Rolex Middle Sea Race
21 Oct 14
After three complete days at sea only three boats competing in the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race have passed the northwest tip of Sicily, roughly the halfway point of the race.
It was a tough race day, with a postponement ashore, followed by a postponement on the water for the 470 Women fleet, which knocked back the start time for the 470 Men.
Up first onto the Medal Race track, which was located just off the harbour wall, were the women. When racing got underway, the breeze was around 6-7 knots and fairly shift across the course.
The European Championship gold medal was all about Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron of France and Lara Vadlau and Jola Ogar from Austria. Who dares wins - and initially the daring win looked set to be with the Austrians who were up in second overall after the first upwind and held their position virtually to the bottom of the first downwind leg behind Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL). But a gybe for the gate by the Kiwis forced the Austrian pair to hold off before they could gybe, losing them valuable ground which the French swiftly moved in to. By the next upwind mark, the Austrians were in last place with an immense challenge ahead to catch up, whilst the French team had assured themselves of gold.
The Austrian pair fought back and managed to move up one place to 7th but were left 10 points adrift of the French who safely sailed through to claim gold after crossing the line in third.
Ashore after racing, a beaming Lecointre said, "This is the first victory ever at big event for us. We were always 2nd, 3rd or 4th, so this is a major victory!"
"We made a mistake by not starting next to the Austrians and not controlling them," explained Lecointre. "But we managed to catch them in the first downwind. Then because of the wind shift, we were in a position to gybe before them going into the gate, and we rounded in front of them and then we were then in control." From that point the gold medal was safely in their hands.
Whilst disappointed to have lost the valuable places in the downwind leg, Ogar was philosophical about the race saying, "This was a really tough tactical situation and we had spoken a lot with our coaches about how we should defend as we haven't managed to do so before now, and this situation has happened before." However, their silver medal success is what counted today and Ogar acknowledged their success, "For us this result is really great. All the time, even in the World Cup, we were really close to a medal position, but never medalled. We both know our time is coming and we are really happy to get a silver medal at the European Championship."
Defending European Champion, Sophie Weguelin and her new crew Eilidh McIntyre were guaranteed the bronze medal going into the day, and with nothing to lose were on a mission to secure a top three place in the Open Europeans leaderboard too. They would have to beat the Olympic Gold Medallists Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie and the Kiwis were certainly not letting anyone get in their way today knocking out a start to finish Medal Race win, which handed them second overall at the 470 Women Open Europeans, with Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron first and Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar in third.
470 Women Overall
1. Camille Lecointre/Mathilde Geron (FRA) - 30 pts
3. Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL) - 35 pt
2. Lara Vadlau/Jolanta Ogar (AUT) - 40 pts
4. Sophie Weguelin/Eilidh Mcintyre (GBR) - 52 pts
5. Annina Wagner/Elisabeth Panuschka (GER) - 85 pts
6. Anne Haeger/Briana Provancha (USA) - 86 pts
7. Cassandre Blandin/Charlotte Mery De Bellegarde (FRA) - 90 pts
8. Agnieszka Skrzypulec/Natalia Wojcik (POL) - 91 pts
Runaway winners of the Medal Race in the 470 Men were Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS). As a non-European team, they were not eligible for the 470 European Championship medals, but their race win put them top of the leaderboard for the 470 Open European Championships and marks Mat Belcher's 16th consecutive event win.
Sofian Bouvet and Jérémie Mion (FRA) did just what they needed to do and finished fifth in the Medal Race to safely assure them of the European Champion title. Finishing one boat behind in sixth were Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield (GBR) who kept hold of their position on the leaderboard going into the Medal Race to win the silver medal, with Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) taking the bronze after a 4th place finish.
"It is indescribable how we feel, it is really nice," said Mion. "We won a few times in the junior fleet and now to win in the senior fleet is amazing. We wanted to win the regatta, but for sure we are really happy to win the European Championship.We had good speed, and did a good start. Some people went to the right and the Australians were in the lead, so when we saw that he was too far ahead of us, we had to just focus on the British guys and we finished in front of them, so it was great."
Winning the 470 European Championship is a personal best for the team at senior level, and Bouvet and Mion are clearly set to continue the winning partnership they established in the 470 Junior fleet where they won back to back 470 Junior World and 470 Junior European Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Yet another podium finish for Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic who now make it four years in a row to stand on have medals placed around their necks, including wins in 2009, 2011 and 2012. "We are happy and it is important for us to remain on the podium because of the funding status in our country, which was a big focus for us here," explained Fantela. "The Medal Race was tough. The Greeks were ahead of us and we needed to take care of them, and Rogers and Elliot who theoretically could best us too, but we managed to hold on."
470 Men Overall
1. Mat Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS) - 18 pts
2. Sofian Bouvet/Jérémie Mion (FRA) - 28 pts (European Champions)
3. Lucas Calabrese/Juan De La Fuente (ARG) - 40 pts
4. Luke Patience/Jonathan Glanfield (GBR) - 41 pts
5. Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO) - 48 pts
6. Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) - 52 pts
7. Nick Rogers/Elliot Willis (GBR) - 54 pts
8. Paul Snow-Hansen/Daniel Willcox (NZL) - 55 pts
The 470 European Championships is open to all nations, but only teams from Europe are eligible to be awarded the European Championship title and medals. Open European Championship prizes will also be awarded.