David Hughes, who can walk to the Coconut Grove shoreline from his residence, won the Sailing World Cup Miami gold medal Saturday in the 470 class on his home course, partnering with helmsman Stu McNay to lead the Americans in a regatta with crucial Olympic ramifications.
During a week characterized by light winds and gray skies, fickle breezes predominated again, but the sun shone brightly on 10 fleets with 10 finalists in each competing for double points in the medal round.
Hughes and McNay were the only U.S. sailors to finish on top of the podium at the end of a six-day event that began with 711 sailors from 64 countries who parked their boats in Regatta Park, where the sounds of multiple languages filled the air. But one major goal was accomplished as the United States qualified in all 10 events for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
McNay and Hughes were able to control the left side of the starting line, tack at the gun and stake out a strong position.
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“We saw an opportunity at the start and were able to take advantage of it and get an early lead on the fleet,” said McNay, two-time Olympian in the 470, a two-person dinghy that requires precision teamwork. “Dave called some great shifts on the first upwind.”
McNay and Hughes rounded the first mark with a 30-second lead.
“It was an easy race course to become frustrated with as it was very shifty and variable,” Hughes said. “The teams that did well at this event just embraced it and played it forward from whatever position they were in.”
Brazil’s sailing star, five-time Olympic medalist Robert Scheidt, took gold in Laser with a fourth-place finish. Scheidt is mounting one more Olympic campaign in order to compete in Rio.
“I was worrying about the French guy,” Scheidt said. “He got to the first mark ahead of me, which made things very interesting. At the gate we had a split, which was lucky for me as I finished ahead of him.”
Six sailors in the Finn class started the race with a shot at gold, but Jorge Zarif of Brazil played the first two legs right and recovered adroitly during a big wind shift on the third to finish first overall. Zach Railey of Clearwater, trying to make his third Olympic team, placed fifth, and Caleb Paine of San Diego was sixth. Railey’s sister Paige won the Laser Radial medal race and placed seventh, which means the siblings are the top contenders in their classes for the U.S. team after the first stage of Olympic trials. Americans Sydney Bolger and Carly Shevitz placed seventh in women’s 470.
In the topsy-turvy women’s 470, China’s Shasha Chen and Haiyan Gao made up a 48-second deficit to win, and in the 49erFX, Danes Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen held off the hard-charging Swedes to place second to New Zealand’s Alex Maloney and Molly Meech.
Evi Van Acker of Belgium in the Laser Radial and Diego Botin and Iago Lopez of Spain in the 49er used match-racing tactics early and astute wind-reading to overcome opponents for the championship.
In the RS:X (windsurfing) class, Great Britain’s Byrony Shaw moved up from ninth to third to win her third consecutive Miami World Cup gold, and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Dorian van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands was a convincing winner. His teammates Mandy Mulder and Coen de Koning won the co-ed Nacra 17 catamaran.