Loof wins Star Sailors League qualifiers ahead of Scheidt and Mendelblatt. Last day’s racing LIVE in HD from Nassau Saturday

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 Markus’s 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.

Final ranking of the SSL Finals 2014 qualification series after nine races with one discard:
1. Loof/Ekstrom (SWE) – (4+[12]+4+3+6+5+1+2+1): 26 pts
2. Scheidt/Prada (BRA) – (7+1+2+7+4+4+[21]+1+2): 28 pts
3. Mendelblatt/Fatih (USA) – (1+10+3+1+1+2+[11]+11+9): 38 pts
4. Negri/Lambertenghi (ITA) – (5+5+[10]+6+5+8+2+8+3): 42 pts
5. Zarif/Boening (BRA) – (15+7+1+[17]+11+3+8+4+6): 55 pts
6. Rohart/Ponsot (FRA) – (6+2+[13]+9+2+10+7+7+12): 55 pts
7. Polgar/Koy (GER) – (9+3+6+2+13+1+6+[21]+21): 61 pts
8. Kusznierewicz/Zycki (POL) – (10+8+12+4+7+7+[13]+3+11): 62 pts
9. Stanjek(GER)/Olesen (DEN) – (12+[18]+14+8+10+13+4+5+4): 70 pts
10. Gaspic/Sitic (CRO) – ([14]+14+7+10+3+12+5+13+7): 71 pts
11. Scott/Milne (GBR) – (13+4+5+11+8+11+10+[21]+14): 76 pts

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