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Up And Down Day At Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds
It was a tough fifth day of racing for all of the fleets at the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships with a challenging up and down wind playing havoc across the seven race courses.
It was scheduled to be a Super Tuesday with all of the fleets apart from the Women's RS:X scheduled to take to the water but the schedule did not quite go to plan with abandonments, strong current and a fickle breeze challenging the Race Committees.
All of the fleets managed to complete some racing with the Women's 470 rounding off their Qualification Series, the Laser and Laser Radial continued their gold fleet racing and the remaining fleets resumed qualification.
After yesterday's session of waiting the 49erFX fleet was anxious to get their world championship started. Up to four races per fleet were scheduled for the Duna course, the feature course with the huge grandstands. Over 1,000 local sailing enthusiasts greeted the sailors as they began their quest for gold fleet and ultimately the title.
For local 49erFX stars Tamara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos (ESP) it was a special day. Every time they rounded a mark or came near the grandstands a huge roar would erupt.
"We took inspiration from them today. It was lovely to hear them cheer us even in the second race when we were not doing so well, we knew they were here to support us," said hometown girl Berta.
The first race was dominated by starting, as the side current made for mostly port tack sailing. Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR), Tessa Parkinson and Chelsea Hall (AUS) and Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) nailed their starts, punching through the starboard tackers into commanding positions up the first beat. The Brazilians had the better boatspeed and managed to sail comfortably to the first bullet of the event with the Aussies and Brits finishing in the top 5.
In race 2 the wind and tide were more aligned making a more even beat. A number of teams tacked their way up the shifts and puffs, with the right hand side holding the advantage. Parkinson and Hall found great form again and lead comfortably through the first two and a half laps of the race. Unfortunately for them they mishandled a gybe and capsized on the last run, sending them back into 12th by the time they recovered. Still, a solid day for this duo who work full time and sail in their local skiff club in Perth.
The Blue fleet then got their turn and faced some challenging conditions. Canadians Erin Rafuse and Danielle Boyd were leading the first race in what was the best breeze of the day, ultimately being overtaken by the reigning European Champions, Ida Nielsen and Mari Olsen (DEN) who finished first. Their next race looked to be another good one until the wind died out for the last 100m of the first beat. Most of the fleet stacked up at the windward mark and many teams had to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid fouling. Laura Shoenfegger and Elsie Lovreck (AUT) escaped first from the mess and held on for a third. Kate MacGregor and Katrina Best (GBR) took the win, a nice recovery from their challenging first race.
Then the wind really started playing havoc with the fleet, as a system breeze dominated the sea breeze and came in at around 20 knots from 60 degrees right of where the wind had been. More shifty racing allowed each fleet to sail 3 races on the day, with nothing yet decided as we head into the second day of qualifying.
After a long day of waiting the Nacra 17 sailors were very keen this morning to start racing on their second day of competition. Around 12:00 the wind was enough to go out and Yellow Fleet left the beach. They could race two good races. Around 15.00 the Blue Fleet could start their first race. But after their first race they had to wait a long time on the water because of windshifts and wind speed that had ups and downs.
For both sailors and Race Committee these are very difficult days, all the more knowing that during the last few months of training the conditions were very beautiful.
Reigning World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou won both races in the Yellow Fleet. They are very happy with these results of this first day, "During the races of our fleet the conditions were very good. We are happy with this result, but we have still a lot of races to go.”
The Dutch team Mandy Mulder and Coen de Koning were also very happy with their results of the day, "With a 2nd and 7th place it's a good start of this championship. We are happy to be in second position after two races and look forward for coming days.”
The Italian team of Lorenzo Bressani and Giovanni Micol finished third and eighth in the yellow fleet. They started sailing the Nacra 17 this year and have trained a lot in Santander over the last month. Bressani is a professional sailor who won the 2010 and 2011 Melges 24 and Melges 32 World Championships whilst Micol previously sailed the 470. They were particularly happy about their second race performance because they had a bad start and came back from behind to the eighth position, "Coming from behind to eighth gives us a lot of self-confidence. This means we have the speed and power to sail in front of the fleet. Our goal is to be in the Gold Fleet, but this start of the event makes us very happy.”
Spanish team, Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco, decided to stop racing and have packed their boat to go home. Tara had a surgery a few weeks ago and is still recovering. During the first race the team noticed that they were not able to sail 100%. Martinez said, "We want to go for 100% and that's not possible at this moment. So we decided to stop now and go home and give Tara the time to recover fully.”
In the Blue Fleet the Swiss team Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger won the single Nacra 17 blue fleet race ahead of British team Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond. The Swiss team said, "We did a very good first race and are very happy with this result. Unfortunately we didn't race any more. But the Race Committee did all they could do in these difficult weather conditions with shifty wind and up and downs. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.”
Nacra 17 Report courtesy of Edwin Lodder, Nacra 17 Class Association
The Olympic qualification hunt is now well and truly game on, with 16 nations advancing to gold fleet and gunning for the ten qualification places on offer for Rio 2016.
A win from race 3 in the yellow fleet popped the 2012 Olympic silver medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) into the overall lead, helped by the discard coming into play to knock out their 11th place finish from race 1. Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jola Ogar took the win in the blue fleet and moved up to second, whilst overnight leaders Maelenn Lematire and Aloise Retornaz (FRA) dropped from first to third overall, after finishing eighth.
Race 4 was a nail biter, with gold and silver fleet qualification on the cards to decide the shortlist of nations in with a chance at Olympic qualification.
The Blue fleet winners Michelle Broekhuizen and Marieke Jongens (NED) took massive leaderboard gains and Slovenia's Tina Mrak and Veronika Macarol did the same in the yellow fleet.
Mills and Clark kept consistent to take a third place finish and wrap up the four race qualification series in first overall, with Vadlau and Ogar holding onto second and leaping up to third overall from their 3,1 scores are Broekhuizen and Jongens.
The gold fleet final series is set to unfurl into a massive battle for Olympic qualification as teams from 16 nations fight for just 10 nation slots. Brazil receives an automatic slot to Rio 2016, and as Brazil's two 470 Women teams have both advanced to gold fleet, the battle for them is all about finishing ahead of each other.
Lemaitre and Retornaz proved their day one race performance was no fluke, scoring an 8,10 today to advance to gold fleet in fourth overall. Impressive form from the 2013 and 2014 470 Junior World Champions, positions them as the only junior circuit team to qualify to gold fleet. Clear validation of how tough it is stepping up to senior fleet racing.
"It is great, because we have been training a lot,” said Lemaitre. "But the first day, we were really surprised to do this, but now we know it is possible so we will see. It is fantastic and great for us as it is very difficult in the senior fleet. We just did less mistakes than the others. We have to continue again and again. This is just four races so far,” she smiled.
Based on provisional results and subject to any protest outcomes, the 16 nations in the gold fleet in with a shot at qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are (in country order): Australia, Austria, China, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, United States of America.
Olympic Silver medallist, Marit Bouwmeester (NED), finally made it into first position overall after a steady climb up the rankings with consistent results and a first place in the only race of the day ahead of Evi Van Acker (BEL). Bouwmeester had a fairly easy time leading from start to finish, "It was tricky. I had a good start and managed to get off the start line well. I don't think I was first round the first mark but I had good downwind speed and had the lead by the next mark. I was happy. We were proper hiking in steady conditions which was really nice after all the previous light winds.”
Veronika Fenclova (CZE) scored a third place that was enough to get her back up into second spot whilst others around dropped back in the stronger wind.
Laser and Laser Radial Reports Courtesy of Jeff Martin, International Laser Class Association
Schedule of Racing:
12-18 September, Laser and Laser Radial
13-19 September, RS:X Men and RS:X Women
14-20 September, 470 Men and 470 Women
15-21 September, 49er, 49erFX, Finn and Nacra 17