The stakes were high with Qingdao medals on the line, a share of the prize money and invitation places at stake for the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final set to be held at the end of November in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) overcame Pavlos Kontides (CYP) in a two man duel for gold and silver in the Laser. The duo were split by four points and held an unassailable lead going into the Medal Race so it was inevitable that they would lock horns from the off as they fought tooth and nail.
Stipanovic explained proceedings from his eyes, “Today I decided I would go on Pavlos immediately from the start. I was trying to stay really close and get him away from the start but he was time staying in the middle of the line all the time and 30 seconds before the start I made a mistake and I opened up the doors for him.
“It was really tricky and I was pushing hoping he would make one mistake. At the first upwind mark I was last but it was not so bad as I caught some breeze and after 50 metres on the downwind I was only two metres behind him.
“On the second upwind we were together and he didn't follow me and that was a chance for me and I took it and came in front of him and after that I controlled him.”
Kontides was left to rue not following the Croatian as he analysed his race, “From the start I had a huge advantage but the wind was really tricky and you didn't know where it was coming from. I had two options after the gate, to tack immediately and cover him or proceed a bit more and wait for the right shift. I thought the right would pay. By proceeding I was depending on the wind and the wind went left and I went right so I was wrong in my estimation and then I ended up behind him.
“It was always going to be hard because he will always push you over the layline and then it's game over.
“I'm happy with how I sailed but I'm disappointed not to get gold, I have many silvers and now I have one more to the tally but I will keep on fighting. If I keep on sailing like I have this week then the gold will be pretty near.”
The fight was also on for bronze with Tom Burton (AUS) sitting ahead of Wannes Van Laer (BEL) by just one point before the Medal Race.
Burton came through in third, three places ahead of Van Laer to take bronze but there were a few nerves on the race track, “The first beat everybody had a close eye on each other. I wasn't looking too good at the top mark. Wannes was in front by a few boats so I just had to stay close and put a bit of pressure on him. I managed to get a bit of pressure on the second beat and just snuck past and held off to the finish
“I'm reasonably happy. It's nice to finish a tough week, I wasn't happy with the way I was sailing. The guys at the front were really on to it. You've got to be on top of your game.”
Stipanovic, Kontides and Burton have already booked their plane tickets for the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final. The spot was wide open and Wannes van Laer's fourth gave him the spot. As top Asian finisher, Colin Cheng (SIN) also receives an invitation.
Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) defended her ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao title after a tight week of Laser Radial sailing.
Zhang, Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR), Tina Mihelic (CRO) and Sara Winther (NZL) were all extremely tight heading into the Medal Race. With the points close anything was possible.
With a light frame and knowledge of Qingdao's waters Zhang navigated the tricky conditions with expertise. She came through in third and most importantly well ahead of her three rivals, taking gold by 11 points. With a successful defence Zhang was beaming after racing, “I am really happy with the result and really happy to win in Qingdao, again,” said Zhang. “My performance was very good in today's wind conditions. In the whole of the event sometimes the wind was strong and the direction was not one I'm used my performance was solid and I just tried my best to get as high as possible. I am really happy with my performance.”
It was a late finish the day prior with protests aplenty in the Laser Radial fleet. Mihelic was disqualified from the penultimate race and dropped out of the medals heading into the final day.
With the pressure high and needing a result the Croatian did not fail to deliver and finished ahead of Winther and Drozdovskaya to take silver, “The Medal Race was a really nervous race with lots of protests because four of us were really close. In the end I managed to finish fifth and end up with enough points to finish ahead of the girls from New Zealand and Belarus.
“It was a light wind race so it was hard. There were a lot of jury out there so we had to be careful not to get penalised. It was really nervous with a few shifts and the wind going up and down.
“Coming from fourth to second is a good feeling.”
Drozdovskaya came through in last spot in the Medal Race and dropped out of the medal positions. Despite receiving a standard penalty, Winther held on to a podium position, taking bronze.
Winther's third place gives her an ISAF Sailing World Cup Final invitation spot. Min Gu (CHN) was the top Asian sailor and therefore receives an invitation.
Jordi Xammar and Joan Herp (ESP) took their first ISAF Sailing World Cup victory with a strong performance in Qingdao.
The two time Junior World Champions took a good lead into the Medal Race and a seventh was enough for them to take gold by four points over Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE). Xammar and Herp, who celebrated his 21st birthday on the final day, have thrived in Qingdao and having played down their chances in advance walk away as deserved victors.
“It's incredible to finish this regatta like this,” said Herp. “We didn't expect this result before we came here but we sailed very well over the last few days and the Medal Race was tough because everybody was very close and anybody could put a boat in between us but that is sailing and we have to manage the pressure. We're very happy about the ending.”
It's been a fantastic year for the young Spaniards who have a string of achievements under their belts as Xammar concluded, “We are really happy with our season. We won the Junior Worlds and Europeans and finished seventh at the worlds and that was incredible for us. Now, coming here to a World Cup in Qingdao and winning is like… We thought Santander was the perfect thing and that was the end but coming here and winning our first World Cup in our lives is really good. This isn't junior sailing; all the seniors are here with years of experience.
Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) were the early leaders in the Men's 470 but trailed the Spaniards by ten points heading into the Medal Race. A fourth compared to Xammar and Herp's seventh was not enough for them to reduce the deficit but they did maintain second overall. “The Medal Race was difficult for us,” explained Mantis. “We tried to start close to both Spanish boats, we achieved that but we wanted to keep the right side but we ended up with the left side and we managed to pass the top mark not in a good position.
“We were almost losing second place. We tried to recover and we finished fourth and this gave us the silver medal. We are very happy about this because it's always very good to get a medal in an ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta.”
Onan Barreiros and Juan Curbelo Cabrera (ESP) round off the podium.
Henrique Haddad and Bruno Amorim (BRA) and Zangjun Xu and Wei Wang (CHN) are the recipients of an ISAF Sailing World Cup Final invitation.
It was victory for home nation sailors Mengxi Wei and Yani Xu in the Women's 470 who sealed the deal with a second place in the Medal Race. They have been the standout performers in the Women's 470 finishing out of the top two on just two occasions across the week.
After racing Wei said, “I feel very grown up and happy that I have won here. I feel very lucky to come to Qingdao and represent China. I am honoured and proud to win a gold medal.”
Xiaomei Xu and Ping Zhang (CHN) took silver with a third in the Medal Race
Shasha Chen and Haiyan Gao (CHN) pushed Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka (JPN) out of the medal places after taking the final race victory. The Japanese pair could only muster a fifth which saw them miss out on bronze by three points.
As winners Wei and Xu receive an ISAF Sailing World Cup Final invitation.
With Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) wrapping up gold ahead of the Medal Race all eyes were on the fight for silver and bronze between Aichen Wang (CHN) and Max Oberemko (RUS).
Five points split the pair ahead of the Medal Race, so it was game on. Oberemko knew what needed to be done and had a tremendous first upwind to hold the lead but Wang was hot on his heels rounding in second.
Oberemko stayed at the front of the fleet but Wang was persistent and kept up with his pace. Oberemko edged away from Wang as the race played out but unfortunately for the Russian, Wang was also extending his advantage over third place. Oberemko took the bullet and Wang came through with a comfortable second to seal silver.
Kokkalanis stayed out of their way throughout the race with a relaxed demeanour on the race course. He concluded the event with a fifth place in the Medal Race.
The Greek sailor has been a class above the rest of the fleet and has loved the ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao experience, “It feels really nice to be in Qingdao, the venue of the Beijing Olympics, and win an event like this.
“It was a really nice experience to see the place, the marina, the feeling and knowing it hosted such a big event. To see the conditions that everybody was talking about, that it was really hard, humid and light winds. Basically the period now is the best and it's a really nice temperature. It was an amazing week. We had all sorts of conditions so it was one of the best regattas I've had this year.”
With Kokkalanis qualifying for Abu Dhabi at the Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds, Aichen Wang (CHN) receives the invitational spot as the next leading sailor.
Jiahui Wu (CHN) took gold in the Women's RS:X, holding off Olga Maslivets (RUS) in the Medal Race to seal the deal. The Chinese sailor moved into pole position the day prior after Maslivets received a disqualification.
Sun came through in fifth compared to Maslivets' seventh that ensured she finished 11.4 points ahead of the Russian.
After racing Wu said, “The weather and wind has been good. I have tried my best throughout the whole competition and I feel really good about winning. I have been confident throughout the competition.”
Maslivets knew what she had to do in the Medal Race and worked hard on the water, putting her final efforts into the race but in the light breeze she was unable to find an edge and missed out on gold. Nonetheless she was pleased with her performance, “I'm still happy as I've just come back onto the RS:X after two years out. It's good to be back on the track and I feel happy in the RS:X again.
“It's a different Qingdao to the one I knew and I liked it more because we had good winds, really nice winds from the sea which we never had six years ago. I like the challenging conditions with the difficult current and the waves.”
Hongmei Shi (CHN) blitzed the field in the Medal race, taking the bullet which subsequently moved her into third overall after Mei Hao floundered in ninth position. Shi took bronze by just a single point over Hao.
With Sun already invited to Abu Dhabi, the invitation is given to Olga Maslivets (RUS).
Next up for many of the racers is the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from 26-30 November.