By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – For six days, the world’s best sailors battled it out on the Biscayne Bay for the chance to represent their country in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The Hempel World Cup Series is the premiere circuit for elite, professional sailors to compete for Olympic qualification.
In its 30th year, Miami remains the lone North or South American stop in World Sailing’s pre-Olympic tour. Racing began Tuesday, January 29th and concluded Sunday, February 3rd as 655 sailors, including 34 Olympic medalists, from 62 nations competed across ten events.
American athletes that finished in 10th place or higher qualified for selection to the 2019 US Sailing team. 2018 U.S. Sailing team members Charlie Buckingham (Laser), Paige Railey (Laser Radial) of Clearwater, Erika Reineke (Laser Radial) of Fort Lauderdale, Caleb Paine (Finn), Stuart McNay (Men’s 470) and David Hughes (Men’s 470) of Miami already qualified last August at the 2018 Hempel Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.
Nine more American athletes earned qualification status in Miami despite challenging, light winds that averaged 6-9 knots. Finishing third overall, Luke Muller of Fort Pierce earned qualification in the Finn. Women’s 470 sailors Atlantic and Nora Brugman qualified together after a 9th place finish in the two-person event.
Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee earned an 8th place finish in the Women’s Narca 17 class. In the 49erFX class, Stephanie Roble and Margaret Shea placed 9th to qualify. Sarah Newberry of Miami and David Liebenberg just made the cut after finishing 10th in the Mixed Narca 17.
During the medal ceremony Sunday in Coconut Grove’s Regatta Park, Railey and Muller represented Team USA atop the podium. Railey earned silver for her 95 point effort in the Radial class. With 53 points, Muller was awarded a bronze medal in the Finn class. Railey also won the Golden Torch Award as the highest placing US athlete.
U.S. Sailing launched a “Green Team” task force to oversee their sustainability initiative over the course of the week. “[…] As regatta organizers, we are committed to limiting the negative environmental impacts of the event while working to establish sustainable practices that can be maintained long after the regatta is over,” U.S. Sailing officials stated on the Miami World Cup Series website.
In effort to combat the environmental impact, U.S. Sailing instated “Clean Regatta Policies.” Guidelines ban plastic bags and single use plastics on site and requires sailors to use reef safe sunscreens.
To reduce motorboat carbon emissions, all coaches had to use fuel spill pads. Recycling and landfill containers were easily accessible to proper waste disposal. Additionally, each athlete and attendee were required to bring their own reusable water bottles.
No individuals in the 49er, RS:X Men’s or RS:X Women’s classes have qualified yet for U.S. Sailing Team selection. The third round of the World Cup Series will take place April in Genoa, Italy and the final is scheduled for early June in Marseille, France.