Start well, pick the shifts up the first beat, work hard and extend. A simplistic view of sailboard racing but the reality is that if you do the basics right then you are in with a shot of doing well and potentially winning. Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals”. Nothing was more true than this on Day 5 of the RS:X World Championships being held in Enoshima, Japan.
The day started with a promising northerly wind and the Men and Women Gold Fleets were sent out on time for the first time in the Championships. A start was tantalizingly close but the breeze was toying with the Race Committee who were forced to send the competitors back to shore for a few hours to wait for a more established wind to develop.
When the Gold fleet sailors were eventually sent back out to Sagami Bay late in the afternoon, tensions were high in the fleet. Would the wind hold to allow those on the fringes of the top ten to sneak into tomorrows medal race? Would todays racing bring better fortunes to those who were unlucky in yesterdays racing? As it turned out, the wind held – barely – for two races for the men and just a single race for the women.
For the women, Chinese sailors had dominated the event and the scorecard after today shows nothing but the same. Between the six Chinese sailors entered into the event, gold is guaranteed to one of the top four sailors, and all but one are in the medal race tomorrow. Total dominance in what is a world class fleet. In the end it was Piena Chen, the 2015 World Champion and Olympic Silver medallist who outshone her rivals to take an almost unassailable lead into tomorrows race. Chen took advantage of overnight leader Jiahui Wu’s misfortune, Wu was caught over the start line in the only race today, and stole the overall lead by winning today. Chen has been the most consistent sailor and has won five out of the 9 races sailed and holds a 17.3 point lead over compatriot Hongmei Shi, Chens closest rival for gold. Yunxui Lu (China) in third also has a chance of taking gold but this would need an extremely fortunate set of events to occur and would need to see Chen come last.
There are a number of sailors who could stop a Chinese clean sweep of the podium, which include Polands Zofia Klepacka and Hollands Lillian de Geus, sitting in fifth and sixth overall respectively. Spains Blanca Manchon in seventh is also an outside chance for a medal if she sails at her best.
Stefania Elfutina (Russia) is the last board to get into the top ten and has missed the medals for the overall title but has won the U21 division as the top board with a day to spare. Elfutina narrowly beat Chinas Xianting Huang to the medal race and therefore cannot lose her U21 crown tomorrow.
This week of racing, whilst overshadowed by the brilliant performance of the Chinese, has been tough for others. Katy Spychakov (Israel) is part of a young group of sailors from Israel who are aiming towards Tokyo in 2020. Spychakov commented on the weeks racing, “It has been a difficult week for me. We normally train in Eilat where the wind is stronger and I prefer those conditions. We spent three weeks in Enoshima during the summer and we had light winds then so I have been working hard in this area. I was expecting these conditions but its still hard sailing”.
In the men’s fleet, the fight for gold is a two way shootout between Chinas Bing Ye and Switzerland’s Mateo Sanz Lanz who are tied equal on 33 points. Sanz Lanz came out on top today with a 4,2 scoreline whilst Ye battled back from an uncharacteristic 12 in the first race with a win in the second. The battle for bronze will be a chasing group including Mengfan Gao (China), Shahar Zubari (Israel) and Kieran Martin Holmes (Great Britain) who are the most realistic challenges for the bronze medal and a spot on the podium.
The battle between Ye an Sanz Lanz will be extremely interesting to watch for both windsurfing purists as well as those new to the discipline. Mathematically, it will be whoever crosses the finish line first tomorrow who walks away with the title. Both sailors will be allowed to employ the racing rules to their full advantage to gain a penalty over the other and a lead on the course. Equally if the wind doesn’t allow for the medal race to be sailed, the maths is such that Ye will take the title by way of having the better discard. Both sailors will be hoping to settle this on the water and that the wind allows this to happen
Further back it was again consistency that was the key and those who managed to keep a cool head did the best out of todays two races. This included Great Britain’s Holmes who sits fifth overall and has a realistic chance of a medal. Holmes on this week, “I had a shocking couple of races on the first day which was a shame as I could be in a much stronger position otherwise. Today was quite hard with the wind shifting all over the place. I found that doing the basic things right helped – get off the line cleanly and sail fast and it worked well for me today. I am really excited about the medal race tomorrow and with being in with a chance – I’ll just have to sail my best”. Holmes scored a 7, 3 today and was the second best performer of the day.
Just about muscling his way into the top ten is Dutchman and reigning double Olympic champion Van Rijsselberghe who sits in 9th overall but with no realistic chances of a medal. Frances Louis Giard, who had sailed so consistently in the qualifying series, is in 7th overall and will be ruing a poor final series of results which has blown such a promising opening two days to the event.
In the Under 21 division, Spains Angel Granda Roque followed up his race win from yesterday with a second place in the first of todays race. These two excellent results have all guaranteed him of the U21 title. The battle for silver and bronze is much tighter and will be between Mestre Adrien (France), Carlo Ciabatti (Italy) and Ofek Elimeleh (Israel).
The format for tomorrows racing is that a single race will be held for the top ten in each fleet, with points being counted for double. The races are scheduled to be 20 minutes long so a sprint around the course. With double points on the table and competitors looking to take advantage of any mistake, the races tomorrow will be tense thrillers and an apt conclusion to an excellent weeks racing.
Text: Bas Edmonds / RS:X Class
Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail.com
Video : ICARUS Sports
Event website: http://www.rsxclass.org/worlds2017/