Gone in a gudgeon
A return to World Cup fever overcame the British camp today at the Delta Lloyd 470 World Championship, when after the opening race in the Men’s fleet 23 year old Skandia Team GBR crew Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell moved into the lead position with double world champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis second. This was the first time at this regatta that the Australians Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page had fallen from the top spot.
But British jubilation was shortlived. On the second beat of race two, Patience and Bithell were left floundering when the attachment for their rudder broke. Unable to make a repair they could do nothing but retire and were unable to compete in the third race too, their hopes for a World Championship victory destroyed.
“We couldn’t steer or do anything,” said Patience. “We tried to sort it for the third race and we just couldn’t. When it goes, it bends the pin and ruptures the back of the boat – it is a big problem. It is very disappointing for sure. I can only blame myself: I look after the boat and I had checked it and I checked it before the start as well, because I felt something wobbling. I couldn’t see any problem but there must have been a bit of play and off it went.”
Having suffered in today’s first race when they hadn’t anticipated the wind increasing from 8 to 18 knots after a squall passed through, Belcher and Page returned to form, posting a 1-2 in the final two races. Leaving them now 20 points ahead of second place, means before even sailing tomorrow’s medal race they have already secured the 2010 Delta Lloyd 470 Men’s World Championship – Page’s fifth 470 World Championship title and Belcher’s first.
“World championships are never easy to win,” commented Page. “You normally have to fight for them in the medal race. We are very fortunate enough not to be in that situation.”
“We are very happy - we weren’t expecting to go into the medal race 20 points in front. Luke’s misfortune was our gain unfortunately,” said Belcher. Of the 23 year old British sailors, Page added: “They showed that last year at the Worlds that they are that good, but it is a hard game and you never know when it is going to be in your favour or when it is not. It is very sad to see what happened to Luke. We’d much rather be racing him on the water and to win the battle that way rather than through equipment failure.”
The fight is fully on for the remaining podium positions between six boats - the Greek team of double 470 Junior World Champion Panagiotis Mantis and crew Pavlos Kagialis just eight points ahead of sixth placed double World Champions, Skandia Team GBR’s Nic Asher and Elliot Willis.
The second placed Greeks posted a relatively poor set of results today and were surprised to come ashore second overall. “It was strong wind again - we like that, but the results were not so good. We had very bad starts – that was the problem,” admitted crew Pavlos Kagialis.
Just one point behind behind the Greeks are Croatian defending World Champions, Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic in third. Their path up the leaderboard has been a slow burn. “It is always like that at the World Championship – you need to be patient and consistent,” said Fantela. “In the strong wind we have better speed rather than in the light. We struggled the first day a bit. The first race today we were unlucky – we broke the kicker and finished 11th. So we lost 7 points there - that would have been a big difference.”
Winners of today’s final race were Portugal’s Alvaro Marinho and Miguel Nunes, currently seventh overall. “We were lucky to win that race because the Italians [Gabrio Zandonà and Pietro Zucchetti] were leading by far but ripped their spinnaker,” recounted Marinho, the longest standing present member of the 470 Men’s class, here racing his 15th 470 World Championship. “So we managed to pass the Australians and were third on the last run and then we passed Gabrio, bad luck for him. So it was okay.”
While the winner is decided in the Men’s class, it is anything but among the Women. Despite some formidable sailing from the defending World Champions Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout, still tenaciously hanging on, just one point ahead of the Dutch, are New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie.
“We are sailing pretty conservatively and trying not to stuff anything up,” said Aleh as to the secret of their success. “We have had one stuff-up this regatta, which was our DNF. Apart from that, just starting safely, no OCSes and trying to get around the course...”
The major drama in the Women’s class today came when eight boats were black flagged in the second race. Among those caught out were all the boats between third and sixth, including heavy hitters such as Italians Guilia Conti and Giovanna Micol, Britain’s Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark and French World no1, Ingrid Petitjean and Nadège Douroux.
With Conti and Micol having won today’s first race, the black flag penalty for being over the start line early, put the Italians out of the running for gold. “We stared very well winning the first race, very focussed on winning,” said Conti. “We gave everything and we came fourth in the second race, but then it was very frustrating when my coach told me about the black flag. We had no chance any more to stay in the battle for first place. So we got a little bit down.”
The warning signal for the Men’s medal races tomorrow will be at 1355 local time followed an hour later by the Women.
Photos from Richard Langdon/www.oceanimages.co.uk