Rookie rockstars pump above their weight in Stars

One of the more interesting facets of the Star Sailors League finals is to be found in the Sailing Instructions. Item 1.2.2 reads; ‘If signaled by the race committee in accordance with RRS Appendix P5, pumping, rocking and ooching will be permitted when the wind speed exceeds 6 knots as measured at deck level on a race committee boat. This changes STCR rule 35.’

The sting is the tail. Star sailors are unused to being able to perform the extra-motion grabbing manoeuvres that are meat and drink to the Finn sailors regularly – and it shows. Why else in this star-studded fleet would three beginners to the class, Jorge Zarif (BRA), Giles Scott (GBR) and Ivan Gaspic (CRO) fill the eighth to 10th places in the series standing after six races?

True, the performance of Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih from the Tampa Bay fleet has so far been sensational, but watching this pair in action convinces this spectator that they have practiced this series of manoeuvres as they have made ground, when needed, on the downwind legs. That they go into the final day with a ten-point advantage over the defending champions speaks volumes for their practice.

The third days racing gave the competitors more of what they had already experienced and they reacted well to it, particularly as the wind speed increased during the day to top out at 32 knots – there were buffeting beats to windward and slithering downwind legs with the crews working to the maximum to gain those extra knots of boatspeed.

Fifth Place goes, somewhat remarkably to Brazilian tyro in this class, Jorge Zarif and his crew Henry Boening, who are level on points with the French pair, Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot by finishing 8-4-6 to their 7-7-12. Despite a collision, which took Johannes Polgar and Markus Koy out of the last two races, they hold seventh place one point ahead of the Poles, Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki. Germany’s Robert Stanjek and Denmark’s Claus Olesen, the world champions are ninth after a 4-5-4 score in the last three races. The last two teams in the final stages are skippered by top Finn sailors, Ivan Gaspic and Giles Scott.

It took its toll on some, even the major players. Defending Champions Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil were unable to start the seventh race of the series, the first of the third day, when a jib sheet gave way on their way into the start. They did however gain first and second places in the eighth and ninth races to keep their hopes alive,

But the day belonged to Olympic champions Freddy Loof and Anders Ekström of Sweden. Tackling the blustery strong breezes and increasing waves with élan, they produced a 1-2-1 scoreline to take over at the front of the fleet. The Swedish pair will be excused from the quarter-final race tomorrow and take a bye into the semi-final round.

Scheidt finished second, and overnight leaders Mendelblatt and Fatih were third after a middling day when they posted 11-11-9, discarding the first of those elevenths to be four points clear of the Italian pair, Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertenghi.

Sadly among those eliminated are the most famous of all Star sailors, Torben Grael and Guilherme de Almeida. Despite a third place in the opening race of the day, they fell back and were several points short of the qualifying requirement.

Spare a thought for the 58kg Luke Patience(GBR). After the last race of a series in which his best placing was a 12th, he had a broad grin on his face and replied to the question by broadening the smile, saying, ‘Sure, but my arms are worn out – I cannot wait to get back to my 470 (he was the silver medallist at the last Olympics), but this was a great education and a whole lot of fun.’

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