A shifting, confused and unforgiving racetrack greeted the 86 men and 62 women on the first day of RS:X racing at the 2018 Hempel Sailing World Championships being held in Aarhus, Denmark. Whilst for the last month most of Europe has been wrapped up in what seems to be an endless summer, this finally broke over the waters of Aarhus with dark ominous clouds sweeping over the race track and gusty winds whistling through the board park. The age old sailing phrase of, “Its not normally like this” ringed through the board park as anxious competitors rigged up.
It was the men who were first to race with the 86 men split into yellow and blue fleets and started in an oscillating 13-18 knots of wind. Frenchman Louis Giard, who has been in great form in all of the Sailing World Cup regattas leading into this event, set out his intentions for the week with an emphatic race win but was chased hard by reigning Olympic champion Dorian Van Rijsselberghe from the Netherlands. Italian Danielle Bendetti took the race win in the other fleet with an equally strong performance. If there were any nerves in the fleet, Bendetti and Giard definitely did not show them and the men were hitting top speeds of nearly 30 knots boardspeed around the course.
After three races, Bendetti tops the leader board with two race wins and is on equal points with Giard from France who also took two race wins who both sit on two points from three races. Behind them is the double Dutch due of Kiran Badloe and Dorian Van Rijsselberghe who are also tied with three points each with Badloe sitting marginally ahead due to a better discard than his compatriot.
Bendetti was very happy to be sitting joint top, having just come back from 8 months out following a knee surgery. Bendetti on today’s racing, “I like planning conditions so I was very satisfied with today. The wind was very shifty as it was coming across the beach and super gusty. You had to make a decision at the very last minute as to where to start and I got it right today.”
Tom Squires from Great Britain, currently sitting in sixth having scored a 5, 4, 2, was exited about the racing, “I was in the zone today. I’ve been really looking forward to this event and have been mentally strong and wanting to get into the racing. The race track was puffy and swinging all over the place, but it was consistent so it was just about getting in phase and sailing fast.”
A big surprise of the day was the performance of China’s Bing Ye, the reigning world champion had a day to forget with a score line of 34, 34, 33 and sits in 73rd overall with his chance of retaining his title all but blown away after the first day.
The women were up next and were sent out into a slightly stronger breeze than the men had had before them but it was equally as shifty and would provide an equal challenge. Emma Wilson from Great Britain took her maiden world championship win by leading the blue fleet around the course whilst Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka took the win in the yellow fleet. Race two suffered some minor technicalities with a mark drifting out of position. At the time of coming to sure, the Race Committee reviewed the tracking and decided that it was an unfair race and decided to abandon the race which changed the expected leader board up. Noceti-Klepacka’s went on to score a ninth place to sit 6th overall whilst Wilson scored a 16th and sits 11th. Not a bad day for 19 year old up and coming Brit who has a two time windsurfing Olympian mother to inspire her.
The days honours however were awarded to another British sailor, Saskia Sills who posted a 3, 2 score line to have a two point buffer over Lilian de Geus from the Netherlands. Sills commented, “Today I had the greatest day I’ve ever had in my senior career so I’m feeling pretty good. I almost won the last race but I took the wrong gust downwind. I’m a bit annoyed about that but we live and learn. It was a really tricky day so I’m really happy to come away with consistent results.”
A debutant at this world championship is New Zealander Veerle Ten Have who had an amazing showing at her first senior worlds. Ten Have is fresh from taking silver at the Youth World Sailing Championships in the United States earlier in July, an event which she says helped her prepare for today a lot, “The Youth event was in planning conditions, just like today so it’s definitely helped build me up with the conditions today. The intensity of this fleet though is so much higher, in this fleet if you have one bad tack or gybe then you lose six places, you can’t make any mistakes at this level”. Ten Have is 34th overall at the end of day one and is hopeful to make the Gold fleet.
Racing continues on Monday 6th August with the women starting at 1200 (local time) and the men at 1330 (local time), both the men and women are scheduled three races each. With lighter winds forecast the fleets may be shuffled around a little as different skills and strengths will come to the fore in new conditions. Qualifying series continues through to Tuesday when the fleets are split into Gold and Silver fleets before the top ten medal race on Sunday 12th.
RESULTS Results will be available when race commences here – https://aarhus2018.sailing.org/results
WATCH Videos from the Hempel Sailing World Championships are available here – https://aarhus2018.sailing.org/watch
Sailing will be shown live on World Sailing’s YouTube and Facebook Channels from 2-12 August. URLs and Embed codes of all live programming is available here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0yLg4wYxxpd3wUyEnHV3N36bMB3YCG55.
Pictures : ©Pedro Martinez/Sailing Energy / Hempel Sailing World Championships, Aarhus 2018