Lake Garda serves up a game of two halves
Day 1 of the 2019 RS:X World Championships dawned – quite literally – upon the 236 competitors who were eager to start their championship campaigns this morning. It was a day full of comparisons; good versus bad, left versus right, up versus down and in the end, north versus south. Lake Garda and Torbole served up a traditional local dish which the club race committee had already predicted yesterday and shuffled the schedule to accommodate the winds for today.
What many didn’t appreciate was that to make the most of the mornings early northerly wind, it would mean an 0800 start. What that meant in reality was that sailors were shuffling into the Circolo Surf Torbole at 0630 like zombies this morning rather than honed athletes hungry to win a world title.
However, what waited on the lake was every bit worth the early start as the men’s fleet arrived at the race-course to find a consistent 16-20 knots from the north and some of the best opening conditions to a championship the class have experienced for some time, even if a little chilly at 0800 in the morning.
Making the most of the conditions was Pierre Le Coq from France who took the race win in the opening race of the day and then followed this up with a 4th and a 5th and sits two points ahead of Dutchman Kiran Badloe who is a further two points ahead of Britain’s Tom Squires. China’s Kun Bi is in fourth just one point back from third placed Squires and it is these top four sailors that sailed the most consistently and didn’t score results outside of the top ten.
Squires, “I had a pretty fun day today actually. It was breezy this morning, I was rigging up in the dark but we got the best of the breeze which made it worth it. These world championships are super important and statistically doing well here puts you in good stead for the Olympics next year. The fleet is huge this year which makes the racing super tight and a little crazy but I’m loving the challenge.”
Byron Kokkalanis from Greece sits in 9th place overall and had two good results before a little mishap in the 2nd race, ending the day with 3, 21, 2. Kokkalanis on the racing today, “It was a good day for me. Conditions were very nice, pretty shifty and gusty but very nice. It is very hard to have a good start with so many guys on the start line. Experience definitely helps with such big starts so I am happy to have this experience. I don’t like early mornings but this morning was crazy, rigging in the dark. After 20 years with the RS:X, this is definitely the earliest I have ever raced. I am looking forward to a lie in tomorrow.”
Double Olympic medallist, Dorian van Rijsselberghe sits down in an uncharacteristic 13th overall having scored 3, 29, 3 from todays races. However, van Rijsselberghe will shoot up the leader board when he drops his 29th place tomorrow – the rest of the fleet knowing you can never write off the Dutchman when the big moments come around.
Of the countries looking for Olympic qualification, at this stage, the top three countries in the running are Hong Kong, United States and Korea. A solid first day does no harm, and the leading sailors from these countries will be looking to keep up the pressure on the other nations such as Belarus, Switzerland and Lithuania.
For the women, just as they were preparing to launch the race committee started to lose faith in the northerly breeze and decided to wait ashore for the southerly breeze to develop. As the day warmed up (it was only 1000 when the men came back ashore in time for breakfast…), the southerly wind started to develop and by 1430, the women were afloat and heading to the race-course in a light but building breeze.
And it was very much worth the wait. Conditions for the third and final race of day 1 was in full planning conditions as the Ora wind from the south kicked in. Italian Marta Maggetti is in pole position after day 1 and leads with 13 points overall after posting 1, 10, 2 for the day. There are three girls behind her tied on 16 points in the shape of Emma Wilson (Great Britain), Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (Poland) and Maya Morris (Israel) with another five points going back to Saskia Sills in ninth place overall on 21 points overall. This is a very competitive fleet.
Emma Wilson, “We had three races in a building wind. I had two really good starts and the third one not so much. You have to keep going around people because there are so many people, but that’s really cool having so many girls out here. You have to be a bit more conservative in the big fleet and avoid getting people between you. I am not a morning person at all, I have started drinking coffee this week!!”
Katy Spychakov sits in seventh overall and commented on today’s racing, “Today was a little bit tricky, we were waiting for the Ora wind and when it arrived it was shifting and it was hard to see what was coming. The first two races I made some good decisions but the Ora properly kicked in and I didn’t have such a good race in the last race and I fell in. Its so much harder in such a big fleet, I was racing in Japan in a small fleet of 23 girls so it’s very different racing. In Japan you can chose your spot on the line and plan a bit more, here you can have girls around you very quickly. I used to do triathlon as a child so I am used to getting up really early so am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Brazil, Finland and Hong Kong all made strong bids for Olympic qualification today with Peruvian sailor Maria-Belen Bazo also showing strongly on the first day to sit in 17th overall. Wednesday is the last day of qualifying series racing when the fleets will be split into Gold and Silver fleets – getting into Gold fleet may guarantee qualification if rival countries are stuck in Silver fleet. The first countries could be announced tomorrow.
There are another three races scheduled for Wednesday, with all sailors being required to carry trackers so that the racing can be followed online via the RS:X Class website.
Text – RS:X Class
Images – Robert Hajduk
Website – www.rsxclass.org/worlds2019