By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLY decorated Olympian Robert Schmidt and his Brazilian teammate Henry Raul Boening came into the fifth Star Sailors League Final sitting in 22nd place in the standings, but after the first day of competition, they surged to the top of the list.
In the first two races held on day one of the week-long competition yesterday on the eastern end of Montagu Bay, the Brazilians came through with a second and third place to collect five points for first place.
Schmidt has won two Olympic gold and silver and one bronze in five games, in addition to clinching a SSL event title in 2012. He’s hoping to improve on his third place finish in his last impressive appearance here in 2015.
The Poland team of Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki, ranked 16th coming into the finals, is in second place with six points after producing a fourth and second place. Kusznierewicz is a second place finisher here in 2012 and third in 2013.
Americans Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih, who were ranked at No.7, got off to a great start, winning the first race, but slipped to sixth in the second race to close out the day in third place with seven points. Mendelblatt won the SSL final title here in 2014 after taking third place the year before in 2013.
In fourth place is the wild card team of Paul Goodison of the United Kingdom and Frithjof Kleen of Germany with seven points as well with their third and fourth respectively.
And after coming in seventh in the first race, the fourth ranked French team of Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot captured the final race to post their total of eight points to round out the top five.
The American top ranked team of Augie Diaz and Austin Sperry had their share of difficulties with a 12th and 24th place finish for their total of 36 points for 20th place.
A total of 25 teams, inclusive of 10 of the top ranked teams and 15 wild card entries as well as two America’s Cup winners, six Olympic gold medallists, four Olympic silver medallists, 13 Olympic bronze medallists, 28 world champions in star class, 11 world champions in Olympic class, three Louis Vuitton Cup winners, two Volvo Ocean Race winners and 11 SSL event winners, are all expected to be competing here.
After four days of racing, the competitors will go into the knockout stages. Single races will decide who survives and who is heading for the dock. The last four teams will contest a thrilling final race - the first to finish will be the winner of the 2017 SSL Finals and take home the lion’s share of the $200,000 prize purse.
The competitors were entertained at Government House by Governor General Marguerite Pindling during the official opening ceremonies on Monday night. On the weekend, they will interact with the local sloop sailors in Montagu in the Best of the Best Regatta.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Cuture Michael Pintard will be the keynote speaker at the opening of the regatta on Friday at 7 pm. On Sunday at 6 pm, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis will take the spotlight when he addresses the closing ceremonies.
Also on Friday, the SSL will honor legendary Sir Durward ‘Sea Wolf’ Knowles for his accomplishment as the oldest Olympic gold medalist at the age of 100 years.
For those interested, they can watch all of the action live with expert commentary from special studio guests. On the water, the latest in hi-tech camera technology, as well as Virtual Eye 3D Graphics, will provide thrilling viewing. Armchair sailors can also join the race with Virtual Regatta.
Fans can also keep following the races on the official website, Facebook Instagram and Twitter for the latest happens on the SSL Finalists’ list, social events and more of the Star Sailors League major event of the year.