Having sailed three races yesterday, today has been a comparatively short one with just one to sail, the final of the qualifying series.
Going into today’s racing joint leaders with Croats Šime Fantela and Igor Marenic, the Coster brothers from the Netherlands came first in the yellow group, their third bullet out of six races. They now have now pulled into the lead of the Men’s division at the end of the qualifying round.
“It is nice to be right up there,” enthused Sven Coster. “We had a good start at the committee boat and we played the right shifts and we came in with more pressure.” Today with the course set more offshore, the current was less of a factor, he says, although counter current on the windward legs made for a long race. Brother Calle added: “There was a lot less pressure on the left side of the course, so the guys who were stuck out there really lost out a lot on their first beat.”
However the Coster brothers, 10 year veterans in the 470 class, are well aware that it is early days yet at this regatta, with three days of Gold fleet racing starting tomorrow, prior to Saturday’s medal race.
As to the reason for their success, they say that their gear is identical to what they used in Beijing and they have had time off. “We learned a lot last year and we made a good evaluation after the Games. Then we quit for eight months and we came back together in Hyeres, where it was tough - we were 25th. Everyone else had trained a lot and we hadn’t obviously, so we thought ‘wow, we should put some effort into our sailing if we want good results in the future. We don’t want to do it to get fourth or sixth again,’” referring to their results at the past two Olympiads.
The Costers now hold the lead on eight points, three ahead of Austrian duo Matthias Schmid and Florian Reichstaedter, the ISAF no12 ranked in the 470, who are definitely punching above their weight at this regatta, having been on the podium in every race so far save for a 14th in the first. Two points further adrift are yesterday’s joint leaders, Croats Fantela and Marenic who posted a seventh today, and Matías Bühler and Felix Steiger who were sixth.
While the Costers top the men’s class , so their fellow Delta Lloyd-backed team mates Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout hold an even greater lead among the women, posting a fourth place today bringing their tally up to 10, seven points ahead of three teams vying for silver on 17.
So is it coincidence that two Dutch teams are leading? “I don’t know,” says Sven Coster. “We don’t train together, but we have trained a lot together in the past and they are, I know for sure, the best girl’s team.” “A very talented team,” his brother nods in agreement.
Among the three women’s teams chasing the Dutch are the Australian gold medallists from Beijing, Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson. All three Australian women’s teams competing had relatively good results today, Rechichi and Parkinson finishing third with Stacey Omay and Chelsea Hall fifth.
“We are really happy with the race at this stage of the regatta,” said Rechichi. “We want solid nice scores, which other than the first day is what we’ve been managing. But there are still four days to go.” Following Beijing Rechichi and Parkinson have had time off and this is their first regatta back in the 470 since Beijing. “This is about getting our feeling back into the game,” continues Rechichi. “In general it is quite a tricky venue but quite nice sailing at the same time. We are just enjoying being back and racing and having a bit less stress than in an Olympic year.”
This is Rechichi’s sixth World Championship and the first time she has raced in Denmark. “Coming to the north of Europe I had prepared myself for the worst – rain and cold - so I am very pleasantly surprised! The water is not too cold and generally we’ve had nice sun. So I think it is really nice to be in Denmark.”
As to the competition Rechichi says in the post-Olympic year there is always a lot of depth in the fleet, with a new influx coming in at the bottom. “There are people from other classes and new teams that appear to be very strong. The Optimist World Champion from Germany [Tina Lutz, who won the Optimist Worlds in 2005, and is now lying 10th], she is very talented. The new crop has really improved.”
Rechichi and Parkinson are tied on 17 points with the 2009 European champions, Guilia Conti and Giovanna Micol from Italy and the brand new British pairing Pippa Wilson, the Yngling gold medallist from Beijing, and Saskia Clark, who was 6th in the 470 in China last year. Clark’s Beijing helm, Penny Clarke, now racing with Katrina Hughes, was second overall yesterday, but a 15th today has dropped them to 9th.
The other winners in the Men’s class today were Spain’s Onan Barreiros and Aaron Sarmiento, now 22nd overall, and the top US team, Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl, present leaders in ISAF’s Sailing World Cup, who lie tenth.
“We got a good start and we were able to follow people in the right direction,” McNay recounted of today’s race. “The leaders were always in sight. It wasn’t until the last downwind leg that we thought we had a chance to win the race.” On the penultimate leg they overtook the New Zealanders Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders to add a welcome win to their score-line.
This is McNay’s seventh world championship and he is pleased to be reunited with his crew who has been off during the summer following ankle surgery. As to whether he at the age of 28 is a bit young by American standards to be sailing the 470 (Kevin Burnham was 48 when he won 470 Gold in Athens) he retorts: “Yes, it could be another 15 years before we are on top!” To assist US Sailing Team Alphagraphics, Burnham and Paul Foerster have both helped the younger team in the build-up to Beijing, where they finished 13th. “It is inspiring to work with guys who have achieved that much.”
As to the venue, McNay reckons it is fantastic. “It is really nice to have such a big parking lot and two launch ramps – that’s great. It has been really good racing so far.”
Tomorrow the teams will be divided into Gold, Silver, Bronze fleets for the men, gold and silver for the smaller women’s class. Weather-wise a cold front is expected to pass across Denmark tonight and with it a shift to the dreaded west, an offshore breeze, that with the northerly flowing current while make the racing especially challenging.