Boats racing on Biscayne Bay at the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Lasers in action at last year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup out on Biscayne Bay.

The Games of the 31st Olympiad, set for Rio de Janeiro in August 2016, are around 900 days away, but the athletes who will be on the quest for gold and national glory aren’t sitting around binge-watching Breaking Bad—the training for the Olympics is a full-time career, and sailing has a long series of competitions and time trials before anybody gets to Brazil. One of them begins at the end of this month, when about 500 athletes, both men and women from up to 40 countries, descend on Miami and test their skills in the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup regatta, from January 25 to February 1.

It’s the third of five ISAF regattas this year around the world and the only one held in North America. Gary Bodie, 58, is cochairman of the regatta and was for 10 years the head coach of the US sailing team, which during his tenure won eight Olympic medals, including a gold and silver at his last Games at Beijing in 2008.

When the average person hears the word “regatta,” the first image that comes to mind is the big boats of the America’s Cup races....

Olympic sailing is smaller boats, one or two people in each boat. The athletic part of smaller boats is stronger, and it’s a different kind of athleticism than you see in the America’s Cup. But Ben Ainslie, the British multiple medalist who was on [the winning] Oracle [America’s Cup team], sailed Miami every year for seven or eight years. That’s the level that comes to Miami from around the world.

The sailors all look like Tour de France riders: long, lean, and muscular.

You’re accurate with your description. There are 10 different classes of Olympic sailing, and depending on the size of the sailor, the weight of the boat, and other technical factors, it tends to typecast a body form. Actually, many sailors cross-train on bicycles because that helps give you the leg strength that’s important in sailing.

This regatta lasts eight days. How is it structured?

Everybody races Monday through Friday, two or three races a day, depending on the class. The top 10 scorers in each class advance to Saturday’s medal race.

What makes Miami a good place for sailing competitions?

The same thing that makes it a great winter destination: It’s warm, it’s sunny, the breeze blows pretty reliably. Biscayne Bay is relatively protected, so you don’t have big ocean [waves] and you generally don’t have raging winter storms. It’s not the most challenging place, but it’s a really good place to sail. Miami is the winter home of the US team, and a number of other countries come to set up shop for a month to six weeks when it’s too cold in Europe.

Where’s the best place to watch?

Rickenbacker Causeway, to Hobie Beach, the windsurfing beach, is the best vantage place from shore. The boats compete right there on the south side of the causeway. Or if you own a boat and you want to get close up, you can just come out on the water.

January 25–February 1 in Biscayne Bay. For more information, contact the US Sailing Center Miami, 305-854-1058; www.sailing.org/worldcup/regattas/miami_2014.

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