The Italian Sailing Team won the Hempel World Cup Series Nations Trophy, awarded to the highest performing nation at the Final, on Sunday 9 June as the 2019 series concluded in Marseille, France.
Team Italy were in outstanding form all week long and won gold in three of the ten Olympic events and added one silver and two bronze medals to their impressive haul.
Marseille was plagued with a light fickle breeze on the final day which was only deemed suitable for racing at 16:00 local time. By the time a 6-10 knot north west breeze came in, the Laser, Laser Radial and Finn Medal Races had been cancelled and only allowed the Men’s and Women’s 470 to complete theirs within the allocated time slot.
Gold medals and the Hempel World Cup Series titles in the Men’s and Women’s 470 went to Mat Belcher and Will Ryan of Australia and France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz. Giovanni Coccoluto (ITA) took the Italian teams third gold medal in the Laser and Lithuania’s Viktorija Andrulyte was confirmed gold medallist in the Laser Radial. Andy Maloney secured Finn gold for New Zealand.
All Medal Races will be available to watch back via the Hempel World Cup Series Final – Marseille YouTube playlist.
The most tense race of the week was saved for last in Marseille as Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz (FRA) and Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) faced off in the Women’s 470 Medal Race at 16:30, the cut-off time for races to start.
Just one point separated the teams ahead of the Medal Race and with enough of a points buffer between themselves and the chasing pack, whoever beat who over the finish line, no matter what position, would win gold.
As expected, the pair match raced at the start with each team looking for the initiative to put themselves ahead and in pole position for gold.
The French grabbed the initiative at the start and managed to loosely cover the British team early on in the first upwind as both teams fought hard for a speed advantage. The French kept the British team close by and whilst there were occasions where they were separated, the French never let the Brits out of their sights with several tacking duels on the upwind.
At the first mark, the French team had the advantage and knew that all they needed to do from there was to keep the British team close by and match them tack for tack and hold the right lines for gold to be theirs.
Mills looked to pull in the experience that earned her a silver at London 2012 and gold at Rio 2016 to claw back into the gold medal position and constantly looked for openings.
As the race played out the French did keep the British at bay but Mills and McIntyre saw a small opening at the final rounding mark to the reaching finishing but the French did just enough to hold on and claim a hard earned gold.
“There were a lot of moments during the race where we didn’t know what would happen, especially the last mark before the finish,” commented Lecointre. “We were very close and we had to fight for the inside of that last mark to round in front of them. It was hard but we succeeded.
“It was a very intense race with the British girls. It was real match racing at the start and we got the advantage but nothing was confirmed until the end.
“We knew that we would have to match race them so we did a lot of preparation beforehand and throughout the whole race we kept a close eye on them.”
Mills and McIntyre fought valiantly and finished just seconds behind the French team to take away silver.
Silvia Mas Depares and Patricia Cantero Reina (ESP) completed the podium after a fifth in the Medal Race.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) held a 20-point lead ahead of the Men’s 470 Medal Race and were all but assured of gold. Only a disqualification would have seen them drop out of top spot and that was dependent on Jordi Xammar and Nicolás Rodriguez (ESP) winning the Medal Race.
The Australians stayed out of trouble and came through in third to confirm gold. The Spaniards had a good buffer over the chasing pack and took a sixth to seal silver.
Meanwhile, a race for bronze was on. Three points separated Hippolyte Machetti and Sidoine Dantes (FRA) and Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström (SWE) going into the Medal Race. The teams locked horns at the start, match racing each other in a bid to claim the medal.
The Swedes needed to put two places in between themselves and the French pair. The teams jostled for position and as the Swedes overtook the French towards the latter part of the race, it looked as if they had a shot at clinching bronze. However, in the light breeze they were unable to find enough speed to make up a place as the French took bronze.
Any one of six sailors were in with a shout of clinching a medal in the Laser ahead of their Medal Race but they were unable to decide their week on the water as racing was cancelled at 14:00 local time.
Giovanni Coccoluto (ITA) snatched the overall lead off Ryan Lo (SGP) on Saturday and was confirmed as the Laser Hempel World Cup Series champion. Lo had to settle for silver. Slovenia’s Zan Luka Zelko completed the podium.
On his victory, Coccoluto commented, “We have had really strong winds and really light winds. I believe this is part of the game. We are doing a sport that is based on weather conditions so this is what it is. This place has been amazing.
“The Italian team have been amazing this week. I’m really proud to be part of the team. All of the guys have been happy out there sailing. They have been focused and working hard. We are a young team in this cycle so I’m happy for the whole team. It gives us good motivation.”
New Zealand’s Andy Maloney and Josh Junior battled all week in the Finn, dominating at the front of the fleet. Maloney prevailed thanks to a consistent scoreline that saw him finish outside of the top five just once. Junior finished eight points off Maloney but fought hard all week long as the pair enjoy a spirited rivalry.
“Josh and I have both been sailing really well, going fast which is really good for this stage in the season,” said Maloney. “Out on the water Josh and I are rivals and trying to beat each other. Obviously we both want to win the regattas but during our campaign we’re helping each other out.
“Even in between races we are sharing settings, talking about what worked well and aiming for one-two in each race. It’s working well and we’re progressing with each race.”
Tokyo 2020 is just 410 days away but the World Cup win has positioned New Zealand as Finn medal contenders for the Olympic Games, “Only one of us will go to the Olympics,” continued Maloney,” but whoever that person is will have a shot at gold rather than just being there to make up the numbers.
“Every regatta is important for us between now up until someone is selected. This is our first one-two, which we’ve been trying to do for the last few months so we’ve got a few free coffees coming our way. There’s a selection committee [to decide who goes to Tokyo 2020] but that’s confidential within the group.”
Sweden’s Max Salminen rounded off the podium.
Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU) sailed consistently in the Laser Radial all week long, finishing out of the top two just once. She had gold wrapped up before the Medal Race and was delighted with how her week panned out, “We had all kinds of conditions this week. It has been amazing. After the fifth in the first race my coach had some words for me and I started to push myself.
“When we sailed in the strong winds – we had up to 35 knots – I sailed amazing and so happy sailing. It was perfect for me. I’ve been speedy all week and won six races so I’m really happy.”
Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) and Elena Vorobeva (CRO) took silver and bronze respectively.
Across six days of racing, Marseille provided sailors with a little bit of everything. Strong, survival sailing conditions were mixed with light and shifty conditions enabling the complete sailors to take the Hempel World Cup Series titles for 2019.
The competitors will enjoy a short period of rest before the READY STEADY TOKYO – Sailing, Olympic test event this August before the next Hempel World Cup Series kicks off in Enoshima, Japan just days after.
By Daniel Smith – World Sailing