The RS:X European Championships started in Vilamoura, Portugal, with a light wind fizzle for the 43 men and 31 women competing for the European titles as well as for a single European spot at the Tokyo Olympic Games. This is only the second major RS:X event of the year, following on from the 2020 RS:X World Championships held in Sorrento, Australia, one of the last sailing events to happen before the world of sailing shut down to COVID-19 so the start of this event has been wildly anticipated by all in the RS:X Class.
For the sailors competing this week, 2020 has been a difficult year to manage in terms of both training, equipment and event priorities. With the introduction of the IQ Foil for Paris 2024 Olympics, many RS:X sailors have been trying to manage two campaigns in terms of getting time on the new Olympic windsurfing equipment whilst keeping training time on the RS:X. These European Championships will likely be won by the sailors that have managed those two ambitions the best – but we will only see at the end of the week if this rings true.
For the opening day, it was a very shifty, up and down first day of racing – perfect to test the nerves of sailors who may not have raced for the past eight months. Whilst the weather was generally warm and sunny, it was the wind as always that’s caused the most issues, swinging mostly to the right and oscillating up and down to give a variable race course where winners and losers would easily be made and found.
In the womens fleet, it is reigning Olympic Champion, Frances Charline Picon who tops the scoreboard having scored a consistent 1, 3, 4 from the day and having made the best of todays conditions. Behind Picon is a well established chasing pack which includes class legends in Zofia Noceti Klepacka from Poland in second, current world champion Lilian de Geus from Netherlands in third and Katy Spychakov from Israel in fourth place. The points are all very tight at the top of this compact but extremely competitive fleet.
Picon on todays racing, “It was really nice to be back on the water today. Ive been in Vilamoura for two weeks training which was really nice to be back with the girls. I had a good training period during COVID and I managed good racing today with some good starts in the first two races. I had a good sensation on the board and I made some improvements throughout the day.”
In terms of Olympic qualification, it is too early to make predictions but at the end of day one it is Yulia Matveenko from Belarus who has a slim lead over Croatian Palma Cargo in the race for the final European spot for Tokyo. Matveenko and Cargo are also 2nd and 3rd in the Under 21 fleet and will be pushing each other hard all week.
For the mens fleet, the previous dominance of the Dutch is missing from day 1 where reigning world champion Kiran Badloe sits in 13th place overall after an average 15, 13 and 11 place from the days three races. Badloe is an eternal fighter and competitor and will be looking to fight back from that position as the racing extends throughout the week but he has not made it easy for himself. The leader overall is Israeli Yoav Cohen who mastered the light, shifty conditions the best to score 7, 2, 2 and have a slim one point buffer over Mateo Sanz Lanz from Switzerland in second. In third place overall is Mattia Camboni from Italy who won the second race of the day.
Mateo Sanz Lanz on todays racing, “The racing today was tough, right on the limit of planning and railing conditions so very physical. But it was nice to be on the water with friends again. During the lockdown I trained with some of the Spanish team as their standard is very high which was good.”
In terms of Olympic qualification, it is the two Russians of Askerov and Tokarev who are fighting for the spot, even if it’s a country spot that either of them could secure. The closest challenges to them is Aron Gadorfalvi from Hungary who sits poised just a few points further back and ready to secure his countries place in Tokyo.
For tomorrow, there are another three races scheduled – but earlier than the forecast time as a front is due to arrive in Vilamoura which will bring very wet conditions with the potential of no wind in the afternoon. Racing will start at 1000 in order to avoid the wind drop but sadly will not avoid the rain. The second day of an event is normally the one which sets the places up for the medal races and with a change in conditions its very likely to bring a reshuffle to the leaderboard – but who will be top?
Racing continues through to Saturday where the top ten will race for the medals. Action can be followed via the event website and also through the Twitter and Instagram pages for the RS:X Class.
Text: RS:X Class