Winning with two races to spare

Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page demolish opposition at 470 Worlds reports Paul Brotherton

Saturday August 27th 2005, Author: Paul Brotherton, Location: United States
Winning any event with two races to spare is a fine achievement. To win the 470 World Championships with two races to spare is a truly great achievement.

Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page have savaged the rest of the mens fleet at these World Championsips in San Francisco. From the opening day of qualifying until they crossed the finish line as Champions in race 12 today, their mastery of the boat and the testing conditions has been absolute. Assured handling, calm decision making and when required, a turbo button. Not dissimilar to great 470 sailors of the past, at the crucial moments they appear able to inject a burst of speed. Most teams are happy to hold their lanes out of the start, Wilmot and Page command their lane and blow away the boat to windward and the two to leeward, they are well worth avoiding on the line.

Not an uncommon association with winners at 470 World Championships is Victor Kovalenko. The Ukranian-born Australian head coach has a good history. "That's ten, nine Class World Championships and one ISAF World Sailing Championships." (sailed in 470s) Victor has a grand total of 33 medals at World and European Championships. Oh and the small matter seven Olympic medals three of them Gold. "I am just very lucky to always have good talent," was Victor's modest view - hard to swallow given that before Victor arrived in Australia, no mens' team had made the top 10 at a World Championships in over 12 years.

Wilmot's view is quiet different: "We just sail the boat. He really is bloody good. We are given the freedom to make our decisions on and off the water, but we involve Victor in most of those"

Victor has a reputation for being a strict enforcer of policy and procedure but that may be evolving. "In the beginning I control everything, but now my work is done and it is up to the sailors. My job is to identify the characters and the personalities. If they have sufficient hardware I will install good software."

This fine win will help ease some of the pain of under-performing in Athens. It is unlikely that Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield would have swapped their Athens Silver for winning here. A medal here for the likable British duo is by no means a guarantee, but having been in the top three for all of the finals it would be an injustice if they were to miss out at the final hurdle.

The women did not fail to deliver on the promise of some tight and controversial racing. Having led all week the wheels may just be falling off the The Dutch Challenge. De Konning and Berkhout have been slowly and inexorably losing their focus. Pressure is cramping their decision making and the real chance of being World Champions seems to be eating away at their team work. It was the French and the British who have profited from this crash. Both sharing the spoils today with a first and a second.

This event may be decided in the room. A finish line incident between the French and the Dutch resulted in the Dutch broaching and hitting the finish boat. De Konning and Berkhout capsized, righted, completed a penalty turn and finally re-finished in 23rd. They are protesting on the basis that the French did not provide sufficient room for them to round correctly. Having seen TV footage taken from a not perfect angle it would appear that there was room and they simply caught a wave and found themselves too high, got caught by the ebb and pushed onto the committee boat.

The rule of thumb is if you are in the room and safe you still stand a 50% chance of being flicked. As a neutral observer this may be the only way the Dutch might rescue there assault on the title. The momentum on the water is fully with the French and the Team GBR duo of Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark. If the protest is dismissed the final day will be an amazing three way battle, the boats separated by only three points. If the protest is up held then the french will need a miracle and the British girls will take a one point lead into the final days racing. One suspects the jury are in for a difficult evening.

To see full results click here

Post-protest update...

The French World Ranked No1 sailors have been disqualified from race 11. The International jury upheld the protest submitted by the Dutch for the finish line incident and reinstated De Koning and Berkhout into their original finish position (the french were 2nd on-the-water).

During the protest hearing TV footage came to light that would indicate a boat handling issue being the real cause for the collision rather than any lack of room. The French of course did not have access to this prior to the protest. If they are able to access this tape and produce it as new evidence it is impossible to imagine the jury being able to do anything other than reverse the decision.

Currently the points stand with De Koning and Berkhout leading with a three point gap over Bassadone and Clark. Petitjean and Douroux are third 10 points from the lead.

One can only hope that the French sailors who have been truly magnificent since their poor opening day are given the opportunity to show the jury this new evidence. Tomorrow morning will no doubt see some frantic activity.

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