Blowing off the cobwebs
“We welcome 470 sailors from all corners of the world to Rungsted, Denmark,” says Morten Lorenzen, CEO of the RDYC. “Royal Danish Yacht Club has worked intensely for a year with preparation of this major World Championship in the 470 class. The venue is ready for all, we have ordered good racing conditions from the weather gods, and everyone in the organizing committee and the many volunteers are eager to get started!"
“Two weeks ago Royal Danish Yacht Club completed a very successful Dragon Gold Cup in Skagen with 81 entries – and surprisingly the winning helmsman was Ruslana Taran from Ukraine. That name will certainly look familiar to 470 sailors, as she won the 470 World Championship three times and two bronze medals at the Olympics. That is quite a neat connection between the Royal Danish Yacht Club’s two major events in 2009”.
Among the 99 teams competing in the Men’s 470 class are nine of the current top 10 ISAF-ranked sailors, led by the present no.1, France’s Nicolas Charbonnier and Baptiste Meyer, and all top 10 sailors within the ISAF Sailing World Cup, led by the USA’s Stuart Mcnay and Graham Biehl.
While most of these teams have been sailing regularly throughout this year, one less certain of its prospects is the new Australian pairing of Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page. Page needs no introduction having won Gold in the class last year at the Beijing Olympics and the World Championship in Cascais in 2007. However these were both with his old helm Nathan Wilmot, whose shoes Belcher is now filling. Belcher has been in the Australian 470 squad for some time now and the two have known each other for years, but Page says they are still getting used to sailing together.
“We did our first regatta last December at Sail Melbourne, but we haven’t had a lot of time together.” Belcher has been attempting to complete his degree, while Page has been Farr 40 sailing. As to their prospects Page adds: “We haven’t done as much preparation as we would have liked. I think we have a chance, but it is going to be a big battle. A problem with the 470 Men is the quality in this year on from the Games is as good as ever. Sure, the three medallists have had crew changes, but the list is still long and good. There are probably 10-12 boats that have a chance of getting a medal and another 10 boats have a chance to get into the top 10. So it is going to be ever so competitive, like normal.”
But at present Page says the pressure isn’t on: “Our real objective is just to build a good strong team and a good base we can work from in the next few years. Building that innate team so you can communicate without talking, is the biggest area for us. We haven’t sailed enough together for that, but I really do believe it will be great for that by the time the Games come around in three years time. At the moment, we are still trying to find our feet a little.”
As to the Rungsted, the venue for the 470 World Championships, Page and Belcher have been acclimatising here for a week now. “It seems pretty good. The water is a little colder than I like! Saying that there is quite a lot of tidal flow and there is land everywhere that it is going to make it very shifty. It is not going to be an easy regatta. I think there are going to be some big scores in the middle of some good scores, so you just have to stay patient and hopefully you can get it right more than you get it wrong.”
Among the Women’s line-up are the Beijing Olympic Gold medallists, Australia’s Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson. However for them it will be their first regatta back in the boat since the Games. Leader in the ISAF 470 World rankings and fifth at the Olympic Games last year, Italy’s Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol, are fresher coming from a spates of wins including the European championship on Lake Traunsee, Austria in June, the Pre-Olympics on Lake Garda and the Mediterranean Games.
“There are a lot of girls came back after the Olympics, like the Australians, the Americans, the Japanese, etc – a lot of people. I think it is going to be a great battle and of course we are here to improve our result last year, when we were second,” says Conti.
Conti claims she has never sailed in Denmark before and her two days of it so far have delivered one light day and one windy with big waves. “It is really really fun. We enjoyed sailing here. But we really wish it is not going to rain! I have been told is that it is really tricky and shifty and there’s a lot of current. But we have got to used to tricky places like Traunsee in Austria, and also the Mediterranean Games. So we have had some good training to be here.”
The home crowd of course will be pinning their hopes on Henriette Koch and Lene Sommer. Although they failed to quality for last year’s Olympics, in 2009 the Danish duo has come into its own, winning the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta and Semaine Olympique Francais in Hyeres. Impressively they have already clinched first place in the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup and this is with an event to spare and without competing at Holland Regatta as this conflicted with their university exams.
The Danish girls have the advantage of the 470 Worlds being held from their home club. As a duo they have sailed off Rungsted for seven years, while Koch has sailed there since she started 15 years ago. “You get different conditions, different wind directions and strengths. We have quite a lot of current, because the Baltic Sea runs out here and it changes with the weather systems. The shifts, like everything, are cloud driven, so it can be tricky, but it is completely fair sailing. So it should be good. The three past weeks have been pretty windy.
This local knowledge is bound to be an advantage. “I think it will help us because we are used to the weather conditions and the waves and we know the current and all the strategy out there. But the whole fleet is so professional that whenever we get to a new place we have to be really good at figuring out the strategy.”
Koch is of course excited about the prospect of the World Championship for her class being staged in her home town. “The whole year we have been building up to this regatta, so we hope to do really really good, result-wise but the fleet is so close, so it will pretty much be the sailor of the week who is going to win the regatta. We hope we will succeed in this regatta but you never know because there is such strong opposition, so we hope for the best.”
Racing starts on Sunday with the qualifying series running from 23rd-25th August, and the final series from 26th-29th August.
The 2009 470 World Championship is one of a number of high profile sailing regattas taking place in Denmark this summer as part of wider festival of different sports, called Denmark’s Year of Sport. To do their utmost to ensure that their events are held to the highest possible standards the Danish Sailing Association is working with the support of the insurance company CODAN (part of Sun Alliance Group), to provide TracTrac tracking during the Laser Radial Europeans, Finn Gold Cup, EUROSAF Match Racing Europeans and 470 World Championship. The Danish Sailing Association has purchased 150 state-of-the-art GPS tracking devices, allowing races to be followed in real time over the internet.
Last year the TracTrac tracking of the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship in Aarhus, Denmark was followed by nearly 30,000 viewers from 69 countries all over the world.