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24 Aug 2009

Westerhof and Berkhout Break Free At Worlds

Image: Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout (NED) © 2009 Worlds

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

Competitors at the 470 World Championships were blessed with another day of unbeatable weather off Rungsted, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. Blazing sunshine plus a stable southeasterly breeze that started at 8 knots and ended up closer to 20, allowed the race organisers at the Royal Danish Yacht Club to cash in on the conditions, holding three races for the five fleets, rather than the scheduled two.

After five races a discard has come into play. Two teams remain tied at the top of the Men’s Division where the Netherland’s Sven and Kalle Coster and Croats Šime Fantela and Igor Marenić are on seven points, having both discarded eighth places.

Fantela and Marenić, who usually sail out of Zadar, won the first two races today in the Men’s pink group, the first narrowly ahead of Israel’s Gidi Kliger and Udi Gal, the second in front of New Zealand’s Geoffrey Woolley and Mark Overington.

“It was really good, we are really satisfied,” said Fantela. “Conditions were specific in the first race because of the strong current, so everyone was trying to start at the committee boat and tack towards shore. We made two good starts and were on the right side and it was a fight between five boats with the rest a long way behind.” On the final race they went the wrong way up the first beat, rounding the top mark 14th, but managed to claw their way back up to sixth.

“The venue is great,” continued Fantela, a former Optimist World Champion, who this year won the 470 Europeans. “We have been here for 20 days and there hasn’t been a day without wind. It is not so cold - it is really good. And the organisation is great. The guys with our trolleys, the people in the tent are working really good and the GPS system is great. In Croatia they know the results sooner than us and after the race we can check our race on the tracker on the internet.”

On 10 points, the Swiss team of Matias Bühler and Felix Steiger had the most consistent day with three third places and have the lowest discard - a third. “We are very happy, we had a perfect day,” said Bühler. “We are in the qualifications now, but these good results are going to help a lot in the finals. We are also happy because today we were much more consistent in our decisions and also we were more conscious about what we were doing.”

Matias Bühler confirmed that today in the first two races before the course was moved it was important to bang the right hand side of the beat to get out of the current, which their coach estimated was running at 25m/min in the middle of the course. As an added hazard, along the tide line, crews regularly had to remove weed or even jellyfish from their rudder. As Beijing gold medallist Malcolm Page observed of his helm Matt [Belcher] was hanging over the back all day. Five or six boats once they crossed the line the helms were immediately hung over the back…”

The Aussies had a good day today posting an 8-3-2, the 8th being a welcome result after they had restarted sensing they had been OCS. “We negotiated the fleet and got back around the boat and started well and truly last, by a long way and came back through. But the problem is we found out later that we weren’t over! Otherwise it was a good day,” said Page.

France’s Nicolas Charbonnier is lying eighth overall having won the first race today in the Pink division, in which the Swiss are also sailing. The Beijing bronze medallist is impressed with the venue. “Every day we have really good conditions. Compared to the training the wind is much steadier, so it is good for a world championship and we enjoy sailing in Denmark.”

Charbonnier, who took two years out to compete in the America’s Cup with Areva Challenge, has started sailing in January with Baptiste Meyer, who was his coach for Beijing. Meyer has not competed for 12 years. They have had consistently been in the top ten throughout this season, including a win at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma.

While it is tight at the top of the men’s division, among the women, a 3-2-1 scoreline today has allowed the Netherlands duo of Lisa Westerhof and Beijing silver medallist and double world champion Lobke Berkhout to surge into the lead on seven points. Trailing them are eight boats packed together on 14-17 points. Among this group is the new British pairing of Beijing Yngling Gold medallist Pippa Wilson and Saskia Clark who are now sixth, the second Skandia Team GBR women’s team behind are Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes, who lie second after winning the last race in their group this afternoon.

Wilson and Clark posted a respectable 3-2-6 today, discarding an eighth (the second lowest after the Dutch). “We had a good day,” said an exhausted looking Wilson. “We had two pretty good and one we had an almost-capsize at the very beginning, so it was a bit of a catch up.”

Wilson tried her hand at the Laser Radial earlier this year, found it wasn’t to her liking and was trying to get into the 470 at the same time as Saskia Clark and Penny Clark were looking to move on. Wilson’s summer was a slow one suffering from a knee injury and tendonitis in her wrist and the new pairing has spent just 10 days sailing together before this regatta. Wilson is not new to the 470 though, having spent two years campaigning one before joining Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb in the Yngling.

So racing the 470 is like riding a bike? “It half is and half isn’t,” says Wilson. “The Yngling is a very different boat and this is much more dynamic, so it is quite a lot to take in. It is great to be back and involved in it and remembering what it is all about.”

Tomorrow the qualifying rounds continue. The forecast is for more southeasterly breeze early in the afternoon, but with the wind veering south and dropping later on and with less sun sadly.

More information:
Event Website and Results
Live Tracking

Report credit: Sailing Intelligence