Really tricky conditions
Today saw the 49er and RS:X fleets get their regattas underway making it the busiest day on the water yet. They joined the Laser, Laser Radial, Yngling and Finn fleets on the water with the Stars and Tornados having a lay-day.
With the majority of fleets split into two groups and only five course areas there is an effective first and second flight of boats. The Lasers, Laser Radials, RS:Xs and Ynglings were first out on the water. Racing got underway at 13:00 (local time) and competitors were greeted by a shifty ten knot breeze.
Yesterday Shirley Robertson, Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor got their regatta off to a flying start by scoring a first and a second, whilst fellow Brits Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson took a second and a third to trail the two time Olympic Medalist by two points. Today it looked like the pattern would continue in race one as Robertson took third with Ayton in fourth. However in race two Robertson struck the committee boat at the start forcing her to do turns, ending the race in ninth while Ayton went on to take a second. This left Ayton, Webb and Wilson leading overall and Robertson, Lush and Macgregor trailing in second. “It was lighter today and, I think, the most shifty conditions we have had so far. We are happy so far but the goal is to win the event so we will keep plugging away at that,” commented a focussed but happy Ayton. Sally Barkow, Debbie Capozzie and Carrie Howe managed to up their game and pulled a second and a first out of the bag today pulling them up to level points with Robertson.
The Laser Radial fleet has been convincingly led by Lijia Xu (CHN) so far this week with the young Chinese sailor scoring three firsts and a sixth. A discard was due to come in after the first race (race five in the Championship as a whole) and so it must have been a mixture of despair and relief when Xu saw her number on the board indicating she had fallen foul to the black flag. This coupled with her subsequent fourth place and Tania Elias-Calles-Wolf’s (MEX) two first places today sees the Mexican pull up to level on points making the battle for first place suddenly a lot closer. French sailor, Sophie De Turkheim (FRA) is now in third after a third and an eighth today. This event will play a big part in the French selection for both the Pre-Olympics and Olympic Games themselves. When asked after racing if this played on her mind De Turkheim said: “I learned a lot from sailing in the Europe when I did not qualify for the Olympics. I am just out on the water now racing against all the other girls, not racing against the French.”
In the Laser fleet a discard was also due to come into play today which, as we were informed in the press briefing, should see Tom Slingsby (AUS), shot up the scoreboard as he is able to discard the 21st position he racked up in race one. This turned out to be a prophetic comment as Slingsby continues to sail fast in the increasing wind scoring a second and a first today. With the 21st now as a discard he is on five points, six points ahead of second placed Thomas Le Bretton (FRA). Previous event leader, Simon Groteluschen (GER), took a fourth and 18th place today dropping him to third overall.
The tricky and shifty conditions the Ynglings experienced on course four, one of the furthest out courses, also caused trouble for the Finn fleet today who started at approx 16:30. With the wind building in the afternoon this problem was exasperated for the Finns who found themselves with moments of 20 knots on one side of the course and very little on the other. The first race was sailed in these tricky conditions with a massive spread in the fleet by the race end. Robert Deaves reported some other difficulties from the race track. Canadian Chris Cook rounded the windward mark in sixth place only to be yellow flagged for pumping when the Oscar flag (free pumping) was up. The jury later apologised for the decision but Cook was evidently quite happy. “In a strange way it worked in my favour as I then took some shifts I may otherwise not have taken, and which moved me up to third,“ he commenteds. Race two was attempted but the conditions made it impossible for a fair race to be sailed so the fleet were sent home.
The 49er fleets were to be some of the latest races in the schedules. By this late stage in the afternoon / early evening the gusts were still very strong and the wind was still shifting. Due to these tricky weather conditions not all 49er flights managed to get in racing so results at this stage do not include one group of sailors. However, it would be hard to imagine anyone bettering the performance of reigning European Champions, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes. The British pairing scored a first and a second in today’s racing leaving them current leaders. “With the wind conditions out there on the course, it was clear that only the right hand track was the only way to go, both upwind and down,” explained Rhodes. “There were some pretty big gusts out there, but we held on and are pretty pleased with our first day,” commented Rhodes. “World Championships aren’t won on the first day alone,” Morrison continued “so the results don’t really count for a great deal at this stage. We’re just pleased to have made no silly mistakes out there today!”
Tomorrow the Laser and Laser Radial fleets will have a layday as the 470 men and women get their regatta underway. With the 49ers also trying to catch up on their lost races from yesterday it will be a very busy Saturday.
Results, here .