The 2020 RS:X World Championships being held in Sorrento, Australia, came to a showdown during the mornings medal races which were held in a light 8 knot breeze with a strong ebb tide flowing. The volunteers and staff of the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club had promised that it would be sailable in the morning only, and for the ten men and ten women sailors competing, this would be their last shot at claiming a spot on the podium for this event.
The previous four days of racing had been fast and furious, with different sailors performing better or worse in the differing conditions. It looked as though on Friday morning that the super consistent Kiran Badloe (Netherlands) could’ve sealed the championship title, but an inconsistent Friday on the water kept the door open for the chasing pack. For the women, it was Lilian de Geus (Netherlands) that slowly ground down week long leader Noy Drihan (Israel) over the four days to end Friday tied on points but ahead on countback. The first four days also saw the reigning Olympic champions in Dorian van Rijsselberghe (Netherlands) and Charline Picon (France) start slowly and also grind their way up to the top to be in medal contention.
And in the end it all came down to the Medal races.
The women were up first and with the tide ripping across the line there was a real possibility of being over the line early if the sailor weren’t careful. In the end, the first piece of drama came from the two Israeli sailors on the start line. Katy Spychakov and Noy Drihan clashed just as the starter went and once they had disentangled themselves from each other and the anchor cable of the start boat they were already behind. Drihan was also judged to have been in the wrong and was given a penalty by the umpires which put Drihan in last place on the water and the chances of winning the title almost out of her reach.
It was Hong Kong’s Hayley Chan who led around the first top mark and then around the course to finish first. But behind Chan was where the drama was unfolding. Charline Picon had begun the day in bronze medal position and had a very slim chance of upgrading that to silver or gold. It would need some serious skill, strength and speed on her part as well as some misfortune on those in front of her. And with Drihan rounding the first top mark in last position, Picon in second, the mathematical chances of silver were increasing.
Picon would go on to hold her second position across the finish line where she could only look back to see where her rivals of de Geus and Drihan were finishing. De Geus cruised across the line in a comfortable fourth place and to her second world title to accompany the 2018 world championship she won. Picon still had a hope of the silver medal as she continued to look back and watch Drihan cross the line in ninth place. This was enough to give Picon the silver medal and drop Drihan agonisingly down to the bronze medal position.
Picon on the race, “It was a very hard race. There was a lot of current helping with the upwind and I rounded in second place. Lilian did a good race and is still in first position. I had a good regatta. I knew at the start there was a protest with Noy but I didn’t look back. Only on the second upwind I had a look and I thought I could get the silver medal. I am super happy with this week.”
De Geus on her title, “I did my own race actually. I tried to win the medal race and I came fourth but I had to keep an eye on Charline who was going well. The next thing for me is the Europeans and then lots more time in Enoshima.”
The men were up next and initially it did not look hopeful to get their race in as the breeze had dropped a little towards the end of the women’s race. The race committee were determined and saw an opportunity, with a few gusts coming down the course, to shorten the course and hope that the wind would hold for the race – which thankfully it did.
It was a clean start and with the fleet heading off to the left hand side of the course to try and stem the tide. Thomas Goyard (France) was one of the first to peel off to the right hand side which seemed to play off as he was in the top three at the top mark with fellow Frenchman Pierre le Coq and van Rijsselberghe. Badloe was down in seventh place, still in gold medal position. Israel’s Shahar Zubari had committed to the far left and was to round in ninth place and just outside of the medals.
Goyard and Le Coq led around the bottom mark with van Rijsselberghe just behind and with a comfortable gap back to fourth place. Badloe looked to struggle slightly on the run but managed to hold on to his position in seventh before turning to go back upwind for the second and final time. By the time the fleet were at the top mark, van Rijsselberghe had upgraded himself into first place and he would go on to extend his lead and take the race win. Behind him it looked like Badloe had dropped back in the pack – and with van Rijsselberghe leading Badloe’s seventh position was not enough to win him the world title.
Badloe scrapped around the top mark in fifth spot and would be chased hard by Zubari down the final run with Badloe finishing fifth across the line to take his second consecutive title by just two points ahead of van Rijsselberghe. Zubari finished in sixth place, and as Goyard had finished the race in second, Zubari just lost out on a bronze medal which Goyard was delighted to accept.
Kiran Badloe commenting on the medal race, “The racing was exciting, nerve wracking, physical, mental; it had it all. Dorian had a pretty sic race and led from almost from the beginning and I put myself at the back and I had to dig deep to make sure I didn’t drop into second. I didn’t have nerves, but I did feel pressure and I knew I had to step it up and pass some people on the last few legs.”
Goyard on the medal race, “The race was very tricky once again with so much current. I had a touch with Kiran at the beginning so I did my turns. Dorian did well to win and I was happy to come second. I have been training with Dorian and Kiran which has given me so much confidence.”
In the Under 21 fleet, Tom Reuveny from Israel won the men’s division and was impressive in challenging the fleet to the extent that he managed to sneak into the medal race. This will undoubtably put Reuveny into a strong position with regards to experiences later on in his windsurfing career. Giorgia Speciale from Italy is the women’s Under 21 winner and will be disappointed to have missed out on the medal race herself having put in a strong set of results that was only undone by two errant results over the week.
As the World Championships draw to a close, the RS:X Class would like to thank Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, their volunteers and staff, for not only being gracious hosts during the week of racing, but also for providing the sailors and coaches with a proper home away from home for a number of weeks in the lead up to the event and for supporting all of the different training and preparation activities over the past few months. Sorrento has been a fitting venue, a perfect send off, a windsurfers paradise – giving the class the opportunity to head to Tokyo 2020 with its head held high and end what has been a momentous 4 Olympic cycles as the chosen windsurfer class.
Thank you Sorrento, thank you Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club!
Text Credits: RS:X Class
Photo/Video Credits: Caitlin Baxter, Baxter Films
Event Website – www.rsxclass.org/worlds2020
Event Pictures: http://www.rsxclass.org/media/pictures/?album=8325
Event Videos: http://www.rsxclass.org/media/videos/?album=7884