Following the abandonment of most races yesterday owing to lack of wind, the race committee at the ISAF World Championships in Santander optimistically announced they would get 40 races completed today. They managed 23. And if mounting criticism by sailors and coaches from all nations is anything to go by, these race committees would struggle to run three properly.
While the conditions have been extremely difficult, every day there are reports of poorly-laid courses, races being started when the wind isn't steady, races not being started when it is and finally there are three Australian protests looming after current world 470 champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan were disqualified under Rule 42, which relates to pumping rocking and ooching. Five other countries are believed to be protesting the race committee for similar decisions.
Details were a little scanty as Mat and Will were preparing their protest, but I believe that the protests will allege that the Flag O was displayed (therefore allowing rocking, etc) in race two and that its removal was not adequately signalled. The resulting yellow flag and penalty turns dropped the pair from second to fifth in that race. In the next race the wind died completely and Belcher says they were rolling, not rocking, but were given a second yellow flag which automatically excluded them from that race.
With only three races in the series able to be completed, the Australians lie in fifth position after dropping their DNF. They are on 11 points, only two off second place and only five points behind the leaders, Charbonnier and Nebout-Javal of France. However, in a one-drop regatta they do not want the spectre of 38 points hanging over their heads. I will update the result of the protest as soon as it is known.
Burton Leads Laser
It was better news in the Laser, where only two races were completed despite the sailors being on the water for nearly seven hours.
With the fickle winds making most races a lottery, it is a credit to Tom Burton that he has managed to put a consistent regatta together. Third going into today after scores of 5,3,8,2,8, he added a 4th place in the first race of the day to move up to second and ironically hit the lead after the second race, despite a disappointing 16th.
While the next two on the table had wins to their credit, they also had at least two double-digit finishes to Tom's one. Dutchman Nicholas Heiner is carrying two 12ths and a 10th while Britain's Nick Thompson has an 18th and an 11th on his card.
Burton described it as another tricky day. He said he was leading the second race on the left after a good start and then carried his next tack all the way to the right. A big wind shift suddenly favoured the left and Burton was in trouble.
“I got hammered but the guys to the right of me got hammered even worse,” he said. “I feel I missed an opportunity but it wasn't a horrendous day.”
With three more gold fleet races and the double-points medal race left on the schedule, Burton has a three point lead over Heiner and a six point lead over Thompson.
Olly, Olly, Olly
Australia's young gun in the Finn, Oliver Tweddle, had a dream start at his first ISAF Worlds, sitting in equal first place with accomplished British sailor Giles Scott. Each won the only race their fleets sailed today. Lying behind them is Jonas Hogh-Christensen who was famously denied an Olympic gold medal by Ben Ainslie at London 2012 and PJ Postma, the Dutchman who was in gold medal position until he touched the boom of a Kiwi competitor. This is exalted company for the young Victorian.
Tweddell explained his race to Robert Deaves of the Finn Association: “The first race was pretty tricky. I started at the pin and went left and got a nice bit of pressure and a left hand shift which worked out quite well and then basically held my lead from Deniss Karpak all race.”
On the race committee, “Luigi (PRO – Peter Reggio) and his race team were actually doing a really good job. They weren't sending us off for a bad race in dodgy wind. We actually got a second race off but they abandoned it after a couple of minutes as the breezed died and then filled in. So they did a really good job, but the breeze was never stable enough to get a second race in. Unfortunately that's sailing.”
Jake Lilley finished 6th in his fleet while Joe McMillan was 30th.
After losing Monday with no wind, and only one race on Tuesday the Finn fleet is now a long way behind schedule. Three races are scheduled for Wednesday to complete the opening series, before the gold and silver fleet splits for the next three days.
Nathan Outteridge is not one to make excuses, but he was clearly extremely frustrated after a day on the water that yielded precisely no completed races. To make matters worse, arch rivals Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand had three races in good conditions in blue fleet and sit at the top of the table with a scoreline of 1,3,7.
As yellow fleet has completed only two races and blue fleet has three, no overall comparison is possible, but Outteridge and Jensen's scorecard reads 16 and 4.
Also in blue fleet, Australians David Gilmour and Rhys Mara had a mixed day with scores of 17, 3 and (20). Steve Thomas and Sam Phillips scored 32, 2, (34), Joel Turner and Lewis Brake were 21, 17, (24) and Will Phillips and Jasper Warren were 25, 16 (39).
It could have been an excellent day for 2008 Olympic 470 gold medallist Tessa Parkinson and her crew Chelsea Hall. A solid first race saw the pair work up the middle of the course and turn the top mark behind Grael and Kunze of Brazil, who cleared out to win comfortably.
The Australians were locked in a battle with Dobson and Ainsworth of Great Britain, with the Dutch and German crews pushing up from behind. At the bottom mark the British forced an overlap which meant Parkinson had to tack on to port to clear her air.
The British finally opened up a three boat-length lead and the Australians turned from attack to defence, just holding off the fast-finishing Dutch to take third place.
But it was the second race of the day that should have ended in triumph. Coming off the line in third place, the Australians stayed on starboard much longer than the other crews and it paid huge dividends. They rounded the top mark in front and extended away on the first run.
There was a bit of European argy-bargy directly in front of the crowd who packed the terrace of the Dune course in the centre of town. The leading German crew stalled in a tack and stopped dead in front of the Danes, who screamed “STARBOARD!!!” There was no collision but it allowed Parkinson and Hall to extend their lead and when they rounded the top mark they were at least 500 metres in front.
The wind had picked up to a decent 15 to 18 knots and that contributed to the tragedy. Parkinson called for a gybe, the boat went across the wind… and kept going. The spectators groaned as the kite spilled its wind and the boat teetered on its balance point… then toppled into the drink.
Fully seventeen boats had gone past by the time the Australian pair righted their craft and carried on, with the damage well and truly done. Instead of sitting at the top of the leaderboard, they languished in 16th place after blue fleet results had been added.
“We just rushed it,” Tessa Parkinson explained as they waited for their final race. “I turned a bit quick… just a lack of practice, really.”
This is the first major event of the year for Parkinson and Hall, but there is no lack of commitment. “I don't think you'd be at an ISAF Championship if you weren't serious about the Olympics,” she concluded.
Despite coming in strongly from the south for a short time, the wind died completely during the third race, which was abandoned when boats started drifting backwards in the tide.
With three races in blue fleet and only two in yellow, an even comparison is again impossible. Parkinson and Hall sit eighth in their fleet, one place ahead of Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks.
In blue fleet, it was a miserable day for Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price and her crew of Eliza Solly. They were black flagged in the first race and followed up with a 19th and 13th to be 21st in the fleet.
The multihulls were also bedevilled by AP flags and abandoned races. Yellow fleet got two races in, where Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin had a solid start with two single-figure finishes of sixth and ninth. Euan McNicol and Lucinda Whitty didn't fare so well, recording 21st and 13th.
Blue fleet got only one race completed and Pip Pietromonico and James Wiersbowski upstaged their more favoured compatriots, finishing fifth, three places ahead of Olympic silver medallists Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis.
All in all it was another shambolic day, disrupted by wind and tide and not helped by what can now be fairly described as totally inadequate race management. However, as Nathan Outteridge concluded, there's not much you can do about that.
Racing is supposed to commence at 11am again tomorrow, wind permitting. It is hoped that the protest room will have emptied by then, that the IT people will have fixed the malfunctioning tracking software and that the race committee will have learned from their mistakes of the first four days. Oh yes, and there may be some flying pigs above the Dune course too…
Full results can be found here.