2018 470 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP KICKS OFF IN BULGARIA18 May 2018
Racing at the 470 European Championship kicks off on Saturday 19 May at the Yacht Club Port Bourgas, Bulgaria.
The opening 470 Championship of the season, the Europeans fields a multi-nation fleet with plenty of talent from the Rio 2016 Games, alongside reigning 470 World and European Champions and stacks of young stars from the 470 junior fleets.
Championship title defences will be in full flow, as both Afrodite Zegers/Anneloes van Veen (NED) in the women and Carl-Fredrik Fock/Marcus Dackhammar (SWE) in the men aim for a repeat show in 2018.
With the countdown to the first shot at Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification fast approaching at the Hempel Sailing World Championships in Denmark in August 2018, teams are also keen to lay down their marker in the pecking order and assert themselves in contention for Olympic qualification.
Thursday’s Opening ceremony held at the Sea Garden on Bourgas’ waterfront, formally kicked off the 2018 470 European Championship, with sailors welcomed alongside coaches, race officials and a team of volunteers.
The 470 Class makes a welcome return to Bulgaria after last visiting in 2015 for the 470 Junior European Championships. Many of the young faces racing back then moved onto a Rio 2016 Olympic appearance and have established themselves as the next generation and proven front runners in the senior racing fleet.
As defending European Champions and ranked world #1, the pairing of Afrodite Zegers/Anneloes van Veen (NED) is inevitably the team to beat.
“This is a good event before the Worlds and a good step in our preparation,” commented Zegers. “We have a new coach and in the last six months we have been learning a lot and like the pieces are now starting to fall together. It was a bit of a bumpy ride until now, but for sure we looking forwards. It is a really nice place here – on the racetrack and onshore.
“And the food is really similar to Greece,” Zegers grinned.
Slovenia’s world ranked #5 partnership of Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol finished just off the podium in Rio 2016, upgrading to a bronze medal at the 2017 470 Worlds. Their best result at a 470 European Championship was gold in 2016 – and we can expect a super close tussle with the Dutch. Recent matches at SWC Miami, SWC Hyeres and Trofeo Princesa Sofia put Slovenia out front every time.
Looking back to the 2015 470 Junior Europeans leader board, the last 470 event held in Bulgaria, seven of the top ten teams back then make a return visit for the 470 Europeans, and their potential has well and truly developed over the past three years.
Amongst the younger teams aiming to punch high are the world #2 pairing of Silvia Mas/Patricia Cantero. In 2015, Mas secured the Junior Europeans silver medal with her former crew, so has plenty of expertise on Bourgas’ race track. Super talented, Mas is also the reigning 470 Junior World Champion, and with Cantero has every chance of opening the door to a podium finish.
Greece’s Maria Bozi/Rafailina Klondaridou claimed bronze three years ago at the 470 Junior Europeans, and now are also mixing it with the world’s best. Benedetta di Salle/Alessandra Dubbini (ITA) have also won plenty of honours over the years, most recently the 2016 420 Junior European Championship title, and rank as another long-standing partnership with the raw talent to challenge the Olympians.
Reigning 470 European Champions Carl-Fredrik Fock/Marcus Dackhammar (SWE) are set for their title defence, and will be looking to maintain the form they have consistently delivered so far this year.
Frontrunners to challenge will include the massively experienced world #9 team of Stu McNay/David Hughes (USA) and world #2 partnership of Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE). All Olympians, they have also all tasted European Championship medals, with the Americans claiming gold back in 2016. Interestingly that was in Aarhus, Denmark - the same venue hosting the upcoming World Championships and first Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification event. Up front too will be brothers, Ates Cinar/Deniz Cinar (TUR).
The younger talent includes Giacomo Ferrari/Giulio Calabro (ITA), who finished 11th at the 2015 470 Junior Europeans in Bourgas, and just three years later have escalated to a world #8 ranking. Over many years of junior fleet racing, the Italians have traded places against Hippolyte Machetti/Sidoine Dantes (FRA), with recent encounters giving the upper hand to the French. Machetti/Dantes count a gold at last year’s 470 Junior Worlds and silver at the 470 Junior Europeans to their most recent credits – so expectations are high.
Austria’s long-standing 470 partnership of David Bargehr/Lukas Mahr are nurturing their nation’s next generation; Nikolaus Kampelmühler/Thomas Czajka and Yannis Saje/Lukas Haberl. Recent converts to the 470 Class from the 420, Saje/Haberl only concluded their 420 career a few months ago at the 2017 Youth Sailing World Championships in China, finishing sixth. They are not the only ones getting a first taste of a 470 European Championship though.
A debut 470 Championship appearance for the Netherlands’ Cas Van Dongen/Robin Becker beckons. With just a few months in the boat, the pair are still getting to grips with 470 racing and hope to squeeze results higher than back of the fleet.
“We have done one other regatta, and finished almost last in every race,” explained Van Dongen. “Now we want to race with the other guys and try to be as close as possible, and it is the only way we will improve.
“I am excited. We are not having the boat fully under control yet, but it is about racing now. We are excited to race and to meet all the other guys in the 470 and see who is crazy enough to go to the other side of Europe for racing! It’s really nice. The 470 is everything within sailing. It is a really cool boat,” concluded Van Dongen.
Host nation Bulgaria, will be represented by Nikolay Georgiev/Atanas Radev and Evgeni Atanasov/Martin Garov.
Nations competing are: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and USA.
Racing gets underway at 1300 hours on Saturday 19 May, with an 11 race series through until Wednesday 23 May. The top ten teams will advance to the podium deciding medal race on Thursday 24 May. Lighter breeze is forecast on Saturday with gusts up to 12 knots, gearing up to stronger breeze next week – a perfect mix of race track conditions for 470 sailors.
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Writer: Luissa Smith