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23 Aug 2009

Champagne Opener At Worlds

Image: Sven Coster (NED) © 2009 Worlds

2009 470 World Championships - Men and Women
20-28 August 2009, Rungsted

Conditions could not have been better for the opening day of racing at the 470 World Championships off Rungsted, to the north of Copenhagen, Denmark. While in the morning it was looking doubtful, by 1300, after a delay, the wind had picked up to eight knots allowing the Royal Danish Yacht Club’s race management team to get proceedings underway. The wind continued to build into the mid-teens as the afternoon progressed, blowing from the south to southeast, which local knowledge deems to be the most stable.

Today’s racing was the first of three days of qualifying rounds. For this the 95-strong men’s fleet is divided into three (blue, yellow and pink) - and the 57 women’s teams in two (blue and yellow) with two races per day being held for both.

At the end of day one, in the Men’s division three teams are locked on four points with two more on five. Among the top three are Skandia Team GBR’s double World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, who won the first race in their division as did Italy’s Luca and Roberto Dubbini, while newly formed Swiss duo Matias Bühler and Felix Steiger, won their second. Trailing a point behind are Croats Šime Fantela and Igor Marenic and the inevitable Australian 470 presence, although this time in the form of Sam Kivell and Will Ryan in fourth, whilst Matt Belcher and his Beijing gold medal-winning crew Malcolm Page, currently lie in 15th.

Coming ashore Bühler and Steiger were scratching their heads as to exactly how they had secured their 3-1 score line. “We are fast and maybe we had a little bit of good luck,” said Bühler honestly. “Maybe we didn’t think a lot, we did a good job, but we don’t know exactly why…” Bühler and Steiger are both old 470 hands, but as a pairing only came together in March when Argentinian born Bühler moved to Switzerland to form the team (his grandfather was Swiss). Even Steiger has South American connections too – he was born in Brazil. Clearly they are potent in the 470 as soon after joining up they competed at their first regatta together, Semaine Olympique Francais in Hyeres, and won it. As to the Worlds, Steiger says they have been in Rungsted for two weeks and “that was the first real training we had before this.”

Sven and Kalle Coster, Dutch brothers and Olympic 470 veterans following their sixth place in Athens and fourth in Beijing, won their first race today but are currently 10th overall following up with a ninth place in race two. “We had a great start and right out of the start we were controlling the fleet and we were just going fine, doing the right thing and my brother was doing great tactics,” said Sven, who has been sailing with his sibling for 10 years now. As to the regatta he says “it is well organised and the length of the course was pretty good. And the venue is great.” The Dutch held two training camps in Rungsted before the Worlds.

Among the women’s 470 sailors, again three teams are level-pegging for the lead on four points at the end of day one. As to be expected France’s Ingrid Petitjean and Nadège Douroux, the ISAF ranked world no.4 team are among them, as are the new Dutch pairing of Lisa Westerhof and triple World Champion and Beijing silver medallist, Lobke Berkhout, Westerhof replacing Berkhout’s highly capable previous helm, Marcelien de Koning. The duo has already won Kieler Woche this year. The final duo is more unexpected -  Spain’s Marina Gallego and Julia Rita Roman, typically finish mid-fleet although their results have shown occasional improvements this year with eighth places at Trofeo Princess Sofia and the 470 Europeans.

Skandia Team GBR are attempting to improve their position in the Women’s 470 with a recent spate of crew swapping, Penny and Saskia Clarke splitting, with Penny now having acquired Hannah Mills’ crew Katrina Hughes, while Mills is sailing at the Worlds with Rosie Chapman and Saskia Clarke has former Beijing Yngling gold medallist Pippa Wilson as her new helm.

Despite having only sailed together for six weeks, today Penny Clarke and Hughes won their second race, and lie ninth overall. “I can’t complain, although there is a long way to go and I think it is going to be quite a challenging venue here, especially when the wind comes around to the west. So a good first day,” said Clarke. Their win in race two came down to a good start, enabling them to get immediately in phase with the shifts, Clarke adds. In the first race they had not been so lucky with the shifts going up the first beat.

Perhaps the most disappointed crew to come ashore were Denmark’s local favourites, Henriette Koch and Lene Sommer, who posted an 11th and 15th and now lie in a decidedly mid-fleet 27th. “It is not the start we wished for, but we still have six days left,” said Koch.

Tomorrow wind conditions are expected to be similar to today but with a little rain.

Stanislav Kassarov, President of the 470 International Class Association was in Rungsted this morning, and prior to racing today gave his assessment of the World Championships: “If this is a quiet year, then I can’t imagine what it will be like next year. We have all the big teams here. We have a very big participation from the USA – 10 boats. We have a lot from GBR and from many other nations. 159 boats is a very good number. We have all the famous names and we expect it will be a big contest for the medals. We have a lot of champions from the Optimist – World champions and European champions. We have two of the three ladies who have ever won the Optimist Worlds participating at this event, which is really nice.

As to the venue Kassarov added: “It is very nice, with very good organisation and a very nice venue with good sailing conditions and they have produced some of the best sailors in the world, starting with Paul Elvstrom. The sailors enjoy it, so I hope we have good wind and fair sailing.”

More information:
Event Website and Results
Live Tracking

Report credit: Sailing Intelligence