Tricky opening day
Opening day of racing at the 2016 470 World Championships in San Isidro, Argentina was initially dogged by light wind. Race 1 for the 470 Women got underway soon after midday, but 20 minutes in was abandoned at the first mark due to a significant change of wind direction. After being postponed on the water for just over two hours, racing resumed in a building easterly breeze.
Getting on the scoresheet early on is important, sets the tone and gives some margin of safety net. For some the opening day couldn’t have been better, for others the game plan didn't quite unfold as intended. In a light and shifty breeze and a hard to read race course, teamwork and finesse makes all the difference. The silt from the delta turns the water brown, making it very hard to physically see the breeze on the water.
There is nowhere on the race course where teams feel safe, as it is hard to see where the breeze will come next and it has a history of swinging quite dramatically.
Both 470 Men and 470 Women fleets are sailing a single series, so all the heavy hitters are up against each other from the outset and every single point counts.
Early demonstration of the depth of 470 talent around the world, sees fourteen different nations sitting in the top ten across both fleets.
Two races down and Annie Haegar/Briana Provancha top the leaderboard with a 3,2 scoresheet. China's Xiaoli Wang/Lizhu Huang in second and Sydney Bolger/Carly Shevitz (USA) in third.
“You can always lose a regatta on the first day, but you can never win it,” grinned Provancha after racing.
Their team mates and rivals in the hunt for selection to represent the USA at the Rio Olympics are Bolger/Shevitz, who won the first race. With the 2016 470 Worlds and 2016 470 Europeans counting as the national selection events, this is going to be a tough battle between the two teams.
“It was a good way to kick off the event,” said Bolger. “We are happy with the race win, because ultimately that is going to mean fewer points at the end of the week. But ultimately we are looking to have a consistent series and try to put our best foot forward this week.”
Reflecting on the national selection pressure, Shevitz said: “Our goal is really to finish as well as we can at this event. If we see them [Haegar/Provancha] near us around the course, we are going to try to keep that in mind. But ultimately, we want to get our best finish at this first event and maybe focus more during the second event. We are pretty happy to have survived the day, with not too many points and no big diggers.”
Second placed Xiaoli Wang/Lizhu Huang from China are also in the midst of national selection trials for Rio, which sees three Chinese teams racing at the Worlds. Wang competed in London 2012 with a different crew, finishing in 11th place.
Fourth overall and already assured of their place on the starting line in Rio are the Netherland’s Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes van Veen,
“It was a challenging day,” commented van Veen. “We didn’t have perfect starts today, but we did some good catch up racing and it was quite OK for the first day. We kept searching for opportunities and I think it worked quite well."
Among the younger teams racing are Spain’s Bàrbara Cornudella Ravetllat/Sara López Ravetllat, who rather surprised themselves after scoring their best ever result at a senior 470 Championship. In 6th overall, they sit ahead of the 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists and reigning World Champions.
“So far, yes it is the best result we have ever had,” said López Ravetllat. “At the 2015 Worlds, we didn’t score any top ten results. We feel really good in these winds, managed a good start and held in with the rest.”
Not the best opener for six teams who scored UFD penalties in race 1 for being over the start line in the last minute. In the count were the world number 1 partnership of Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark (GBR). They will have wanted to turn the clock back to the first race attempt, where they started clean. Surviving a double-digit score is possible, but they followed up with a 21st in race 2 to end the day in 33rd overall, so have set themselves a very high points mountain to climb to stay in podium potential.
Winners of the preceding 470 South American Championships, Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance suffered the same UFD fate in race 1, bouncing back with a win in race 2, to end their day in 20th overall.
“Actually we would have won three races today,” laughed Lecointre. “The race that was abandoned we were first, the UFD we were first, but only in last race of the day we actually got to finish first! It is not a good start, but we feel quite confident in these conditions so we are OK.”
470 Women - Top 10 after two Races
1. Anne Haeger/Briana Provancha (USA 1712) - 5 pts
2. Xiaoli Wang/Lizhu Huang (CHN 1221) - 6 pts
3. Sydney Bolger/Carly Shevitz (USA 88) - 12 pts
4. Afrodite Zegers/Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen (NED 216) - 14 pts
5. Fernanda Oliveira/Ana Luiza Barbachan (BRA 177) - 14 pts
6. Linda Fahrni/Maja Siegenthaler (SUI 5) - 14 pts
7. Bàrbara Cornudella Ravetllat/Sara López Ravetllat (ESP 14) - 16 pts
8. Annika Bochmann/Marlene Steinherr (GER 72) - 17 pts
9. Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL 75) - 19 pts
10. Lara Vadlau/Jolanta Ogar (AUT 431) - 28 pts
Two wins to New Zealand’s Paul Snow-Hansen/Daniel Wilcox gave them a day you can normally only dream about. The pair sit well ahead of the rest of the pack on points, as the race track was not looking so blessed for others, including defending 470 World Champions Mat Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS). The Aussies took a UFD penalty, marking a day they would most probably rather forget. Second overall to Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO) and third to Gabrio Zandona/Andrea Trani (ITA).
“That’s how we wanted to start," said Snow-Hansen, in a bit of an understatement. "We have put a lot of time in during our off season at home and we’ve been looking forward to Argentina and it is good to finally be here. We are really, really happy to have a good first day, but there’s a long way to go yet. When Paul and I first teamed up in 2013 we had a really good opening series at that year’s 470 Worlds, so yes we have had similar days, but nothing quite like this."
Putting their wins down to precision teamwork, Snow-Hansen continued, "We just didn’t make too many mistakes. We executed our race plan and sailed fast, so we were happy.”
Having banked their first win, the pair assuredly went onto claim the next, this time with an event greater margin over the rest of the fleet.
“I think things can sometimes snowball in those conditions. You get a bit of a lead and you can start to sail your own race and forget about what is happening behind you. We had enough of a lead at the bottom mark to do that in the second beat. We just sailed our own race and managed to link up a few phases and found ourselves quite far ahead,” he concluded.
The defending 470 World Champions Belcher/Ryan are certainly not known for collecting UFD penalties on their scoresheet, so a shock to themselves and their rivals, as Ryan explained.
“It’s tough racing, it’s a Worlds. Everyone is pushing and the limits we are operating in are pretty small. There’s not a lot between being behind the line and over the line, and I guess you don’t want to start on the back foot, so we are pushing it the same as everyone else. And it is a little bit unfortunate that we got forced into it by another boat. That’s how situations unfold. In the next race it would have been nice to make it up,” he added referring to their 21st in race 2, to sit in 33rd overall on the leaderboard, “but that’s the way the cards play out. I think it’s going to be a long week.”
Challenging times for 2012 Olympic silver medallist Luke Patience and his regular partner Elliot Willis. After being diagnosed with bowel cancer late last year Willis has taken time out from campaigning for treatment, with Patience teamed up alongside Chris Grube. Willis though is very much at the front of Patience’s mind.
“It is a really weird situation we are in. I have never experienced someone with cancer before and when it first came out, I wondered if I even wanted to keep going if I cannot race with Elliot. But ultimately I decided that is the thing to do, and Elliot would give his left arm right now to be in a boat and 470 sailing, so it would almost be criminal of me not to continue. It is what I love doing, and if anything this has made me want to enjoy what I love doing even more so now."
Patience is an indomitable spirit and has faced this latest test with a steely streak.
“I am here trying to do myself and Chris proud, as well as the fact that I know Elliot would love to be here as well and I am hoping to do him proud too.
“I am happy with how we have started the regatta. I feel in control of the boat speed and feel like we are moving well with the water. We gave ourselves a fighting chance in race 1 and didn’t in race 2,” he said, referring to their scorecard of 4,28 and 14th place overall. “In the limited time we have raced together though, I am happy.”
470 Men - Top 10 after two Races
1. Paul Snow-Hansen/Daniel Willcox (NZL 2) - 2 pts
2. Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO 83) - 11 pts
3. Gabrio Zandona/Andrea Trani (ITA 2) - 13 pts
4. Onán Barreiros Rodríguez/Juan Curbelo Cabrera (ESP 9) - 13 pts
5. Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergström (SWE 349) - 15 pts
6. Sofian Bouvet/Jérémie Mion (FRA 27) - 17 pts
7. Asenathi Jim/Roger Hudson (RSA 1) - 19 pts
8. Pierre Leboucher/Vincent Garos (FRA 44) - 21 pts
9. Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp (ESP 44) - 22 pts
10. Geison Mendes/Gustavo Canal Thiesen (BRA 1) - 25 pts