Light Winds for Star Sailors League Final

Published on December 5th, 2015

For the 19 teams competing in the 2015 Star Sailors League Finals on December 2-5, the event came to a dramatic conclusion when George Szabo and Edoardo Natucci (USA/ITA) took the title in the uncharacteristically light winds of Montagu Bay, Nassau.

The top eleven teams from eight different countries which had advanced from the qualifying round would compete in the knock-out format of three races. Ten teams competed in the Quarter Final, as Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis 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 Schümann & 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.

GEORGE SZABO
“I’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!”

HAMISH PEPPER
“We 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 downwind. Tight racing, I have no nails left!”

XAVIER ROHART
“I 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 didn’t complain but the umpire waved a red flag for both of us. As 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.”

For final scores… click here

Source: SSL

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