A dramatic first day of the ISAF Nations Cup in Middelfart, Denmark, saw the pre-event pundits eating their words as Brazil's Henrique Haddad and Japan's Wataru Sakamoto emerged at the top of Group B of the Open competition with four wins out of five each.
The much fancied Australian teams were left in their wake, finishing with three wins each.
Japan had a perfect record of four wins from four matches going into the last race against Brazil, but Sakamoto made a mistake in the pre-start, was penalised and was not able to make it up. It was a great comeback by Brazil after they had been disqualified after receiving two penalties and not executing the penalty turn in their first match against Australia's David Gilmour.
"We are feeling very good about today because it's not an easy boat, it's very quick and the crew has to work hard," Haddad said. "It was our first time in the Match28s and this is our first match together as a crew and so it was a very good day to finish 4-1.
We made a mistake at the end of the pre-start, we got a penalty. We tried to do everything to get rid of the penalty but in the end we got a black flag. The judge saw different things to us. All of the races were tough. The last one with the Japanese guy, he was in front of us and he made a mistake in the end and we sailed past him on the downwind."
The American team skippered by Dustin Durant, has probably blown his chances of making the quarter-finals after losing all five of his matches.
There was a light and shifting northwesterly breeze of 6-10 knots in the morning, which dropped and stopped the racing for two hours in the early afternoon. When racing re-started it has shifted to a southwesterly wind. The conditions may have favoured Japan and Brazil. They also enjoyed the smaller boats. Group B were in the Match28s, while Group A raced in the DS37s. They will swap tomorrow.
All the crews are adapting quickly to the conditions in this part of the Triangle Region. The Fænøsund out of Middelfart Marina, with its narrow channels, different and strong currents and localised winds, makes it unique and exciting for the match race crews and overlooking spectators.
Group A went more straightforwardly to form with Denmark's Nicolai Sehested, the local favourite, enjoying a 100 per cent record of four wins from four races. Crucially he defeated fellow Dane, Rasmus Viltoft, in their last race of the day. Sweden's Viktor Ogeman also had a 100 per cent record with three wins from three races. France's Arthur Herreman has given himself a chance with two wins from four, but was beaten by Singapore's Maximilian Soh, who won one from four. Norway's Magnus Brun looks unlikely to progress after losing all five of his matches.
The leading nation in each group goes straight through to the semi-final on Saturday with the next three in each group going into a 6-team round robin. The top two nations from that will join the leading two in the semi-finals.
The second day of round-robin matches between the teams will see them switch from the Match28 boats to the larger DS37s.
"We are happy and stoked," Sakamoto said. "We found good speed and saw the wind shifts. We had a tough race against Glimour's team. They made a good choice at the start but we got a bit lucky and crossed in front of them (on the first beat). But our final race I made a mistake and got one penalty at the pre-start, I did not control the boat and we made contact (with Brazil). Then he took our wind. We are sailing in DS37s tomorrow and I don't like the big boat, the Match28 is a good size for Asian guys. But we hope to make the second stage."
The fact that Sakamoto and crew were laughing hard as they said how much they were not looking forward to the boats tomorrow may give the other teams pause for thought. Brazil and Japan arrived on Saturday and trained together in the DS37s.
In the Women's competition, Denmark, skippered by Lotte Meldgaard, won all three of their races. Behind them, the other three teams had split results and worse luck. Norway's skipper, Anne Marit Hansen, was taken to hospital with a suspected fractured wrist after being hit in the face and knocked over as the pole was taken down quickly on a spinnaker drop.
Racing is scheduled to start at 10:00 (CET) with a break at 11:15 (CET) for the exhibition match between Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and his team of Danish Olympic legends and Sehested's local heroes.
Weather forecast for Thursday, August 8: 8-10 knots northerly wind, gusting upto 20 knots.
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