A display of superb counter-attacking tactics as teams pushed each other around the track in a final bid for leader board dominance on the Bay of Palma.
Close and compact racing was the order of the day, as battle commenced in a breeze of 7-10 knots. A short postponement ashore before the breeze kicked in and racing got underway.
Victories at the 470 Open European Championship were claimed by Mat Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS) in the 470 Men and Lara Vadlau/Jola Ogar (AUT).
Vadlau/Ogar also wrap up the women’s gold medals in the 470 European Championship, open to European nations only, with Sofian Bouvet/Jeremie Mion (FRA) breaking away to win the medal race and claim gold in the men’s 470 European Championship.
The 470 Women medal race finishes did not change the order of the European Championship leader board behind Vadlau/Ogar who already wrapped up gold yesterday. Silver to the Netherland’s Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen and bronze to Slovenia’s Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol.
Behind Bouvet/Mion, European Championship silver medals to Croatia’s Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic and bronze to Italy’s Simon Sivitz Kosuta/Jas Farneti.
Teams from six different nations won European Championship medals, with 16 nations featuring across the teams in each of the men and women medal race fleets.
Many of today’s medal race contenders will face each other on the waters of Rio de Janeiro in four months’ time, so results here on the Bay of Palma could well be an early taste of Olympic success. With so much depth in performance, the fight between these leading teams is finely balanced, with each up there and able to mount credible bids for the Rio 2016 Olympic podium.
Championship celebrations continued here in Palma with the prize giving for the top ten teams in the Open Europeans and medals to the top three placed European teams. Prizes were also presented to the medal winning crew and the youngest sailors in each of the men and women medal race fleets, twenty-two year old Jordi Xammar (ESP) and Carrie Smith (AUS) aged 21 years.
Australia’s Mat Belcher/Will Ryan had stacked up a 12 point advantage going into the medal race, so realistically the overall win was theirs to own, and for others to have a punt at. The pair was never at risk, maintaining a complete handle on their position in the medal race. They know exactly what it takes to win, repeatedly forcing others to walk in their shadow.
Responding to what advice he would share with the younger teams as they work their way through the hugely talented 470 fleet, Belcher said, “They should be really proud. There is always that transition between the younger generation coming through to the senior generation and experience counts for a lot in the sport of sailing. But we are seeing some amazing sailors come through and really giving it to the senior guys. They are fast and making really good decisions, which is a good message for the older guys. We are seeing that here and we are seeing that with Jordi’s generation coming through, and the Italians and the young Swedish guys. It is really great to see. I would say follow the dream and stay strong.”
Acknowledging the expectation as Rio closes in, Ryan commented, “It is a bit of both,” referring to the pressures he puts on himself and the pressure of delivery he feels to match the pedigree of Australian 470 sailing. “I think the pressures I put on myself are most probably the highest and going into the position of trying to replace Malcolm Page , the most successful 470 crew, I have always said I have to do it my own way. I am happy with where I have taken it so far and going into the Games being number 1 is a bit scary, but on the other hand I would prefer to have it that way than the other way. It has been a huge learning experience on and off the water for me these past few years and I have really enjoyed getting this far. Plenty of hard work, but plenty of good moments as well.”
In the battle for European Championship gold, the French pair of Sofian Bouvet/Jeremie Mion, who secured 470 World Championship bronze in February, had to up their game going into the medal race with a 7 point deficit to Croatia’s Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic.
“Yes, from the beginning it was very hard. We had some right shifts and it was not easy to do our speed as we were very close to other boats,” explained Mion. “But on the first downwind we succeed to past a few boats and then at the mark in the last upwind we finally passed in front of everyone. We are really happy as it has been a long week, and we were 19th overall after the first day. We knew we wanted to come back, but we didn’t expect to come back so well. It is very nice as we did a good World Championship too as well as here, and we have a good feeling.”
Bouvet/Mion are now amongst the oldest of the former 470 Junior Championship winning teams racing in the senior fleet, claiming back to back gold medals in both the Junior World and Junior Europeans in 2009 and 2010. Their move to senior fleet racing made way for Italy’s Simon Sivitz Kosuta/Jas Farneti, who stepped into the French team's shoes winning Junior World and Junior European titles in 2012, before the Spanish duo of Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp moved on in to seize the Junior World titles in 2013 and 2014, and Junior Europeans in 2014.
The USA's Stuart Mcnay/David Hughes finished in third overall in the open fleet behind the French.
Wrapping up European Championship bronze medals were Sivitz Kosuta/Farneti. Sivitz Kosuta suffered from injury last year, making his first return to major competition at the preceding Trofeo Princesa Sofia where they finished 25th, before upgrading their scoredcard at the 470 European Championship. The Italian pair knocked out a super consistent scorecard of all top ten finishes, bar three races.
“We are so happy about our results,” said a delighted Sivitz Kosuta. “I have to say thank you to so many people, to our coach, all our friends and family, my girlfriend. I think the biggest thank you goes to Jaz, because he never gives up. And also when I had the injury on my leg, he worked so much. And also when I stopped to believe in our dream, he believed also for me and so it is very special for me and I have to say thank you to him.”
Yesterday’s celebrations of being selected to represent Spain in Rio were soon on the backburner as Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp turned their attention to the medal race. Unable to climb the points mountain more than upgrading to 9th overall, they had nothing to lose in an attempt to claim the glory of a medal race win. This young team has proven they have guts and talent in bundles, and possess the ability to be radical when it counts. Today though they rode their luck, pushing for an optimum start and dismissed the individual recall as not for them. Austria’s David Bargehr/Lukas Mähr re-crossed the line, but the signal was for the Spanish pair. Regardless, Xammar/Herp delivered their Olympic dream yesterday, and a win today would only have been a bonus.
“We enjoyed the medal race and that was the goal and we did it,” commented Herp. “It was a pity that we were over, but we were at a very good place sailing at the front of the fleet. We were very, very close with the other guys so it was a good race for us.”
“This gives us a lot of confidence,” said Switzerland’s Yannick Brauchli who contested his most significant career medal race with crew Romuald Hausser. The pair finished the medal race in 8th and finished ninth overall in the Championship.
“After the 2014 Worlds in Santander, we started to work on many things and the boat, trying sails. It didn’t work out last season and we had some motivation problems, but now since December we are working together with the Polish and Swiss girls and we have done a lot of technical training and since then we are just improving and growing in confidence. We have a good mix between racing and training and now the puzzle is coming more and more together.”
470 Men European Championship Medallists
Gold – Sofian Bouvet/Jeremie Mion (FRA)
Silver – Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO)
Bronze – Simon Sivitz Kosuta/Jas Farneti (ITA)
470 Men – Top Ten Overall
1. Mathew Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS 11) – 51 pts
2. Sofian Bouvet/Jeremie Mion (FRA 27) – 67 pts
3. Stu Mcnay/Dave Hughes (USA 1) – 71 pts
4. Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO 83) – 71 pts
5. Lucas Calabrese/Juan De La Fuente (ARG 7) – 76 pts
6. Simon Sivitz Kosuta/Jas Farneti (ITA 29) – 80 pts
7. Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergström (SWE 349) – 86 pts
8. David Bargehr/Lukas Mähr (AUT 437) – 93 pts
9. Yannick Brauchli/Romuald Hausser (SUI 16) – 113 pts
10. Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp (ESP 44) – 120 pts
Champagne for breakfast, but just a little bit as it was early, was the treat Austria’s Lara Vadlau/Jola Ogar gave themselves for breakfast this morning, after wrapping up both the European Championship gold and overall win in the open 470 Women fleet.
“It has been a very special week and a really hard week, with challenging conditions,” said Vadlau, before adding in no uncertain voice, “but I love challenges! Also today in the medal race we sailed pretty good and we just enjoyed it.”
“We don’t want to lose any focus and we have to improve and we want to be the best prepared for Rio,” chipped in Ogar. “I hope that we are not yet at the level that we need to be in Rio. Every day for racing here we have challenges, particularly physical as every day was pumping conditions. This regatta shows us that we still have to improve. Now we want to focus on racing, racing and racing.”
Next up for the Austrians are appearances at Sailing World Cup Hyeres, followed by Sailing World Cup Weymouth.
There is no let-up in the ever improving performance of this pair, who have racked up medals at every 470 World and European Championship they have contested since 2013, counting three golds in the mix.
Returning to Vadlau, she summed up what drives her to be the best. “As I said four years ago in Barcelons at the World when I qualified for London 2012, the best way to be good is to enjoy what you are doing and feel lucky. If you are able to do this job, I think it is the most amazing job you can have on earth and I feel really lucky to be able to do it and to do it with such a good crew and my best friend. It is such an unbelievable opportunity and I am grateful for that.”
2016 470 World Champions Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance led the medal race around the first mark and down towards the gate. But in a regrettable twist to the medal race drama they were disqualified for not rounding the gate correctly, as Defrance explained, “It was a huge mistake. We were at the front of the fleet, so we had some time to do what we needed to do. We have been focusing this week on the downwind speed and we were really into the technique. And then it happened, there is no excuse but we did it.
“As I said to Camille, it is better to do it now than in the Olympic medal race. It is stupid as I could have said something, but I was just too focused.”
“The message is I need to take some holiday,” added Lecointre on the reason for the error and demonstrating that even World Champions make get it wrong. “I started the week as though I was on holiday and ended in the same,” she said in ironic reference to their superb mid-regatta performance being topped and tailed by high scoring results.
“It’s a very stupid mistake, but when you are so focused and it is so high-pressured …” she shrugged unable to finish the sentence, before summising, “but we will never do this again!”
The Netherlands’ Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen had assured themselves of the European Championship silver medal yesterday, following up with a 4th place in the medal race to secure second overall in the open fleet. Slovenia’s Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol finished 7th in the medal race and claimed the European Championship bronze.
A repeat of their performance at the 470 Worlds saw Poland’s Agnieszka Skrzypulec/Irmina Mrozek win the medal race, upgrading to 7th overall. It didn’t seem possible as they lost out on the claim to a pin end starting line position, having to spin off and opt for a mid-line opening.
Skrzypulec recounted their medal race win. “We were fighting really hard with the French for the first place on the pin end, but ten seconds before the start we realized that we would not manage to do that, so we made a plan B and crossed everyone else from behind. Finally it was kind of good for us as we didn’t lost any distance, and we had clear wind so we went a little bit to the right. I saw we had made some gain, so we tacked back to sail with the fleet and it was enough. We already had the advantage, and only the French were in front of us, so we wanted to stay calm, play with the shifts and not take too much risk. The horrible mistake from the French was the reason we took the lead. Irmina was working really hard on the trapeze and really pumping as she wanted to be first at the top mark. I could feel her emotions in the boat. We are really happy with this result and it is a really good way to finish the Championship. We wanted something more, but after yesterday it was a really good end,” she concluded about their 18th place in the penultimate race.
Brazil’s Fernanda Oliveira/Ana Barbachan finished second in the medal race and third overall in the open European leaderboard.
The fight between these leading teams is finely balanced, with each up there and able to mount credible bids for the Rio 2016 Olympic podium.
470 Women European Championship Medallists
Gold – Lara Vadlau/Jolanta Ogar (AUT)
Silver – Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen (NED)
Bronze – Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol (SLO)
470 Women – Top Ten Overall
1. Lara Vadlau/Jolanta Ogar (AUT 431) – 35 pts
2. Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen (NED 216) – 58 pts
3. Fernanda Oliveira/Ana Barbachan (BRA 177) – 67 pts
4. Annie Haeger/Briana Provancha (USA 1712) – 77 pts
5. Ai Kondo Yoshida/Miho Yoshioka (JPN 1) – 83 pts
6. Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol (SLO 64) – 85 pts
7. Agnieszka Skrzypulec/Irmina Mrozek Gliszczynska (POL 11) – 94 pts
8. Carrie Smith/Jaime Ryan (AUS 99) – 97 pts
9. Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance (FRA 9) – 101 pts
9. Xiaoli Wang/Lizhu Huang (CHN 1221) – 106 pts
– 470 Assn