Draper and Greenhalgh the new European 49er champions
In a steady Baltic breeze of 10 knots, Skandia Team GBR's Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh secured the 49er European Championship held in Gdynia, Poland. With a 6-point lead going into the medal race, the duo was forced to the wrong side after the start but managed to climb back through the fleet to round the weather mark 4th. With a 4-lap course, they slowly worked through the fleet to finish third in the race - enough to earn them the title.
This marks the first major title for Draper, the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, and Greenhalgh since they teamed up in 2009 on their return to the class. The duo made steady progress throughout the regatta to edge into the overall lead on Friday’s penultimate day.
This is Draper’s first European title since 2005. “We’re really, really pleased,” he said. “We’re still a new team and we’re learning from that. They all say that Olympic campaigning is a marathon, not a sprint, so winning events is bit more than we were perhaps looking for at this stage, we were just aiming for a podium spot here really. But it’s good to be ahead of our goals and to be able to say we’re European Champions. It’s got a nice ring to it. This week we’ve sailed pretty well and have stuck to what we know. It's now really important that we take the lessons we have learnt from this event forwards and make sure we don't lose sight of what has made such a good series for us.”
France's Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis who were 4th going into the medal race lead the entire race only to lose to the Sibello brothers from Italy who slipped past on the third lap. Second in the medal race was good enough for the Frenchmen to claim second overall just 1/2 a point in front of Stevie Morrision and Ben Rhodes. Current ISAF World Cup leaders Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch of Austria finished 4th overall in the Europeans.
“I think we’ll look at this one as the one that got away,” commented Stevie Morrison. “We’re pleased with bronze, but at the same time there are a few moments during the event where we know we lost some points. On Friday in particular we were really unlucky when we were in third place just 50m from the finish line and the wind just completely died on us. That said, a month ago we were struggling for pace and not competitive, so it’s great that we’re up there again. We’ve had new kit for this week which we’ve been kind of freestyling with and learning the set-up of as we’ve gone along, so we know there are some more gains to come there as well.”
Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith, the 2009 European silver medallists, saw a premature end to their regatta as Brotherton sustained a knee injury halfway through the event and was forced to withdraw.
The podium placers were congratulated and presented with prizes including Seiko Velatura watches