Damage Limitation on “Discard Day”

Day 4 of the RS:X World Championships being held in Enoshima, Japan saw tight racing in difficult and frustrating conditions. With the majority of sailors in the Gold Fleet picking up their worst result today, it was a case of damage limitation to the scorecard and ensuring that any hopes or dreams of winning this event were kept alive.

With what is seemingly become standard practice in the weather conditions here, the fleet were held ashore for an hour as the light breeze built to a lazy 8 knots – which had dropped down to just 5 knots by the time the Gold Fleet men and women got to the race course area on Sagami Bay. This would be the first time at this event that all of the top sailors in the fleet would race together and start to thrash out who would be the medal race contenders. The contest throughout the three races today would not disappoint!

In a strong case of kleptomania, the Chinese women’s RS:X team seem to be stealing every race win available and are proving the toughest competitors, especially in light, hot pumping conditions. With three different sailors taking a race win today, and four sailors in the top five, this formidable force of sailors are beginning to dominate and crush the rest of the fleet.

In race 1, it was Japanese sailor Megumi Komine, capitalising on a good start and a well picked wind shift on the first upwind on the left hand side of the course, who led around the majority of the course to be finally picked off by Manjia Zheng (China). Further back in the pack, others were struggling such as Stefania Elfutina (Russia) who picked up an uncharacteristic 29th place which promptly became her discard.

In race 2, it was the turn of China’s Jiahui Wu who led from the start, got the same shift on the left hand side, and never looked back as she won in relative comfort in such a tight fleet. In race 3, another Chinese sailor in Yunxiu Lu, who again led around the course but was chased hard by another compatriot in Xianting Huang.

On todays final race win, Yunxiu Lu commented, “I lost concentration in the first two races and I scored a 17th and 24th so it wasn’t very good for me. In the third race I knew I had to do something different and tried some different tactics which was good as I won the race”. Lu sits in fifth place overall and is the fourth Chinese woman.

The only sailor to break the stranglehold of China on the results continues to be the defiant Pole Zofia Klepacka who sits in third overall. Zofia, who picked up scores of 10, 10 and 22 said, “It was a really tough day with lots of pumping, it was shifty but also just plain hard work. I’m really tired but happy to not have thrown away the regatta.”.

Another happy sailor was Blanca Manchon from Spain. “Today was a really crazy day. It was really tough and the downwinds were so tight as the whole fleet arrived at the downwind gate at the same time. There were lots of opportunities to overtake but also to go backwards so I am happy with my results. I gave birth nine months ago so this is even better result for me. I will take it year by year but I am still aiming for Tokyo”. Manchon is in sixth and will need another solid day tomorrow to keep alive any hopes of a medal.

Overall, Jiahui Wu (China) leads from Piena Chen (China) with Klepacka in third. The points between the top two Chinese sailors is down to just 0,7 with Kelpacka five points adrift – this is sure to go down to the wire for the medals.

In the U21 fleet, Elfutina continues to lead the fleet but due to a difficult day, her lead over China’s Huang has been reduced to just 8 points as Elfutina slips down the overall leader board to 8th.

In the Silver Fleet, race wins were taken by Fujikp Onishi (Japan), Maria Belen Bazo German (Peru) and Sa Bin Chun (Korea) with Sin Lam Sonia Lo (Hong Kong) leading overall.

It was a similar story in the men’s Gold fleet with China taking the top two spots overall and have three sailors in the top five, with the men being slightly more consistent in their scores but vast majority of the fleet still picked up a discard.

In race 1, Hong Kong sailor Michael Cheng picked some good shifts up the first beat and took the race win, followed closely Great Britains Kieran Holmes Martin and then China’s Tao Li in third place. In the second race it was the turn of the youngsters to take a go at the front of the fleet with Spain’s Angel Granda Roque recording what could be his best result at senior level to date with a race win at the ripe age of 20. Italys Matteo Evangelisti scored third and is also in the Under 21 fleet – a great effort from these sailors and ones to certainly keep an eye on if they are winning already at this level.

Race 3 and normal service resumed with Mengfan Gao of China taking the race win followed by Bing Ye (China) and Dorian Van Rijsselberghe (Netherlands) in third. Van Rijsselberghe has not had everything all his way this event and is in a group of tall sailors who have struggled when the breeze drops. Van Rijsselberghe explains, “Its been a difficult week, being a big sailor means I have to work really hard, which I can do, but I struggle against the lighter guys all the time”. On sailing in Enoshima, “Its just an amazing place to sail. Really clean and the people here are really friendly and totally helpful and try to sort all of your problems. I just love coming here”. Van Rijsselberghe is looking to secure a third consecutive Gold medal come 2020 and whilst this is not his best event to date, no-one would write him off a podium position come three years time.

Reigning World Champion, Polands Piotr Myszka is equally struggling with the conditions and commented on todays racing, “I seem to collect places around tenth position. I don’t know what to do, however hard I work or whichever way I go I cant go better than 10th”. Myszka scored a 12, 11, 11 and sits in 13th place overall.

D2_05Overall, Ye and Gao hold the top two positions with Swiss sailor Mateo Sanz Lanz in third and Li from China in fourth. The top four sailors in this fleet are separated by only nine points so tomorrows racing is vital for anyone seeking that final points advantage before going into the medal race on Saturday.  In the men’s Under 21 fleet, Granda Roque has snatched the overall lead from Israel’s Ofek Elimeleh thanks to his race win today and leads by 13 points.

In the Silver Fleet race wins were taken by Igancio Berenguer (Mexico), Romain Ghio (France) and Oleksandr Tugaryev (Ukraine) with Ghio leading the fleet overall.

Racing continues on Friday with three races scheduled for all fleets. The top ten after tomorrow will progress through to a double points medal race where the medals will be finally decided.

Text: Bas Edmonds / RS:X Class
Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail.com

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