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French victorious at SSL City Grand Slam

Published on May 7th, 2016

Hamburg, Germany (May 7, 2016) – Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot (FRA) are the Star Sailors League (SSL) City Grand Slam Champions, winning 3000 points for the SSL ranking system and US$25000. After an intense battle between 86 Star teams, battling through fourteen races in just five days, a boat length was the only difference. On tight windward-leeward courses on Lake Alster, Hamburg, Germany, some of the finest, most intense yacht racing was witnessed by over 100,000 people.

Thousands of people from the city of Hamburg watched from the banks of the lake, and over 80,000 people around the world, watched the drama unfold live over the Internet. The superb facilities and race management of the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein were outstanding, and the 172 Star sailors that took part were a fine example of the ferocity, but also gentlemanly conduct, in the sport of sailing.

“I can say that was great, because it was so hard”, commented Xavier Rohart, “In this fleet you never knew if you would be first or last and after a great start I was thinking, this is our chance. We pushed hard at the start and we got in front, in clear air we could increase our lead. Then right at the end, the competition was coming with the wind and there was nothing we could do, except to keep a good angle and wait and we got the fresh breeze, just before the finish.

To win with Pierre-Alexis (Ponsot) is something special, we trained together for four years before the London Olympic Games and although we had a couple of good results, we did not feel good at the games, so there was something unfinished. Now with the Star Sailors League, this new movement, we have the opportunity to create something new and achieve something new, and it is wonderful that we can do that together.”

Norway’s Elvind Melleby, racing with American Josh Revkin were second taking 2764 SSL Ranking points and US$15,000. Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki (POL) were third taking 2528 SSL Ranking points and US$10,000. Negri and Lambertenghi (ITA) were fourth taking 2292 SSL Ranking points and US$8000. The SSL Ranking points will be updated next week, top ranking sailors will go to the SSL Finals in Nassau later this year.

Blow by Blow – The last day SSL City Grand Slam, Hamburg Germany

Thirty Star teams opened the day’s action with the final race of the Second Round, which was to decide the top ten teams to progress to the knockout stage. There was drama at the front of the fleet, as well as a three-way battle to make the precious tenth and final position for the knockout stage. Poland’s Kusznierewicz and Zycki and Italians Negri and Lambertenghi were vying for the top spot and with it a double bye straight into the final. Kusznierewicz/Zycki could only manage sixth, but it was enough to place second overall and win a bye through to the semifinal. Negri and Lambertenghi won the last race of the Second Round, winning a bye all the way to the SSL City Grand Slam final.

A terrific battle ensued for the tenth position, and a place in the SSL City Grand Slam final. Germany’s Stanjek and Kleen got a great start and led the race for the first two legs but then selected to take the western side of the course for the second beat, which proved very costly. Later in the race, Eric Doyle and Payson Infelise (USA), were penalized by the jury but recovered well to make the cut at the expenses of the young American team of Lawrence and Coleman, who just missed out.

Eight teams contested the SSL City Grand Slam quarterfinal, with the top five boats from the race, going on to the semifinal. Grael and Lillia (BRA) won the committee boat end took up a lonely position on the western side of the racecourse. The bold move paid off, as Grael and Lillia accelerated into a big lead and a win for the race. Elvind Melleby and Josh Revkin were second and Rohart and Ponsot third. However, out went SSL Lake Grand Slam winners George Szabo and Patrick Ducommon (USA), as well as local Hamburg sailors, Michael Koch and Carsten Witt. Eric Doyle also went out after valiantly fighting back after penalty turns had put the Americans to the back of the pack.

Kusznierewicz and Zycki re-joined the battle in the semifinal, which was fiercely contested with place changes in abundance on every leg. Grael / Lillia fought back after a poor first beat but were judged to foul Rohart & Ponsot approaching the leeward gate. World Champions, Diaz and Prada (USA) fell behind and valiantly fought back as did Polgar & Koy who were also made to do penalty turns but the local sailors just failed to make the final. Kusznierewicz / Zycki won the semifinal followed by Rohart / Ponsot with Melleby / Revkin taking the last place for the final.

Rohart / Ponsot nailed the pin end for the final race, to win the start, whilst Negri / Lambertenghi, who had re-joined the racing after two byes, got away well in the middle with Kusznierewicz / Zycki. Melleby / Revkin were also at full speed at the committee boat end. A twenty-knot gust came from nowhere, blasting the four boats. Rohart / Ponsot managed it well but Negri / Lambertenghi, perhaps a little out of battle practice from their byes, were taken by surprise and spun backwards, never to recover. Rohart / Ponsot managed to stay just ahead of the pack, as the breeze filled in from behind at the finish, to take victory in the first ever SSL City Grand Slam.

The next Star Sailors League Regatta will be the SSL Finals is the next star-studded battle for the Star Sailors League, which will take place in Nassau, Bahamas at the end of November 2016.

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FORMAT: The Prize Purse for the SSL City Grand Slam is CHF 100,000 (104,730.47 USD) shared between the top twenty teams. Races are scheduled to start each day at 9 AM, from Tuesday to Saturday (May 3-7). The regatta will consist of a Qualifying Series and a Final Series. The Qualifying Series will have a first and a second round. In the first round races will be sailed in groups decided by the organizing authority and a combined results list will be produced.

The top ranked 30 teams of the first round qualify for the second round, and the winning team in the first round will be awarded the “Heinz Nixdorf Trophy”.

In the second round all 30 teams will sail in one fleet, with a maximum of 5 races. The top 10 teams will go ahead to sail the Final Series, the first qualified team will go straight to the Final, and the second will have a bye to Semi-final. In the Quarter-final only 5 teams out of 7 will gain access to the Semi-final and only 3 teams out of 6 will join the second round winner to the Final (see diagram).

The first team to cross the line during the Final will be the first SSL City Grand Slam winner and also awarded with the 50th Erich F. Laeisz-Prize.

Source: SSL

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