Competing in his Biscayne Bay backyard, Coconut Grove’s Dave Hughes paired with Stu McNay to win the 470 class gold medal at Sailing World Cup Miami on a rainy Sunday afternoon that kept sailors working vigorously in unpredictable light winds.
McNay and Hughes won the title for the third time, were the only Americans in the field of 10 Olympic classes to make the podium and further established themselves as the top athletes on the US Sailing Team.
“Due to the challenging, shifty conditions, it was the type of regatta where you had to be mentally fit and fight back when a gap opened,” Hughes said.
They launched from Regatta Park into the double-points medal race with a slim eight-point lead over the Rio Olympic bronze medalists from Greece and a 12-point margin over Japan.
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They crossed the line fifth to secure a four-point victory.
“We had a tough start, then it was hard to anticipate the shifts, so we had to sail in the moment,” said McNay, of Providence, Rhode Island.
Hughes was pumping the sail from the trapeze in concert with McNay at the helm when the air softened.
“It’s taxing, and it’s hard to find the correct tempo at times,” Hughes said.
Eight of 10 U.S. boats advanced to medal races in the first year of the quadrennial leading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — typically a year of reassessment and changing partnerships.
But McNay and Hughes plan to stick together after their disappointing fourth-place finish in Rio.
They’ve won just about every title and accolade in their class and were part of the winning Melges 24 team here last month.
“An Olympic gold medal is a bit of unfinished business,” McNay said.
Replied Hughes: “An Olympic gold medal is a huge bit of unfinished business.”
Fort Lauderdale’s Erika Reineke, a Boston College sailor, placed seventh in Laser Radial.
“I had two confident and successful upwind legs today,” she said. “Going forward, I’ll be looking for podium finishes.”
Luke Muller of Fort Pierce, a Stanford student, placed fourth in Finn.
U.S. 470 coach Nathan Wilmot, a former world and Olympic champ from Australia, said McNay and Hughes didn’t have the fastest boat but were consistent during a week of “all-over-the-shop and on the last day awful conditions.”
“They have a lot of trust in each other,” he said.
The Netherlands won a tight women’s 470 race when Great Britain erred on the final leg.
“A really exciting game, and we took the opportunity to give dirty air to them,” said Dutch skipper Afrodite Zegers, also a concert pianist.
“Now we’ll go for beers together.”
Jorge Zarif added a gold to Brazil’s total with victory in Finn. Jean Baptiste Bernaz of France dominated Laser. Vasileia Karachaliou of Greece was the upset winner of Laser Radial.