[Source: 470 European Championship] Stunning sailing conditions across the race course on the Saronic Gulf in two nailbiting races, sees the 2014 470 Men European Championship title already awarded with a day to spare. The race track is immediately off Greece’s capital city Athens, with a breeze of around 10-12 knots and another blue sky day raced against the iconic Acropolis in the background.
The British pair of Luke Patience/Elliot Willis saved their best to last, knocking out back to back second place finishes in races 9 and 10 to become the 2014 470 Men European Champions.
In the 470 Women, the battle for the European Championship title has another day to go and will be between two boats, Austria’s Lara Vadlau/Jola Ogar and Great Britain’s Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark. The British will start the double-points medal race on the back foot, sitting on an 11 point deficit behind the Austrians, but with the Medal Race counting for double points there is still plenty to play for.
The tension here at the 2014 470 Open European Championships now escalates to Tuesday’s double point Medal Races. The windward/leeward medal race course will be set just off the Yacht Club of Greece, from where spectators will enjoy an elevated shoreside viewpoint.
More top finishes for the teams at the front of the leaderboard as racing heated up, with Mathew Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS) and Luke Patience/Elliot Willis (GBR) increasing their points margin over the fleet. Tomorrow, Patience/Willis will be hoping their medal race finish will add the 470 Open European Championship title to the 2014 470 European Championship title already secured.
“It is pretty cool. Elliot has been saving his muscles to last,” grinned Patience who improves on last year’s 470 European silver medal with former crew Joe Glanfield. “He has been absolutely pumping on the wire like a work horse for the past few days. We have just been on fire with speed. Everything has just felt good the last four races and yeh here we are with a European title. But there is still a race to go tomorrow and the Aussies are catchable,” he continued, referring to their chance at the Open European Championship title too. “It is quite a big margin of points, but it is catchable so we will be head down thinking about tomorrow.”
“To leap forwards today was amazing,” explained Patience on the pair’s steady climb up the leaderboard over the past few days. “It was just gorgeous champagne 470 sailing today. There was a bit of a gap between us and Mat going into today. Mat doesn’t often in those conditions have a big number under his belt so it was a big ask for us to do what we did. But as ever with these things, our sport is so complex, and we knew that if we just went into the into the day trying to control everything we could control, if we did that well we would be in a good place and that is all you can really ask.”
An astounding success in such a short period of time for the team has not surprised Patience, who commented, “Four or five months is not very long together at all. I think we always knew starting the team that it felt good and we felt like we had potential. To come here after such a short time and be comfortably racing at the front of the fleet and feeling good about what we are doing is great. Absolutely we dreamed we could do this, it is what we do it for, but in such short time it is great.”
Reflecting on their rapid success being a warning to others, Patience could only grin, “I hope so!”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s assault to do the double and secure the Open European Championship title, Patience concluded, “The point is we have nothing to lose. We physically can’t move – we can’t be worse than second behind Mat, so it is ours to take.”
Belcher and Ryan won the 2013 Open European Championship title, and carry a 9 point advantage over the British in their quest for a successful defence.
“This week we just wanted to focus on our performance and we know that all the teams are in good shape and we are in good shape, so it has been a good event for us to see where we are at and check in,” said Belcher. “This year has been quite difficult for us with a lot of things to cope with, so it is important for us to see where we are at before the ISAF Worlds and we are really happy with how we have sailed this week.”
With the British assured the European Championship gold medal, the hunt is now on for silver and bronze medals with three teams in contention; Joonas Lindgren/Niklas Lindgren (FIN), Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO) and Matthias Schmid/Florian Reichstaedter (AUT). Just 6 points separates these teams and with the double points Medal Race, it is going to be a really close contest to decide the remaining European and Open European podium places.
Not the best of days for Finland’s Lindgren brothers, but fortunately their high scores were exceeded by their nearest rivals. So results which would normally have seen them drop down the leaderboard, actually pushed them up to third overall. The team were 25th at the first mark in race 9 and fought back through the fleet, taking advantage of shifts. Race 10 again saw them struggling from the back in a tricky race, but now their attention is firmly on tomorrow.
“What we do now is check everything is OK with the boat and then we go home,” explained Joonas. “We will try to be relaxed but not too much, as we don’t want to start to feel as though the regatta is over. With the other two boats so close, we will just try to do our own race and basically aim for a race win.”
Worst day of the series for Croatia’s Fantela/Marenic today who are three time European Champions. “It will be a nailbiting medal race again,” said Fantela. “We will sail as usual 100% all in and in the end hopefully win a medal. It is all really open. Whoever sails the best tomorrow will win.”
A surprise disappearance from the Medal Race line-up for the 2103 European Champions Sofian Bouvet/Jeremie Mion (FRA) who spiralled downwards from 5th going into the day to 12th, after struggling with form and scoring their worst pair of races of the series; a 33,20.
470 Men Medal Race Line-Up – Top 10 after 10 Races
1. Mathew Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS) – 26 pts
2. Luke Patience/Elliot Willis (GBR) – 35 pts
3. Joonas Lindgren/Niklas Lindgren (FIN) – 63 pts
4. Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO) – 67 pts
5. Matthias Schmid/Florian Reichstaedter (AUT) – 69 pts
6. Lucas Calabrese/Juan de la Fuente (ARG) – 81 pts
7. Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) –86 pts
8. Stuart McNay/David Hughes (USA) – 87 pts
9. Panagiotis Kampouridis/Efstathios Papadopoulos (GRE) – 89 pts
10. Onan Barreiros/Juan Curbelo (ESP) – 92 pts
With most of the 470 Women fleet already carrying at least one double-pointer on their scoreline, today should have been all about consolidation and avoiding adding any more double digit results to scorelines. But not all the leading group managed it. Importantly for them though, the same teams on the leaderboard top 10 at the start of the day are still there, with just a few ups and downs in order.
Overnight series leaders Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark (GBR) did not even feature in the top 10 of the pack in race 9, finishing 18th and losing their #1 position on the leaderboard to Austria’s Lara Vadlau/Jola Ogar who finished in 5th place.
“The wind was a bit round to the right, where it had been coming in most days, and generally tracked left and we kind of had that in our heads a bit too much off the startline,” explained Mills. “We got a bad start, but held our line, but did a pretty poor job of lane management. From there we had a good run, but then a poor second beat, getting caught the wrong side of shifts. So we made our lives hard.”
All change for the British in race 10, with Vadlau/Ogar setting the pace and Mills/Clark right behind at the first windward mark, chased by Slovenia’s Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol in third. Fortunately for them, Mills/Clark managed to increase pace and pass the Austrians to claim the win to keep themselves in contention for the European Championship title. Tuesday’s double-points Medal Race will see the British and Austrians facing off for gold.
Delighted to be guaranteed either gold or silver, Clark added, “The first race was disappointing as the Austrians have a significant lead on us, so it is going to be hard. They have been sailing amazingly all week. We were a bit deflated after that first race, but we have to put it in context of where we are and what we actually came here to achieve. To even be guaranteed a medal and in with a shot of winning the Championship is over our expectations. We are super pleased.”
For the Austrian pair, their longer term campaign only came together a few weeks ago when Ogar’s nationality switch from Polish to Austrian was formalized by the Austrian government. So now they are on one mission; to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in September and then it is game on for a medal in Rio.
A great day ahead for Austrian sailing tomorrow, with Vadlau/Ogar guaranteed either gold or silver and their 470 Men team mates Schmid/Reichstaedter also in the hunt for silver or bronze.
“We had a pretty solid day, it was a great day for us,” said Vadlau.
Vadlau’s partnership with Ogar creates an incredibly balanced team. “I am older and sometimes when Lara wants to be a bit extreme I will always say safety first,” explained Ogar. “Lara has a brilliant mind and I only have to watch and remind her not to freak out so much on the water.”
“Sailing is about consistency and controlling yourself and we have managed it,” continued Ogar. “We know how to sail, but we were a little afraid about the boat handling. The other teams are all the time training and we have been out of the boat,” she added referring to Vadlau’s knee surgery earlier in the year.
Impressive to consider that just two years ago Vadlau finished at the back of the fleet at the 2012 Olympics and she is now beating both the London 2012 Olympic gold and silver medallists.
Behind the Austrians and British, any one of three teams has a shot at European Championship bronze with Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol (SLO), Sophie Weguelin/Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) and Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance (FRA) all in contention. The Slovenians have the upper hand and would need to finish in 9th or 10th with the British or French winning to lose their grasp on the bronze medal. If they secure the final spot on the podium
Back in 10th place at the first mark for race 9, the Olympic Gold medallists Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL) made things difficult for themselves , but punched their way through to finish in 5th place and followed up with a 2nd in race 10, overtaking the British and moving into second overall. The Kiwis are guaranteed a podium finish for the 470 Open European Championships, in what will be a three-nation battle between the Austrians, Kiwis and British to decide first, second and third.
“It was a solid day for us,” commented Powrie. “Really lovely conditions – a really stellar Athens day.”
Commenting on their chance at the Open European crown, Aleh said, “Looking at the points for tomorrow, we will have to just sail our own race. Since there are three of us it is not a one on one, so we just have to sail well.”
“We hope the Brits and Austrians will just take each other out and we will just keep on sailing,” laughed Aleh.
470 Women Medal Race Line-Up – Top 10 after 10 Races
1. Lara Vadlau/Jolanta Ogar (AUT) – 35 pts
2. Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL) – 42 pts
3. Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark (GBR) – 46pts
4. Anne Haeger/Briana Provancha (USA) – 68 pts
5. Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol (SLO) – 69 pts
6. Fernanda Oliveira/Ana Barbachan (BRA) – 74 pts
7. Sophie Weguelin/Eilidh Mcintyre (GBR) – 84 pts
8. Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance (FRA) – 84 pts
9. Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen (NED) – 91 pts
10. Alisa Kirilyuk/Liudmila Dmitrieva (RUS) – 119 pts