Annalise Murphy ahead on home waters
With four qualifying races sailed at the Laser European Championships on Dublin Bay, local favourite Annalise Murphy remains on impressive form on her home waters as she leads the Women’s Laser Radial class by five clear points. She counts three race wins, discarding a second place from the first race today.
Murphy has both of the 2012 Olympic medallists behind her. Neither Holland’s silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester nor Belgium’s bronze winner Evi Van Acker have been able to maintain anything close to Murphy’s consistency, both scoring one relatively weighty score apiece today. Bouwmeester, the 2011 World Champion, claims to be just getting used to the testing offshore westerly winds which produce big shifts in wind direction and pressure.
“At the moment it seems best to follow Annalise,” Bouwmeester joked as she returned ashore to Dun Laoghaire’s National Yacht Club.
In the other Olympic class, the Laser Standard, Australian Ashley Brunning tops the overall table counting two firsts and a second to lead Holland’s Rutger Van Scahaardenburg, Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim and the ominous presence of Brazil’s five times Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt who matched Brunning’s first and second place qualifying race finishes today.
Brunning leads a strong Australian presence with four of their squad in the top 25 in these early qualifying races when points are tight and evenly spread. His preparation in Europe is paying an early dividend, while Schaardenburg – who leads the European Championship – could not quite maintain his Day 1 speed edge in the choppier conditions of the offshore course where the Men were racing today. “One and two is solid, I sailed really consistently and did not make too many mistakes and that is a sailboat race” affirmed Brunning, “ I have been living in Europe for the last six or seven months, training with some other teams and of course my own Australian team. I have been in Sweden a lot, and so these are quite similar to the conditions around Gothenburg and so that helps.
“I think our team works so well because we all live close together in Sydney. We all train together. We work hard together and share everything together. We are very open and in terms of fitness and sailing we work hard together. Obviously having a mentor like Tom Slingsby and Michael Blackburn are good people to learn from. The squad here are doing really well. We were all charging together today and I think we are all in the top 15 so we are going well."
Scheidt appears to be raising his game progressively: “I was happy that the breeze was not as strong as expected. It was not extremely windy and the race course which we sailed on was much better than the one we sailed on yesterday. The breeze was a bit more steady and a bit more predictable than the other course. A second and a first was good enough for me for the day. The first race I was second at the top mark. The second race I rounded second and passed the Estonian guy and there are three of us who had a big lead on the group. I have some solid results so I am pretty happy. I am really looking to get a good range of wind conditions so it tests everybody’s skills. That would be the best for everyone."
Annalise Murphy remains cool and confident in the Women’s Laser Radials but cautions that it is still very early in the regatta, and lighter winds are expected Tuesday. “It is nice to have all low scores at this point when some of the others had some higher scores today. But then again that can all change in a few races.
“First and second was pretty good overall for the day. It was very difficult on the different course, the wind pressure was up and down much more, sometimes there was five knots in some places and then 20 knots in others, and very changeable in direction too.
“The wind was moving through 60° or something like that. But I really enjoyed it. The first race I sailed pretty perfectly on the upwind, but I was sitting in no wind on the downwind with the fleet coming down at me but there was nothing I could do. That was a bit frustrating because I already had a big lead. The second race I got a good start, was first at the first mark and just held on.”
For the 2012 Olympic medal winners in the fleet some of whom took time out after the Games coming back into the white heat of competition is about playing catch up again quickly. Cypriot Pavlos Kontides, who won his island nation’s first ever Olympic medal when he claimed silver at London 2012, may be a national hero now but he has been back to Southampton to complete his BSc degree in Ship Studies. He got back to the Laser in June while Belgium’s London 2012 bronze medal winning Evi Van Acker is just six weeks back in the boat after a 13 month layoff. She won the first race in her fleet today and paired it with a fourth after capsizing on the final beat.
Van Acker commented: “I had two mega-comebacks. Twice I was very bad at the first mark, but the first race I won and the second race I was bad off the start but got up to second and then capsized on the final upwind and dropped to fourth. So for someone who has not really sailed in 13 months then a 1 and a 4 is not so bad. I started again six weeks ago. I have finished my studies now and so only have my thesis to go (on sports drinks). I am back into it, full time from here. There have been so many changes since the Games, I bought an apartment, renovated it, moved in with my boyfriend, so a lot of changes. I tried to stay fit. It is good it was shifty because you are not having to hike for too long.
While Kontides is now fully focused on his programme for the future, scoring a 13th and fourth today, he commented: “It could be better, it could be worse. It was a medium, conservative day for me really. It is strange conditions because if you get it wrong off the start then you immediately lose a lot of metres, and then it’s hard to get back into the race.
“I did not do so much sailing in the early part of the year because I had to finish my studies, so now I have a BSc in Ship Science. I came back in June so obviously a lot of the other guys have done way more racing than me, but I think it is coming back nicely in the next few days.
“It has been really nice since winning the medal, nothing has changed in my life, people recognise me, it is a nice incentive to know you are a national hero and that is a great incentive going on, but what really has changed now is that I have finished my studies and I can focus on my sailing because that is what gives me the most pleasure in my life.”