26 Aug 2009
470 Worlds Take On A New Dimension
Image: Mattias Schmid and Florian Reichstaedter (AUT) © Organizing Committee
2009 470 World Championships - Men and Women
20-28 August 2009, Rungsted, Denmark
Off Rungsted, Denmark racing at the 470 Worlds, held by the Royal Danish Yacht Club, today took on a very different perspective. It was the first day the Class were split into gold, silver and bronze divisions but crucially the wind had veered by around 90 degrees, into the west. Gone was the stable southerly of the first three days of the regatta, replaced by a highly unstable shifty, patchy offshore breeze to challenge the 304 sailors from 29 countries competing.
With the race course having shifted, counter-current up the beat was not an issue today, but this, combined with some over-enthusiasm at the start of Men’s Gold fleet racing, saw an impressive 10 boats - one third of the fleet - disqualified under black flag starting orders in their first race. This race only successfully got away on its fifth attempt. Those black flagged included several top names – the third placed Swiss, Matias Bühler and Felix Steiger, Sailing World Cup leaders from the US, Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl, and Israeli 470 veterans, Gidi Kliger and Udi Gal. A particular blow to Skandia Team GBR was double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers and his new crew Pom Green, being black flagged too, following on from double World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis’ OCS yesterday. Asher and Willis were clear today, but suffered a broken spinnaker halyard at the end of the first race and ended the day a lowly 16th.
Many boats at the back of the Men’s gold fleet came out the winners, partly due to the OCS’s, but it was also the challenging conditions. Second going into today Austrian, Mattias Schmid put it: “The gold fleet is much much harder than the qualification, but also the wind was really unpredictable with much much bigger shifts. Before it was quite clear to us what we wanted to do, we did it and we were right. Today it was not so clear.”
According to Schmid, this struck hardest at the start of the first race. “All the field wanted to go left. We wanted to go left, but in the end the right was SO much better. They weren’t a little in front, they were like half a mile in front and we lost contact and there was no way back. It was really really extreme. But the good people can make a medium result out of a bad position. Today we very often had a very bad position and we got out of it.” Schmid was therefore okay with his and crewman Florian Reichstaedter’s pair of 17th finishes that have dropped them to ninth overall.
The overall Men’s division leaders, Sven and Kalle Coster of the Netherlands, also had a shocking first race, coming home last but then redeemed themselves with a seventh. As a result they hold on to the lead. But Croats Šime Fantela and Igor Marenić are second, four points astern of them and have the most consist scoreline to date as well as the lowest discard – an eighth, in as many races, that bodes well for their future in this regatta.
With Rogers/Green and Asher/Willis’ tied up in maximum points results, star of the day in the Men’s fleet was another Skandia Team GBR duo, from Scotland Luke Patience and new crew Stuart Bithell. They chose the right side up the first beat and led around every mark. They then looked set to do the same in the following race only for them to get pipped at the post, the weather gods finally turning their attention elsewhere.
Patience explains: “We gybe set at the reach mark for two reasons - it made us point directly at the leeward marks and there was pressure coming in from the right (as you look upwind). So that was a no brainer and I feel it was just a bit of bad luck but we were pointing at the leeward marks for the entire run and as it turns out there were a few boats that were mid-fleet that straight set and gybed back and I guess that they might have been on the opposite side of the gust, probably going a knot quicker. So there was not much I could do about that.” As boats passed them they squeezed through the leeward gate and on to the finish to take sixth overall, the best results of the day in the Men’s division and Patience’s top day in World Championship sailing after four years in the 470.
Meanwhile, while the radical change in conditions caused upheaval in the Mens’ class, it made little impression on the unflappable Dutch duo Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout. They scored a 4-6 today and continue to lead the Women’s Gold fleet three points ahead of Italy’s European Champions Guilia Conti and Giovanna Micol, but with a far better discard – a sixth rather than a 17th.
“We are really really happy. We are having a really great regatta so far. We just started in May together, so we can’t complain,” said Westerhof , who sailed the Dutch 470 to ninth place in the Athens Olympics, while her crew took silver last year in Beijing with Marcelien de Koning. Westerhof has taken two years out and professionally when she is not sailing is a pilot for KLM airlines flying Boeing 737s around Europe.
“I continue flying because I need to keep my license and keep up my flying hours, but I can fit it in whenever it suits our sailing program, so I can choose whenever I want to fly. So that means that in the summer months, in the high season for sailing I will have a lot of time off.”
Given the newness of their partnership Westerhof was slightly surprised by their results and consistency to date. “We do take risks and sometimes we lose a couple of points because of those, but I think we can sail even steadier than we are doing now. There are a lot of points to improve. This is only our second regatta together and we are still finding ways to get the best out of us both.”
Gold, silver and bronze fleet racing continues off Rungsted until Friday with the Medal Race to be held on Saturday.
Report credit: Sailing Intelligence