 9 16 9 9 15 -- -- -- 90
15 SZABO   George Szabo   Edoardo Natucci     SDB   [16] 11 16 13 16 6 14 12 10 -- -- -- 97
16 PAPATHANASIOU   Emilios Papathanasiou   Antonis Tsotras     GR   2 9 9 16 [20] 19 17 18 19 -- -- -- 109
17 LAWRENCE   Luke Lawrence   Josh Revkin       [18] 17 11 14 12 17 15 17 8 -- -- -- 111
18 DIAZ   Augie Diaz   Arnis Baltins     BisB   11 13 8 [19] 15 18 16 14 18 -- -- -- 114
19 PATIENCE   Luke Patience   Jamie Buchan       19 16 17 12 19 [20] 19 16 17 -- -- -- 135
20 FUCHS   Marcelo Fuchs   Ronald Seifert     SP   20 [DNC] DNC 18 18 14 18 15 16 -- -- -- 140

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