The final day of the RS:X European Championships, being held in Vilamoura, Portugal, concluded with a fast paced, adrenalin fueled medal race for the 43 men and 31 women competing for the European crowns. The event was also an Olympic qualifier for Europe where one country in the men’s fleet and one country in the women’s fleet could book their place in Tokyo next summer. The pressure was on.
With no racing on the penultimate days racing, the standings remained unchanged and the day 3 leaders of Charline Picon from France and Yoav Cohen from Israel would be going into the medal races with the yellow leaders jersey’s.
The weather has been unpredictable all week for these championships, and the bay of Vilamoura was again to play a big part in the outcome of the event and the winners. The women’s medal race was started in planning conditions, a solid 14 knot breeze and so the race team went with a reaching start. As the ten sailors blasted off the starting line, the wind dropped suddenly to 10 knots and left the sailors floundering slightly as the sailors pumped to keep their speeds up and on the plane.
Emma Wilson from Great Britain led around the first downwind mark and in the gold medal position with Picon dropping down the fleet. On the upwind Wilson choose to sail in planning mode whilst the rest of the fleet were sailing off the daggerboard. This turned out to be a tactical error for Wilson who, whilst much quicker, could not make her way fast enough upwind compared to the others in the fleet.
Picon led around the next mark and held her lead to take the race win and the European championships. Israels Katy Spychakov came across the line in second place and pulled herself into the silver medal position whilst Polands Zofia Noceti Klepacka finished in the bronze medal position overall.
Picon on the race, “My tactics for the first reach was to try and have a good start but not necessarily be the first to the top mark. I passed four or five on the top reach as I could keep planning when the wind dropped during the first part of the race.”
“Emma was leading and she was good for the gold but I saw all of the boards were on the daggerboard and decided to follow their tactics and I saw Emma go off to the far right. It was a tight race as I only had a six point lead coming into the medal race so I had it all to do on the day.”
For the men’s race, Yoav Cohen had led the fleet from day one and so was possibly under the most pressure for the medal race. The events comeback kid turned out to reigning world champion Kiran Badloe from the Netherlands who had ended day 3 with two races wins and was on a bit of a roll.
The weather for the men was back up to 15 knots with stronger gusts now coming down the race course which again allowed for the race team to select the reaching start option. In a strong breeze you wouldn’t bet on Badloe from being anywhere but at the front and as the ten boards started the medal race, it was the tall Dutchman who worked his way to the front and crossed the line in first place.
This event was also a sailor selection event for the Israeli team so the competition had been close between the leading four Israeli sailors taking part in the medal race. During the race it was Shahar Zubari who crossed the line in second place and had done just enough to earn himself a silver medal. Zubari was looking over his shoulder to see whether he had done enough to turn that into a gold medal but those hopes were dashed as Cohen crossed fifth in the medal race which was enough to keep the gold. Badloes performance in the medal race was enough to drag him up into the bronze medal position and to close out the podium.
For the Olympic qualification spots, it was Russia that qualified for the men and Greece who qualified for the women.
The RS:X Class would like to thank all of the staff and volunteers involved in organizing such a fantastic and safe event under what has been a very challenging week for both the sailors and the shore teams. The RS:X Class would like to wish all of its sailors a safe journey home and some rest before Christmas.
Text: RS:X Class
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