Good start for British sailors on opening day of Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta 23/1/07

British sailors got off to a strong start amidst perfect conditions on day one of the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta at Biscayne Bay on Monday (22 January).

A steady south-easterly 12-15 knot breeze greeted competitors for the start of this Grade 1 regatta, which sees a record 855 sailors from 49 nations entered.

Skandia Team GBR’s sailors took an early lead in four of the 14 classes, with defending champion Paul Goodison and Athens silver medallists Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield topping their respective leaderboards in the Laser and 470 men’s events.

Allan Smith and Jackie Gay, sailing the new Paralympic SKUD-18, notched up Skandia Team GBR’s only perfect scorecard of the opening day, posting two straight race wins, while Megan Pascoe is currently on top in the 2.4mR class thanks to a third and a first from the fleet’s opening two races of the regatta.

Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson got off to a flying start in the trio’s first ever Grade 1 event together after Wilson was drafted in to the women’s Yngling keelboat last autumn. The girls, currently ranked second in the world, posted a race win followed by a third to see them in second overall but on equal points with the first placed American team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe and Debbie Capozzi after the first day’s racing.

Ayton commented: “It’s early days, but we’ve had a really positive start to our first Grade 1 event together. Sarah, Pippa and I have been working hard, together with our coach Paul [Brotherton], during the winter months and it’s coming together well.

“It would be good to continue on from last year’s success and get on the podium out here,” Ayton continued “but really for us putting in a consistent performance across the wind range is more important at this stage.”

Skandia Team GBR’s male keelboat sailors, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star class, got their regatta off to a flying start of a different kind when they were flagged up for crossing the start line early. It was an otherwise strong opening race for the week-old Star team, who crossed the finish line first and a minute ahead of their nearest rivals on what was only their fifth day together in the boat. Percy and Simpson kept a clean slate in the second race, finishing third behind the 2006 World Champions Hamish Pepper and Dave Giles, and Sweden’s Fredrik Loof and Anders Ekstrom.

New to the Star after a career racing the Finn and most recently with the 39 America’s Cup syndicate, Simpson is pleased with his progress so far commenting: “It’s really good fun – I’m certainly getting a fair bit wetter racing these days and I was in a lot less pain today – I had a new harness on, which actually allowed me to breathe!”

Other notable performances on the opening day of this six-day regatta came from the two-time world champions John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas in the Paralympic Sonar class, who are currently in second place after posting a 2,4, and also Skandia Team GBR’s windsurfers Nick Dempsey, Lucy Horwood and Bryony Shaw. All three gave solid performances, with Dempsey currently third in the RS:X men’s fleet, and Horwood and Shaw poised third and fourth in the women’s fleet.

European Champions Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes are in fourth place in the 49er fleet, Lizzie Vickers in sixth place is currently top Brit in the Laser Radial class, and former world silver medallists Leigh McMillan and Will Howden are fifth in the Tornado fleet.

Development squad sailor Ed Greig is the best placed British Finn sailor, in eighth place after day one – Ed Wright, the European Champion, suffered a setback through gear failure in the opening race.

Racing at the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta runs through until Saturday 27 January.