The final day of the 2019 RS:X World Championships being held in Torbole, Italy, looked to be heading out with a damp fizzle, but ended with a perfect finale for the medal races as the Ora finally decided to show up just before the time limit for the day.
With a full schedule planned for the morning, the 236 competitors and the race officials and volunteers turned up at the Circolo Surf Torbole in the dawn light as has been the norm this week. However the only difference this morning was that the normal northerly breeze had disappeared – Lake Garda was breathless in both its beauty as the sun rose but also in the amount of wind.
With fixed times for the races, the waiting game began and as the morning ticked over into the afternoon, fleets started to be cancelled. First it was the silver men and women fleets who were cancelled, causing cheers from certain countries as their qualification was confirmed with the race abandonment. Then came the gold fleets turn – again cancelled as the whispers of wind that could be seen on the horizon refused to come towards Torbole. Again cheers went up as more countries found that their ticket to Tokyo had been booked.
For the medal race contenders, their was mixed emotions amongst the ten men and ten women. Race and have a chance of getting a medal or upgrading the medal. Don’t race and get to protect the medal that was already halfway around their necks. Would the wind fill in before the 1600 CET deadline?
It did. Slowly at first. But it built gradually and by 1500 CET, the womens fleet were on the medal race course ready to race in a light 8-10 knot breeze. China’s Yunxiu Lu was relatively comfortable with her lead with the real battle between silver and bronze, between Lilian de Geus and Katy Spychakov. Just two points or one board separated reigning World and European champion de Geus and the relative new-comer Spychakov.
Russian Stefania Elfutina won the race and was followed by Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka in second and then Spychakov in third. Down the last reach to the finish line, Spychakov could be seen looking over her shoulder, trying to figure out where de Geus was. Fourth place crossed. Fifth place crossed with Lu. And then de Geus crossed in sixth place. Spychakov had done enough to elevate herself to silver and resign de Geus to bronze. Lu had done enough to keep her first place and is the 2019 RS:X World Champion.
Spychakov on her medal race experience, “I wasn’t too nervous before the race, I thought I would be more nervous but it was fun. I lost the youth world championship here in 2017 so this is a really good feeling for me. We have such a good group of three girls in Israel, we have been together since 1999 and we are such good friends and push each other all the way.”
With Hong Kong, Brazil, Peru, Finland, Mexico, Hungary and Turkey already having qualified this week, it was in the silver fleet for the women that the final two spots would be allocated. Without any races, it was the United States and Thailand who were worthy recipients of the final two spots for Tokyo 2020.
For the men’s medal race, the wind had increased slightly and again the battle would be to see whether reigning World champion (and double Olympic champion) could get the better of Frenchman Pierre le Coq and carry on the tradition of standing on the top two steps of the podium at major RS:X Class championships. The battle for silver and bronze was on!
With three laps in the race, van Rijsselberghe led the race off the start line and never really looked back. Van Rijsselberghe looks most comfortable at the front of the fleet and this was no exception as he incrementally extended his lead on each lap. Behind, eyes were on Pierre le Coq to see where he would round each mark. After the first lap he was in sixth place – silver was just out of his grasp but he was close and could make it up. At the end of the second lap he was just behind teammate Thomas Goyard – but when it comes to medal racing there is no such thing as “teammates” and Goyard was looking to place as high as possible himself and fought to keep le Coq behind him. At the end of the third lap, le Coq had dropped to seventh and van Rijsselberghe had done enough by winning to win the silver medal.
Badloe pretty much cruised his medal race, knowing he had a big buffer in terms of points to be able to relax and just sail fast, which he did and finished in fifth knowing he had the world title comfortably in the bag. Badloe and van Rijsselberghe were in the reverse positions at the 2018 world championships and these two friends are happy to be on the podium together in any position – these two good friends like giving and taking with each other.
Badloe on the medal race, “No nerves today, there was just a bit more at stake today but I had to keep in mind that the points were super close and to keep on eye on everyone else. I just tried to put everyone else out of my mind and go fast. It’s a little different to last year with Dorian and I going differently to last year. It shows what we are doing works and we are having a solid program.”
The gold fleet of the RS:X had more countries than qualification spots and the fight for the 8 spots had been going on over the past two days of finals racing. With todays cancellation of racing, the final standings showed that the following countries had provisionally booked their tickets to Tokyo; Korea, Hong Kong, Belarus, Switzerland, Lithuania, United States, Cyprus and Czech Republic.
These World Championships were the final major event of the RS:X Class for 2019 with attention firmly now focused on Tokyo 2020 and all of the remaining qualification events where countries can get their tickets to Tokyo. The 2020 World Championships are in New Zealand in February, one of the last true barometers of performance for the sailors before heading to Japan.
Finally, the RS:X Class would like to thank everyone at the Circolo Surf Torbole, the volunteers, the officials and the supporters of the class that have made the 2019 RS:X World Championships so special for everyone involved. 2019 has seen such spectacular events for the class and all of the sailors deserve a well earned break before the battles begin again in the new year!
Text – RS:X Class
Images – RS:X Class/Robert Hajduk
Event website – www.rsxclass.org/worlds2019