For a second time, a Brazilian team claimed victory in the Star Sailors League (SSL) Finals, but on this occasion it was not the bookies’ choice. Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening were favorites going into the event and completely dominated the last four days of the qualifiers here in Nassau, The Bahamas.
However, on Saturday, it was Jorge Zarif and Pedro Trouche who won every stage. Aged 26 and 27 respectively, Zarif, the reigning Star World Champion and 2013 Finn Gold Cup winner, and Trouche, are the first team younger than 40 to win the annual event that aims to determine the top ‘star’ of the sailing world.
“We are surprised we had this kind of dominance, because the level is so high,” admitted Zarif. “We sailed our best today. We gave 100 percent, hiking and
pumping the whole time and that definitely made the difference. It is a privilege to be here and a privilege to beat those guys.”
Racing on Saturday took place under an overcast sky with the course moved back inside Nassau’s Montagu Bay. A brisk easterly wind was blowing directly into the bay with gusts at times reaching 20 knots.
The day kicked off with the eight quarter-finalists doing battle. Zarif and Trouche won this with the bottom three, Paul Cayard/Arthur Lopes, Lars Grael/Samuel Goncalves and Freddy Lööf/Edoardo Natucci, eliminated; Cayard and Lopes were hampered after picking up a penalty on the first beat.
The young Brazilians next won the semi-finals. Mark Mendelblatt and crew Brian Fatih, whose second place at the end of the qualifiers, had fast tracked them directly to the semis, lost out despite finishing the race overlapped with Norway’s Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin. Mendelblatt and Fatih, the two time Star Sailors League Finals winners, were eliminated along with French duo Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot and Polish Olympic legend Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Życki.
Up the first beat of the final, Robert Scheidt and Henry Boening made what the Olympic sailing star admitted was in retrospect a mistake: he tacked on Italian-German duo Diego Negri and Frithjof Kleen, instead of having continued on to the right to take on his fellow countrymen. In the end the two teams fought it out for second and third, with Scheidt and Boening crossing the line ahead of Negri and Kleen.
“If we had crossed and gone all the way to him, then we would have got the leftie, but they are decisions you have to make in a second,” admitted Scheidt. He added of the winners and his compatriots: “They fully deserved today. They won three races by a large margin. They were fast and sailing well both upwind and downwind. Jorge has a bright future ahead of him.”
Zarif said: “We had good starts, with great upwind speed and that made the job less difficult. We could put ourselves into a position where we could control the fleet a lot of the time.”
While they had speed, it had also been a huge physical effort for the young Brazilians. “We hiked super hard and we pumped super hard and that made a difference today. I am super tired now,” said Zarif.
While this was Zarif’s fourth participation in the Star Sailors League Finals, this was his crew Pedro Trouche’s first. Remarkably, it was also the first time he and Zarif had sailed together, although they have known each other since they trained together in the Laser in 2005. Zarif’s World Championship winning crew Guilherme de Almeida was tied up this past week with his wedding.
“It is the biggest thing I have won,” admitted Trouche, who next intends to compete in February’s inaugural Star Junior World Championships in Miami, Florida, USA. “I have never sailed at a level like this before. It is the first time I have beaten Robert (Scheidt). That is a nice feeling! He is a legend. I am very happy,” said Trouche.
For winning the Star Sailors League Finals, Zarif and Trouche not only gained the credo of beating many of the world’s top sailors, but also won US$40,000 of the total US$200,000 prize pot.