Elite Field Forming for 2018 Stars Sailors League Finals

Published on August 31st, 2018

Lausanne, Switzerland (August 31, 2018) – Little more than three months’ remain until the Star Sailors League Finals 2018, the annual event that determines who is the best sailor among the ‘stars’ of the sailing world and allocation of the US$200,000 prize pot. For a sixth year, the Finals will be held in the azure waters of Nassau in the Bahamas, from December 3rd to 8th.

The plan for the sixth edition of the Star Sailors League’s most important event will be the same as previous SSL Finals, a four day long Qualification Series after which the top 10 teams will progress to the final knock-out stage of the competition. Top team from the knock-out stage progresses directly to the Final, while the runner-up goes to the semi-finals. Teams from 3rd to 10th in the Qualification Series have to fight in yet one more race in the Quarter Finals. The last rounds will all happen on the last day of competition, Saturday December 8th, and in the late afternoon the winners of the SSL Finals 2018 will be crowned directly after racing at Nassau Yacht Club.

Who will be among the 25 participating teams is also firming up. Ten spots are automatically allocated to the top 10 skippers in the Star Sailors League Rankings. The Rankings are currently based on events in the Star class with the intention of adding more classes to it in the future.

There are no races now that can alter the top 10 positions in the Rankings from now to the second Tuesday of September, traditionally the date in which results are frozen for the SSL Finals.

The remaining 15 places are invited positions going to young talented sailors, VIPs who have made significant achievements within their area of the sport or the winner of the Star World Championship, which this year will take place from October 7th to the 14th in Oxford, Maryland, USA.

The top 10 skippers from the SSL Rankings who have been invited to the Star Sailors League Finals 2018 are:

1 – Diego Negri (ITA)
2 – Robert Scheidt (BRA)
3 – Xavier Rohart (FRA)
4 – Lars Grael (BRA)
5 – Mark Mendelblatt (USA)
6 – Paul Cayard (USA)
7 – Eivind Melleby (NOR)
8 – George Szabo (USA)
9 – Augie Diaz (USA)
10 – Paul Goodison (GBR)

All of them have confirmed their attendance with the exception of Paul Goodison – who is waiting for approval from his America’s Cup team, American Magic. All of them will be sailing with the best crews in the business.

Diego Negri (ITA) is the skipper who has remained longest at the top of the Star Sailors League Ranking. He represented Italy at three Olympic Games and his record in the Star is impressive, winning the European Championship on two occasions and runner up at the Star World Championship three times. Negri hasn’t missed one Star Sailors League Finals since its debut in 2013. He will be coming again this time with his buddy Sergio Lambertenghi (ITA).

Robert Scheidt (BRA) is one the most talented sailors in history. With five Olympic medals and 14 World titles in Olympic classes, he is among a small group of sailing super stars. He lost gold at last year’s Star Sailors League Finals to Paul Goodison on the last puff of the last downwind half a boat length behind the Brit, we are certain that he will be coming this year to correct that – just as he did when he won the first Star Sailors League Finals in 2013. This will be his fifth participation.

Xavier Rohart (FRA) is President of the the Star Sailors League having founded it with other truly passionate Star sailors back in 2013. His great career has included bronze in Athens in 2004, a European title in 2015 and two World titles in 2003 and 2005. He will be sailing with his long term crew Pierre Alexis-Ponsot (FRA). Together they won the SSL City Grand Slam in 2016, but have yet to win the SSL Finals. May this be their year.

Lars Grael (BRA) won the Star World Championship three years ago in Argentina and came close to his second victory last year in Denmark. He’s a hero of the class and of sailing, having won two bronze medals at the Olympic Games on the Tornado, the first in Seoul in 1988, the second in Atlanta in 1996., but somehow he attended the SSL Finals for the first time only last year. He finished 12th with long term crew Samuel Gonçalves (BRA), an OCS in the seventh race not helping the Brazilians’ result.

Eivind Melleby (NOR) is reigning Star World Champion, he won it in July 2017 in Troense, Denmark, with crew Josh Revkin (USA), who’s been at every SSL Finals since the first one. Eivind and Josh finished second at the SSL City Grand Slam in Hamburg in 2016. At the last SSL Finals they just missed the last knockout round, but they’ll have another shot at it this year.

The United States of America is the most successful country of this year’s Star Sailors League Ranking with four among the top 10. San Diego’s George Szabo (USA) and Miami’s Mark Mendelblatt (USA) have both won two Star Sailors League events each: George won the first 2015 SSL Lake Grand Slam in Grandson, Switzerland, and the 2015 SSL Finals and Mark won the SSL Finals in 2014 and in 2016. Mendelblatt finished third last year while George was not among the 10 finalists.

The other two are Paul Cayard (USA) and Augie Diaz (USA).

Cayard claimed silver at the Star North American Championship a month ago, while Diaz won gold at the Star Europeans the week before. This will be Cayard’s fifth SSL Finals out of six. He won his Gold Star at the Star Worlds in 1988 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with crew Steve Erickson, but he is among the most eclectic sailors ever, having won the 1998 Whitbread Round the World Race as skipper and a Louis Vuitton Cup, plus many World Championships in Maxis and TP52s. His big love is the Star boat, and he is not afraid to admit it, but can he translate this into a win in Nassau?

Diaz has been in the SSL Ranking top ten skippers for a long time, and he’s been to every SSL Finals since the first one in 2013. 2016 was his golden year: he won the Star World Championship in his hometown of Miami, and the Eastern Hemisphere in Split, Croatia, and followed this in 2017 winning the North America Championship and in 2018 the Europeans in Flensburg, Germany.

There’ll be a battle within the battle among the American crews, but in the end everyone only wants the title and the biggest share of the $200,000 prize pot.

The action will be streamed LIVE on the Internet with expert commentary from special studio guests. On the water, the latest in hi-tech camera technology, as well as Virtual Eye 3D Graphics, will provide ideal viewing. Additionally, armchair sailors can also join the race with Virtual Regatta.

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Source: Rachele Vitello

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