Star European Championship and SSL Breeze Grand Slam officially open
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 11:18 AM
The event Opening Ceremony saw the 94 teams gather in the main square ahead of what looks to be a fiercely competitive event
The innovative Star Sailor’s League is, this week, stepping into a new phase of development with the first ever combined Star Sailors League Breeze Grand Slam and International Star Class Yacht Racing Association (ISCYRA) European Championships in Riva del Garda, Italy.
Both the Star Class and the Star Sailors League have long been revered for its ability to attract the best of the best from across the sport and this week looks set to deliver another fleet jam-packed with legends and top sailing talent. Here, unlike the SSL Finals in Nassau, in December, there will be the chance for amateurs to mix it up with some of the sport’s biggest legends too.
In all, just shy of 100 boats and 200 sailors from 22 nations will take to the famous waters of Lake Garda to compete for the title of both Star European Champion and SSL Breeze Grand Slam winner.
The event will consist of a Qualifying Series and a Finals Series. Regular fleet racing will make up the bulk of the series running from Wednesday 15th May until Sunday 19th May. Immediately after the final qualifying series race – set to be sailed early Sunday morning – the format moves into the knock-out series familiar to anyone who has watched SSL racing in the last six years.
The crew who tops the Qualifying Series will progress directly to the Final and second place will proceed direct to the Semi-Final. Boats placing from third to 10th in the Qualifying Series qualify for the Quarter-Final.
Once the single Quarter-Finals race has concluded, the top five teams move onto the semi-final and are joined by the runner up from the Qualifying Series. The top three teams from this single race then go on to join the winner of the qualifying series for a single-race Final.
The winner of that final race will take the title of both ISCYRA Star European Champion and SSL Breeze Grand Slam winner 2019 and the biggest share of the $100,000 prize pot split between the top 20
With its imposing cliffs funneling thermal winds down the lake, Garda is often referred to as a Mecca for racing sailors and can usually be relied upon to deliver consistently windy conditions. However, the forecast for the week ahead looks like it could be rather more of a tactical battle than the straightline boatspeed race to the cliffs, which can be a feature of the venue when the thermally enhanced afternoon wind – the Ora coming from the south – has filled in.
The current forecast is for warm ambient temperatures but some rain and increasing cloud cover as the week progresses. Should this be the case, the wins are likely to go to the canniest sailors who are able to keep their heads out of the boat and spot the best shifts and pressure.
Despite being a Brazilian by birth and the country for whom he has won a stunning five Olympic medals, Robert Scheidt will be considered something of a local favourite for this event. Scheidt currently does his Olympic Laser training on Lake Garda and lives here for much of the year. As such if the conditions are as variable as they look to be for the week then he may well have something of a local advantage, to boost his already considerable talents. “It’s a great place to sail here, you get such good weather and it’s really beautiful. So yes, I’ve been doing a lot of my Laser training here lately,” he confirms. “We will have to see what happens with the weather for the week but that is true for sailing everywhere, the weather can always be different.
“It’s really great to see so many boats here and seeing the SSL coming in and boosting an event like this too. The Star is such a great boat to sail. It’s so technical and physical and tactical that you get so much out of it. And it will be great this week with big stars here like Paul [Cayard] and Olympic champion Freddie Loof and then regular sailors can be up against these really big names.
“I think there are a lot of people who can win it, and the thing with the format is that your aim has to be to make it into the top ten at the end of the week and then just see what happens from there. Really that’s the only way you can approach the event and for sure, that means sailing like a normal regatta for this size of fleet and just trying to reduce the number of big scores you might get – make sure you are close to the top 15 going round the first mark.”
Possibly less well-known, but hotly tipped to do well this week is American Eric Doyle, who arrives in Garda on top form with a string of impressive finishes to his name this season already. Doyle took victory at the recent Bacardi Cup and was second in the Star Mid-Winters in Miami, which directly preceded it. The question will be whether he can carry this form over into the almost 100 strong fleet out on the lake this week.
Looking to get one over on his fellow American sailor is Paul Cayard, veteran of seven America’s Cup campaigns, and who won his first Star World Championship back in 1998! Cayard is acutely aware of the challenges that the week could present: “When the breeze is up there are probably about 20 boats that are likely to be first around the top mark in the Star, but when it is lighter that grows to be probably about 70 per cent of the fleet,” he explains. “So I think there could be some pretty big scores this week.
“When we were out training yesterday we also saw that in the lighter weather then you could get boats that are only about 100 metres apart but one might be in wind that is 5 knots stronger and lifted 10 degrees, so there is going to be some risk management at play.”
Also hotly tipped will be the Polish Mateusz Kusznierewicz who’s second at the Bacardi Cup this year marks yet another top finish for the Polish sailor. Kusznierewiczrarely finishes outside the top ten at any Star events and has been ranked in the top ten in the overall rankings pretty consistently for several years, which should see him a likely candidate come the knock out series.
Other top names to keep an eye out for will be Diegro Negri (ITA), Xavier Rohart (FRA), Augie Diaz (USA), Lars Grael (BRA), Frederick Lööf (SWE), Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) and many more. It looks set to be a week of top action from some of the sports greatest sailors. But, as Cayard has pointed out, it would not be surprising to see some of the less well-known names having their day in front of the legends.
You can follow all the action live and for free every day of the event, streamed on the internet with expert commentary from double Olympic gold medallist, Shirley Robertson (GBR) and Star Olympic campaigner and coach, Maurice O’Connell (IRL). On the water, the latest in hi-tech camera technology, as well as 3D tracking Graphics, will provide thrilling viewing. If you have a website and are interested in embedding the live video stream please contact us.