If one had watched the three days of intense racing during the Star Sailors League qualifying series, Saturday’s result wouldn’t come as a surprise. Scheidt and Prada came out of the qualifiers at the top of the leaderboard with four wins in nine race and a fourth as their worst score. They clearly showed they were at the top of their game, dominating a fleet of 17 of the world’s best sailors. No matter how many Olympic medals or world championships their opponents might have, the two Brazilians would always come to the top. Even when the top ten qualifying teams sailed today in three consecutive knock out races that could have added a factor of randomness and upset the form book, Scheidt and Prada kept their cool and took the wins that mattered.
What makes Scheidt so successful? It must certainly be the combination of factors that make great athletes. Whatd made Michael Jordan to be one of the best basketball players of all times? What made Pele one of the world’s best soccer players? It’s a combination of natural talent, dedication and hard work. Take for example his stunning recoveries downwnind. Scheidt seems to know when to ride the waves, never too early, never too late, each time making a small gain. It’s that accumulation of small gains that turns a four-boat deficit to a four-boat advantage. His boat setup and trimming were always perfect and he and Prada sailed in a smoother way.
However, even that natural talent wouldn’t be enough without the hard work, dedication and perfectionism. On Friday, after he claimed the first race with ease and mathematically guaranteed a berth on Saturday’s quarterfinal race, he kept on racing, stating to the live TV commentator he wasn’t happy with his upwind speed and needed that final qualifying race to make more adjustments.
Even if Scheidt and Prada are the irrefutable protagonists of this week in Nassau, special mention should be made to Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki. The two Polish sailors came to the inaugural Star Sailors League Finals at the last moment. They finished the qualifying round in seventh place but in the day that really counted their performance was exceptional. In the final race they truly put a lot of pressure on Scheidt and Prada and made their life difficult in the first run where the two boats were neck and neck. The Brazilians finally got the upper hand but the Poles didn’t go down without a fierce fight.
Racing this week had been close and exciting and we don’t think there would be any arguments to refute it. How else could it be given the pedigree of the sailors and the good weather and wind conditions Nassau offered. A bit more breeze and swell would have resulted in spectacular shots and TV footage but one can’t have everything. The participating sailors were enthusiastic about the Star Sailors League concept and the $200,000 prize purse is definitely attractive. The jury is still out about the future of the Star Sailors League (SSL) but we think the first test was passed with honors. Next week we will have an in-depth interview with Michel Niklaus, SSL spokesperson and godfather, on the philosophy behind and the future plans.
Star Sailors League Finals – Final Results after 9 qualifying races (1 discard), Quarters, Semis and Finals
1. Robert Scheidt (BRA) / Bruno Prada (BRA) – 2,(4),1,3,1,2,2,1,1 – 13 / QF 4 / SF 1 / F 1
2. Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL) / Dominik Zycki (POL) – 4,(14),4,6,12,11,3,8,9 – 57 / QF 6 / SF 4 / F 2
3. Mark Mendelblatt (USA) / Brian Fatih (USA) – 6,2,3,5,3,7,(9),3,3 – 32 / QF 5 / SF 3 / F 3
4. Diego Negri (ITA) / Sergio Lambertenghi (ITA) – 1,1,6,9,2,13,6,(15),11 – 49 / QF 7 / SF 2 / F 4
5. Johannes Polgar (GER) / Markus Koy (GER) – 11,15,(17),15,5,5,1,11,4 – 67 / QF 2 / SF 5
6. Xavier Rohart (FRA) / Pierre-Alexis Ponsot (FRA) – 7,6,5,10,6,1,11,(17),5 – 51 / QF 1 / SF 6
7. Robert Stanjek (GER) / Frithjof Kleen (GER) – 13,5,2,(16),7,10,5,5,8 – 55 / QF 3 / SF 7
8. Michael Hestbaek (DEN) / Claus Olesen (DEN) – 5,11,12,17,16,9,(16),6,2 – 77 / QF 8
9. Eivind Melleby (NOR) / Mark Strube (USA) – 3,8,10,4,(14),3,4,12,7 – 51 / QF 9
10. Augie Diaz (USA) / John Von Schwarz (USA) – 8,7,7,13,8,(19),12,9,10 – 74 / QF 10
11. Andy Maloney (NZL) / Tyler Bjorn (CAN) – (17),12,11,7,11,8,14,4,15 – 82
12. Paul Cayard (USA) / Austin Sperry (USA) – 9,16,14,12,4,15,(18),2,13 – 85
13. Flavio Marazzi (SUI) / Renato Marazzi (SUI) – 14,(18),13,1,13,14,15,10,6 – 86
14. Ed Wright (GBR) / Petter Morland Pedersen (NOR) – 10,9,(15),14,15,12,7,7,12 – 86
15. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) / Pascal Rambeau (FRA) – (18),3,8,11,18,4,17,16,18 – 95
16. George Szabo (USA) / Craig Moss (USA) – (16),10,16,8,9,16,10,14,14 – 97
17. Tomas Hornos (USA) / Joshua Revkin (USA) – 15,17,9,(18),10,6,13,13,16 – 99
18. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) / Edoardo Natucci (ITA) – 12,13,18,2,17,(19),8,18,17 – 105
In the first two races of the day, the quartefinals and semifinals, winning wasn’t the goal but rather making the cut. As long as a skipper and his crew were in the top seven in the quarterfinals and then the top four in the semifinals they made the cut and advanced to the following stage. Winning didn’t bring more than bragging rights as the score was set to zero each time. However, in the final race of the day and the event there was one goal. Cross the finish line ahead of everybody, claim the inaugural champion title and pocket $40,000.
With just four boats in the final race the tactics were quite simple. There wasn’t any reason to get in trouble in the prestart as long as the skippers had a clear start at the end of the line they thought was favored. While at the beginning of the day the skies were clear and the clouds didn’t enter into the strategic planning, the final race was marked by the big, dark clouds to the north. The race committee had also decided to hold a longer race with an upwind finish after five legs.
Scheidt and Prada hit the line at the pin end, opted for the left-hand side of the course and took the lead early on. They rounded the first weather mark in the lead but with the Poles hot on their heels. The Brazilians had a slim advantage of a couple of boatlenghths at the start of the first run and while we thought they would easily stretch downwind, as they have been doing so far this week, they did sweat and the two boats were neck and neck. As the breeze had dropped and the current had switched direction, the sea was flatter and as a result, the key to keep speed was rhythmic pumping.
At the same time there was a fight for third place between Mark Mendelblatt and Diego Negri, and the Italian had the upper hand in the first run. Scheidt rounded the bottom mark again with a slight lead and headed to the left on the second beat. As the clouds moved over the race course the breeze seemed quite even but Scheidt found that extra pressure on the left and stretched his lead. Kusznierewicz wasn’t able to threaten Scheidt from that point and the two Brazilians would sail to victory in seamless way, securing the first ever champion title of the Star Sailors League.
In the fight for third place, Mark Mendelblatt came out victorious thanks to Diego Negri’s decision in the third and final beat to choose the left-hand side of the course. The gamble didn’t pay and the Italian skipper gave away the lead he had built in the second run.