A fifth overall at the recent Olympic Classes Regatta in Miami was just the sort of result Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell were aiming for at their first major regatta in their new Olympic class. Crewman Steve Mitchell chats about the event and what they have planned for the rest of the season

We have just arrived back in Miami for our third trip so far for two weeks training and one week’s racing at the Bacardi Cup, one of the premier Star class events.

The previous trip to Miami involved two weeks of training at our usual base at Coral Reef Yacht Club, and took place in mainly 6-12 knots which allowed us to work on our light wind tuning against the Irish team who were also training. We also tuned up against some of the Americans and Bermudans as some of the best Star sailors arrived for the Biscayne Trophy, a weekend event, and the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, which was scheduled for four days.

These events had the most Stars that we had sailed against yet, with 40 at the Biscayne, and 50 at the Miami OCR, and some of the best sailors were in town, with three Gold medallists and five previous Star world champions entered – our first big test.

The Biscayne Trophy was a light wind affair, 5-8 knots and a sloppy sea caused by the many big powerboats that thrash around Biscayne Bay at a weekend! The Bermudans Bromby and Seise were unstoppable winning the first three races. We had a frustrating day putting in a 13th, 14th and 2nd, which hid the fact that we were slow upwind and fast downwind, on the second day we put in a 5th and an 18th (which we discarded) again downwind speed had rescued us. A seventh overall was satisfactory but we felt we had a lot of work to do on upwind speed before the Miami OCR started. Bromby and Seise from Bermuda won with Aravjo and Inglesias from Spain second, and Reynolds and Liljedhal USA third.

The next couple of days we spent with Sid (Dave Howlett) our coach looking at our new rig and the way we sailed the boat in the light winds. We made some changes and lined up against some fast guys and it seemed to have worked.

The Miami OCR started with three races a day planned, and the on the first day the wind was 10-14 knots with a choppy sea. We were quick in these conditions and consistently came off the start line well, in good positions, added to being quick downwind saw us notch up 12th, 8th, and 4th on the first day. The 4th should have been a 1st as we led up the last upwind leg, but had to duck the German Hagen in the last quarter. He tacked on us and sailed us past the layline, allowing Vince Brun USA and Jock Kohlas USA through to take the top two places. Vince Brun led overnight and Ross Macdonald of Canada was second, we were 6th overall. The Miami OCR did not enforce the Star Class weight limit rule, so there was no maximum weight, this led to a lots of crews being up to 50kg heavier than us. This helped them hugely upwind with extra leverage, but did not affect them downwind as the weight is a small percentage of the all up boat weight (700kg). The next day there was more wind 12-15 knots and we won our first big Star race by some distance, rounding 8th at the first mark, getting to 4th by the bottom mark and taking the lead on the second beat, and extending on the run to the finish, a nice feeling! We added an 8th and a 2nd to climb one place overall to 5th. The Germans Pickel and Giles led with Bromby from Bermuda 2nd, Ross Macdonald from Canada 3rd, Vince Brun USA 4th, and current Gold medallist Mark Reynolds USA 6th.

The next two days were forecast to be light winds 5 knots or less, and thundery. This forecast came true and the next two days were cancelled leaving us in 5th overall, which we were very happy with.

Our next test will be in two weeks time at the Bacardi Cup event where over 100 boats are expected to compete including current world and European champion Freddy Loof from Sweden, and Paul Cayard who’s just completed leg 4 of t