Typhoon No.18 was scheduled to dominate the headlines on the first day of racing at the 2017 RS:X Windsurfing World Championships, being held on the site of the 2020 Olympic regatta in Enoshima, Japan. At the end of the day, whilst the remnants of the typhoon which passed through overnight did play a role, it was the almost impossible sailing conditions for both the sailors and race committee which would dominate the talk ashore.
As the 168 competitors from 37 different nations turned up at the Enoshima Sailing centre early in the morning, the overnight rain had disappeared leaving a blustery 25 knots of wind and huge breaking waves in the harbour entrance that showed the legacy of the typhoon at its most powerful. Discretion on behalf of the race committee led to an hours postponement in the hope that the conditions would abate to allow the men’s fleet to safely negotiate their way to the race course area.
And the conditions did eventually abate, almost too far though as when the men’s fleets left the comfort of the harbour, the wind had dropped to just 10 knots – far from the planning conditions that was forecast. So those that had hoped for a wild and windy start to the event would be left disappointed. Instead it was the waves that would have the biggest influence on the racing – waves that would frighten the biggest of sumo wrestlers as they rolled constantly through the course area.
Louis Giard (France) mastered the conditions and won both of his races to lead the men’s fleet with a 5 points lead over local rider Makoto Tomizawa who scored a 3rd and 4th – a very good start for the Japanese sailor. After the first day, to have a nice points buffer is comforting but does not allow for anyone to sit back. Giard commented on the days racing, “It was difficult, the first race was a bit of mess with big wind shifts and some marks moving but I think I did ok to finish without losing places”. Giard did more than ok as he won, but it took the race committee and jury some time into the night to unpick the mess and ensure that the results reflected the fairness of the race.
One of the veterans of the fleet, Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) commented, “It was a really shifty day, some big shifts coming through which made it really tough racing. I had two good races so I am really happy with that”. Byron finished the day with a 6, 3 score line to sit in 3rd overall at the end of the day.
Antonio Cozzolino (NZL), who at the beginning of this year quit his job to take back up his Olympic campaign noted, “I would like to reflect on how I did today but I really have no idea what happened. The swell was huge so it made reading the wind virtually impossible which meant you could miss some of the massive shifts and drop like a stone through the pack”. Cozzolino finished the day with a 35th and a 23rd and was happy with the progress made.
As the men were just finishing their second race it was the turn of the women to head out at 1500hrs local time. With the heat of the day dropping slightly, the wind had decided to do the same creating an even trickier course for the women with some holes in the wind and the big shifts remaining. Consistency would prove to be key for the women’s fleet and that is exactly Olympic silver medallist from Rio, Peina Chen (China) went out and achieved with two first places in the racing today. In fact, it was China that would dominate the results for the women’s fleet being in 1st and 3rd overall, split by Zofia Klepacka (Poland) who also had a consistent day with two second places and sits in second overall.
Whilst established performers were rising to the top, they were being chased by the upcoming riders who are aiming for Tokyo in three years time. Maria Mollestad (Norway) had a fantastic day scoring a 6th and 15th, beating some top talent to sit in 13th overall. There will likely be similar upsets throughout the week as developing talent in the fleet look to break into the top twelve for a chance at the medals.
With the wind dying further, and the sun starting to set on the bay, the race committee decided to send the women’s fleet back to shore and home – a very long day of waiting and racing.
With two good qualifying races under their belts, the sailors will be pleased that the typhoon turned out to be nothing more than a storm in a teacup.
Racing for the qualifying series continues with up to three scheduled races on Tuesday before the fleets are split into Gold and Silver. The weather conditions currently look light and marginal but sailable. Fingers crossed.
To follow the 2017 RS:X World Championships please use www.rsxclass.org/2017worlds/
Text: Bas Edmonds / RS:X Class
Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shuttersail.com
Video: Icarus Sport
Event website: http://www.rsxclass.org/worlds2017/