05 Sep 2010
Tension Mounts as 470 Men Prepare for a "Scratch" Medal Race
With just the Medal Race remaining, the outcome of the 2010 Open 470 European Championships is far from clear. Two races in the gusty and shifty waters of Istanbul reshuffled the order of the men’s fleet, and now just 5 points separate the top six teams.
Today the French dominated all three fleets across the 92-boat entry at these championships, with Pierre Le Boucher and Vincent Garos scoring 1,2 in the men’s Gold fleet, Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux winning both women’s races, and Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion moving well into the lead of the men’s Silver fleet after scoring 2,2.
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell couldn’t believe they’d moved to the top of the men’s leaderboard. “You’re joking,” said Patience, who knew he’d had a good day with 5,1 from the two races, but not that good. “We didn’t think we'd be that high up, but today we were so on it. We spent a long time looking at the wind before the start, speaking to our coach. We really got to grips with what the wind was doing today, and we were just trying to stay one step ahead, one step ahead, the whole race.”
While just five points separate the top six, representing five different nations, just 2 points separate the top four from Great Britain, Israel, Greece and Croatia. In the double-scoring Medal Race, 2 points are no different to 0, so these four teams will be racing off scratch, with the French and other Greek teams also ready to pounce on any error.
It’s an intimidating situation for some sailors, mouthwatering for others. “Yee-haa, bring it on,” said Patience. Israel’s Eran Sela said it would be like a poker game, “you need skill and some luck,” he smiled. Yesterday’s leader, Greek sailor Pavlos Kagialis, said it would be high pressure. “I am not such a fan of high pressure.”
President of the 470 Class, Stanislav Kassarov, commented on this fascinating scenario: “It is almost as if the regatta is starting from zero points, a one-race championship. There is a lot of discussion in sailing about what is the next step to make the sport more interesting to the public and the media. It is a good opportunity to consider future trials of a Medal Race starting from zero points.”
Yesterday the points were tight between the women, but today Emanuelle Rol and Helene Defrance moved further into the lead, and now hold a 10-point advantage over their French team mates Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron. “We never stopped concentrating,” said Defrance. “We were eyes open and never stopped trying to move forward through the fleet.”
Geron was not so happy with her day, having yielded valuable points to her French rivals. The Italians who have led for so much of this regatta looked disappointed too, as they face a big challenge to make up 14 points on the leaders. Winning gold may be looking difficult although Lake Garda’s Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol are still very much within striking distance of silver, but equally vulnerable to losing bronze to the big improvers of the day, double-race winners Petitjean and Douroux. “We understood today’s conditions very well, even if we didn’t start so well in one race,” said Petitjean. “Now we are in fourth place, so tomorrow for us the Medal Race is all about attacking the boats in front.”
Tomorrow, the teams not taking part in the Medal Races will complete a final fleet race to determine the minor placings in the women’s division and the Men’s Gold and Silver fleets.This takes place at 1100 hours local time. Then the Medal Races will take place, starting with the women at 1500 hours, and then the men at 1545 hours. All the action will be covered live on Istanbul Sailing Club’s GPS tracking system, which you can follow here: www.onlineracetrack.net
The 2010 Open 470 European Championships are organised by The Istanbul Sailing Club in co-operation with the International 470 Class Association and the Turkish Sailing Federation.
Story by: Andy Rice
Image: Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO), Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (GBR), Sylvia Vogl and Carolina Flatscher (AUT) © Coskun Aydin