Szabo & Natucci Crowned In Nassau
The 2015 Star Sailors League Finals came to a dramatic conclusion today in the tactically challenging sublime waters of Montagu Bay, Nassau. Eleven teams with world class sailors from eight different countries contested the knock-out format of three races. Between the 22 sailors, they had totalled 28 Olympic campaigns and over a dozen America’s Cups. The range of sailors was phenomenal; Jochen SchÃ¼mann won the first of his three Gold Olympic Medals over 40 years ago, rising French Laser star, Jean-Baptiste Bernaz was not even born when Jochen SchÃ¼mann stepped onto the podium of the 1976 Olympic Games, winning Gold in the Finn.
Ten teams competed in the Quarter Final, Rohart & Ponsot (FRA) had won the qualifying rounds and received a bye for the first knock-out race. Szabo & Natucci (USA/ITA) took the gun but there was a tremendous battle the last qualifying spot. Negri & Lambertenghi (ITA) finished just out of the top seven, with Cayard & Sharp (USA) claiming the last qualifying place after a spectacular last downwind leg. Kusznierewicz & Zycki (POL), Williams & Mitchell (GBR) and SchÃ¼mann & Borkowski (GER) were also eliminated.
The Semi Final featured seven teams: the top six from the Quarter Final plus Rohart & Ponsot (FRA). Polgar & Koy (GER) led the magnificent seven to the first top mark, Rohart & Ponsot had a great first downwind leg to take up the running but, by the end of the last upwind leg, Pepper & Prada (NZL/BRA) had built a substantial lead which they did not relinquish. Szabo & Natucci (USA/ITA) and Polgar & Koy (GER) joined Pepper & Prada and Rohart & Ponsot in qualifying for the Final. Bernaz and Rambeau (FRA), Stipanovic & Canali (CRO/ITA) and Cayard & Sharp (USA) were eliminated.
Four teams contested the final with the winner receiving a $40,000 slice of the $200,000 Prize Purse. There was drama right at the start with Pepper & Prada (NZL/BRA) and Rohart & Ponsot (FRA) ordered to do penalty turns by the on-the-water Jury. There was even more drama as Polgar & Koy (GER) on port tack, tried to cross the bow of Szabo & Natucci (USA/ITA) and didn’t make it, taking a penalty turn. Pepper & Prada (NZL/BRA) had speared off to the less favoured right side of the course, and got into really good lifting pressure, to make it to the top mark in first place by less than a boat length from Szabo & Natucci (USA/ITA). At the next mark Szabo and Natucci made a perfect rounding to get into phase earlier to take up the lead but back came Pepper & Prada to regain the lead on the penultimate leg.
However, there was one last twist. Pepper & Prada (NZL/BRA) gybed to the middle of the course on the final downwind leg, whilst Szabo & Natucci (USA/ITA) stayed out to the Rose Island side of the course. This turned out to be a winning move by Szabo & Natucci, who took the gun and the win for the 2015 SSL Final by a boat length from Pepper & Prada. Rohart & Ponsot (FRA) completed the podium to take third place and Polgar & Koy (GER) were fourth.
â€œIâ€™ve always liked light air over breeze, I was worried to come up here with 15-20 knots of wind every day, so I was really happy to avoid it, but yes, light air is definitely by stronger point. I feel fantastic, this event is so much fun, the guys are so good, nobody gives you an inch, even the ones that have never sailed Starboats they are so excellent, they find the wind shifts, the guys that do sail Star have great boat speed and they sail so clean, everybody plays by the rules, this fleet is so much fun!â€
â€œWe had a little of a fight with Xavier at the start, I am kind of not sure what it was about, but luckily there were only four boats and after you do your penalty you are still in clean air and we were on the right side and the breeze was a little right-hander and so we got back in the game quite nicely, but it was a roller coaster from there with Szabo who was going very well donwind. Tight racing, I have no nails left!â€
â€œI have mixed emotions, we had everything we needed to win this event: we had speed, confidence, knowledge, we felt the wind very well, we were there we made a mistake in the start, I was too aggressive, so it is my responsibility. There was a slightly collision between us and Hamish, we didnâ€™t complain but the umpire waved a red flag for both of us.
â€œAs SSL President I think this event was a great success, we should have probably had more wind, especially in the Quarter Final. We hope we continue growing and we slowly get stronger and better.â€
Next event will be in Hamburg from 2nd to 6th May 2015, for the first ever SSL City Grand Slam.
For more information visit the official SSL website www.starsailors.com