In a light breeze, the RS:X is the most punishing Olympic sailing discipline to sail. Sailors will pump their sail all the way around the track to generate boat speed. With their heart rate at its limit for the entire 30 minute fleet race and 20 minute Medal Race, they must also make tactical decisions based on the wind and keep track of their competition.
When Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL) was caught starting early in the Women’s RS:X, the equation was at least simplified a little bit: Three women for three podium spots. The question remained, who would finish where.
Yunxiu Lu (CHN) started the race in first and was determined not to let the gold slip through her fingers.
“Today the wind was light, everybody was working hard,” said Lu. “The start line was very competitive, it was difficult. The Polish girl got an OCS. I just thought ‘work hard!’ Just pumping, pumping, pumping. ‘Keep going, need to go faster than everybody.’ I tried to do my best and it worked.”
Chinese sailors swept the top three spots in the Medal Race. Hongmei Shi was first, Lu second and Rio 2016 silver medalist Peina Chen was third. But only Lu stood on the podium in Regatta Park. Katy Spychakov (ISR) won silver while Charline Picon (FRA) took bronze.
Pawel Tarnowksi (POL) took a risk at the start of the Men’s RS:X Medal Race and it cost him a spot on the podium. The Polish sailor carried a six-point lead into the Medal Race, but the 22 points he picked up from the early start allowed three sailors to slip past him in the overall standings. Bing Ye (CHN) was the primary benefactor, going wire-to-wire for the win, which ensured him the gold medal. Radoslaw Furmanski (POL) earned the sliver with Pierre Le Coq (FRA) grabbing bronze.
“It’s really exciting to be here at World Hempel Series Miami Cup for the first time,” Ye said. “The sailing is really challenging here, but it was a really great opportunity to race here.”
Ye won the world championship in the RS:X class in 2017, but struggled in the 2018 World Championships, finishing 40th. This was an impressive return to form for Ye, but he’s careful not to look too far ahead.
“I’m only focused on the present, to do my best each day,” he said. “But I can promise I will show you a better performance in Tokyo.”
Text & Photos: World Sailing