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Encouraging starts for Bermudian pair

Heavy conditions: Wollmann is 40th after the opening races of the Laser Midwinters East Regatta in Florida

Benn Smith and Cecilia Wollmann put themselves in early contention for a spot in the Gold Fleet during yesterday’s opening races of the Laser Midwinters East Regatta in Florida.

Provisional results showed Smith sixteenth and Wollmann 40th among the 100 entries in the Laser Radial.

Smith, the son of former World Sunfish champion and past local Male Athlete of the Year Malcolm Smith, made the most of the 12-16 knots of breeze on offer en route to posting two impressive top-ten finishes.

He hit the ground running with a solid ninth-placed showing in the opening race, fell slightly off the pace with a thirteenth in the second, before ending the day on a high with another solid seventh place-finish in the day’s third and final race.

“The day went well besides from a few mistakes which could have been prevented and I’m aiming for a top-ten finish,” Smith said. “Hopefully I get a few top fives tomorrow to put me in a better position.”

Wollmann did not fare as well as her male compatriot but would have been encouraged to remain on course for a place in the Gold Fleet competing in Florida for the first time since qualifying for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio on the same waters at last month’s Sailing World Cup.

Wollmann, who has qualified for this summer’s Olympics, managed a twelfth, 32nd and eighteenth sailing in the heavier conditions which do not play to her strengths.

Smith and Wollmann, who finished as the top sailor from the Western Hemisphere at last December’s Youth Sailing World Championships in Malaysia, will now look to improve their ranking on the leaderboard when racing resumes today with the first of two drops to be made after the fifth race.

Overseas sailor Henry Marshall held a three-point advantage over the rest of the Laser Radial fleet after day one.

The Laser Midwinters East Regatta is being hosted by the Clearwater Yacht Club.

The regatta takes place from February 17 to 21, with all racing being held in the Gulf of Mexico West of Clearwater Beach.