Final lunge for the medal races
The wind today was similar to yesterday with a reasonably stable moderate southerly breeze that died off half way through the second race. But the summery conditions had given way to a more autumnal hue: more chilly and with the sky overcast.
Common to both the Men’s and Women’s fleets is that the Gold medal position tomorrow is looking reasonably secure. In the Women, it is of course the unshakable, consistent Dutch duo of Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout, who today posted a 6-1, and still hold an eighth as a discard. After today’s racing they are now 14 points ahead of the Junior World Championship winners from Spain, Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos, on 48 points and third placed Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux from France on 54.
The top performance of the day was that of the young Spanish crew Pacheco and Betanzos, who after scoring two seconds, climbed up from fourth this morning to second, swapping places with Italy’s Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol.
“In the first race it was really good,” said Pacheco, who heralds from the Canary Islands and who’s performance is impressive, despite being only 20. “We didn’t have a good start but we took some shifts and we stayed in the top 10. After that we always went up and that was nice.”
It being so early in her Olympic career, Pacheco gives the impression she is feeling less pressure on her than her more experienced rivals. “When we went into the water we knew we had to only sail and have fun. That was what we did - have fun and work hard in the boat. Other people have other pressure. I am happy staying in the top 10. I don’t mind if tomorrow I lose.”
Equally pleased with her performance and that of her crew Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar was US Sailing Team Alphagrapics’ Eric Maxwell, the reigning World Champion, who scraped into tomorrow’s medal race, just one point ahead of Argentinians Maria Fernando Sesto and Consuelo Monsegur.
Like so many here who represented their respective countries in Beijing last year, Maxwell and her crew have taken a break from sailing over these last months. “I think that each day we’ve been becoming a bit more confident and our boat handling has been getting better and we’ve been coming together as a team, having not sailed a lot this season,” said Maxwell. “We just knew we had to get it done and today was the day to put it all on the line and show everyone what we have and have a good event.”
In terms of race course specifics, with the wind from the south, the right side of the course was paying as there seemed to be not only more relief from the current there, but also better pressure. The Americans played this best and were able to win today’s first race, following this up with a ninth.
As to getting into the medal race, Maxwell commented: “At the start of today I knew it was a possibility but I gave ourselves a 40% chance of making it. I knew we were sailing better and we were starting to feel more confident and feel a little greased. I knew it would be an uphill battle – the points were stacked against us, we were 13 points out of 10th at the start of the day and teams in front of us are all good teams. We knew that given the forecast they were all good teams in that wind velocity and unless we sailed our absolute best we weren’t going to make it.” But make it, they did.
But the biggest high jumpers today were once again the Greeks, Panagiotis Mantis and Kagialis Paulos, who in the high scoring men’s fleet posted a 2-9 today, causing them to soar from 17th to 10th, earning themselves a place on tomorrow’s elite starting grid. Just 48 hours ago they were 30th.
“We are very happy,” said Mantis. “We hoped conditions would be the same and we could make the same sailing as yesterday. Conditions were pretty much the same. We had good starts in both races and good upwinds, so we were in the top ten in both races. We just wanted to get into the top 10 – that was our goal from the start of the Championship.”
The Argentinians Luca Calabrese and Jean de la Fuente also squeezed into tomorrow’s medal race, having started the day in 12th and ending it four points ahead of the Greeks, at the expense of New Zealand’s Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders who plummeted eight places today.
Another successful day on the water, while all the top men’s team suffered with the exception of the young French crew of Pierre LeBoucher and Vincent Garos and yesterday’s British stars Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, has seen Croatia’s Šime Fantela and Igor Marenic gain a near unassailable 16 point lead among the Men.
“It was another amazing day,” said Marenic. “Today we had two almost perfect starts on the right side, by the committee boat. Then we tacked almost immediately and we were in the top on the right side in both races and the right side was winning except the second upwind of the first race. But all in all we were always in the top today and the second race we won with an excellent downwind leg. So we are now confident for tomorrow.”
As to whether they expected they would be in this position, the World Championship all but won for them, Marenic admitted that after their recent European Championship win they knew they were on top form, but they didn’t expect to be leading here in Denmark.
“After our fourth in the first race we knew we still had a good discard and we thought we could risk more so we risked a bit on the start," said Marenic. "We must have been very close to OCS and it paid off.” They, like the Women’s leaders, won the second race today.
While the Croats’ lead is looking comfortable, the fight for the remaining podium spots is anything but, with two points separating the second to fourth placed boats going into the Medal race.