The final day of the RS:X European and Youth European championships dawned with a flat calm Gdansk Bay greeting the 220 sailors who were hoping to close out these championships… For those in the medal races, some titles had been awarded, some were almost guaranteed bar exceptional circumstances and some fleets hung finely balanced and getting any racing in today (or not) could make the championships for certain sailors.
As it was the weekend, the wind decided to have a little lie in and woke up around 1100. This led to a slight delay to the schedule before the first of the fleets were sent afloat in a gentle whisper which was forecast to drop later in the day. The race management team from Sopot Sailing Club have been excellent all week and they worked hard to make the most of the day’s opportunities.
The women were up first, and with the title already awarded to Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka, the battle was around the silver and bronze medals. Russia’s Stefania Elfutina started with a paper thin 1 point lead over Great Britain’s Emma Wilson with Maya Morris from Israel a further 7 points further back. Realistically these three sailors would be fighting for the two medals and one of the three would walk away empty handed.
In a brutally light 5 knots wind, Wai Yan Ngai from Hong Kong led the race from start to finish with a hoard of boards chasing her down. Elfutina rounded the first mark just behind Wilson but overhauled the young Brit down the first run and then proceeded to cover her for the second beat with Morris down in 6th and out of the battle. Elfutina did enough to protect her lead over Wilson down the final run and reach to finish the medal race second and claim the silver medal with Wilson finishing just behind and protecting her first senior championship medal – Wilson is also the under 21 champion.
For Wilson, this was the perfect comeback from a heart-wrenching fourth place at the Worlds just two weeks ago. It is also a change of fortune for the Olympic bronze medalist from Rio who had a disappointing Worlds by her own standards with a 17th overall – a silver medal here is a good end of season present.
Whilst Morris finished fourth overall, she can console herself with a silver medal in the under 21 competition with compatriot Noy Drihan finishing fifth overall and is third placed under 21 sailor. There are four under 21 sailors in the top ten in the women’s fleet, and whilst some of the regular sailors are missing this week, it does start to signal a generational change within the fleet.
Klepacka on this week’s racing, “This has been a really tough week for me, it’s been up and down and shifty winds and I’ve tried really hard to sail well and smart this week. I’m so happy to win and it’s also nice to see the younger sailors coming through and challenging. I’m taking some time off for the next month and I hope to walk to Everest base camp as a bit of fun.”
The men were up next and the scoring was a little more complicated as the sailors made their way to the race course area. Italy’s Mattia Camboni held an 18 point lead over Israel’s Yoav Omer and mathematically could only lose if Omer won and Camboni came last or was disqualified – Camboni had stated that he would try to cover the Israeli to secure his gold medal. In the end Camboni had a solid start and rounded the first mark in sixth place – the gold medal comfortably his. Down the first run Camboni made up four places to round the bottom gate in second place, which he would hold onto through to the finish. The race was won by Ofek Elimelech, and with Omer finishing in fourth, this was enough to secure silver for Omer, just ahead of fellow countryman Shahar Zubari who took the bronze. Israel would also take fourth thanks to Elimelech’s win in the medal race.
Local favouite Pawel Tarnowski finished the medal race in ninth place and finished tenth overall which will be a disappointment for the Pole. Tarnowski heads to Enoshima, Japan next to prepare himself on the Olympic waters ahead of the Sailing World Cup in September.
In the under 21 competition it was Omer that was best placed by the end of the event and took the win ahead of Yoav Cohen, also from Israel. Andy Brown from Great Britain would edge out Luca Di Tomassi from Italy to take bronze.
The youth men had the most frustrating day as just as the youth women were finishing their race the wind died away completely and after an hours delay the race committee sent the ten sailors back to shore. This fleet was the closest in competition and all of the sailors would be desperate to race to have the chance to improve – that is except Frenchman Yun Pouliquen who would take the Youth European title if the racing was abandoned for the day.
Eventually, almost at the time limit for the event, the wind did build enough to permit the final race of the event to take place. The race was another light air affair and drama throughout. Kafri from Israel started in third place and rounded the first mark in the silver medal position. However down the next run it would be another Israeli, Eyal Zror who powered through to take the win. Pouliquen did enough by finishing eighth to win the gold medal, and stayed ahead of Pianazza also from France who secured silver. Zror’s first place meant that Kafri dropped back down to third and had to settle for the bronze medal, just one agonizing point behind Pianazza.
In the under 17 event, Zror won the gold medal with Liam Segev from Israel in silver and France’s Mathis Ghio in bronze medal.
The RS:X Class association would like to thank Sopot Sailing Club, the Polish Yachting Association and their supporters and partners for hosting such a fantastic event run by a dedicated team of windsurf loving volunteers. The next event will be the Sailing World Cup in Enoshima where the men and women fleets will do battle on Olympic waters.
Text: Bas Edmonds / RS:X Class
Photos: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail.com