Semi-final action at the ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final saw a smooth ride for the Danish teams whilst Australia and Japan are locked at one-all. Catch the Finals Live on Saturday at www.nationscup2013.dk/live
Whilst Denmark took a big step towards the finals and underlined their status as favourites in both the Open and Women's competitions of the ISAF Nations Cup in Middelfart, Australia and Japan were locked at one-all in their semi-final. Three points are needed to qualify for the final. Denmark's men and women and Brazil's women won both their semi-final races relatively easily.
A day of bright sunshine and stable but typically swinging 8-10 knot breezes on the beautiful Fænøsund, out of Middelfart Marina, ended in high drama in the Open with Australia, one-nil up, trying to execute a penalty turn just before the finish line and the arrival of Japan. They seemed to make it but the judges thought otherwise. The decision was they had not allowed their spinnaker down below the level of the gooseneck (where the boom joins the mast) before they turned head to wind.
For Japan it was a huge moment and the first time Wataru Sakamoto, the 32-year-old skipper from Wakayama, has beaten David Gilmour, the 22-year-old from Perth. "We've met him three times I think in the last couple of years and never won a match before, so we're stoked," Sakamoto said.
Gilmour was less happy and a little confused as to why he had been having to make a penalty turn in the first place. He had managed to cancel out a penalty in the pre-start and take the initiative, but was penalised at the end of the first leg of the two-leg 20 minute match, for infringing on Japan as they headed for the turn.
"I'll have to ask the judges why we were penalised," Gilmour said. "But we're happy with how we went. We came from behind in the first race and the second one is only the first race we've lost in the DS37 boat, hopefully tomorrow we can continue our good form."
Whilst Australia, like Denmark, had qualified for the semi finals by winning their round-robin group on Thursday, Japan had to come through a tough second stage on Friday morning, winning three of their five races.
Australia would have had two semi-finalists as Ashlen Rooklyn won the quarter-final stage, with four out of five victories, but the rule is that all nations at this event can only have one team qualify for the semi-final stage.
Sweden beat Japan in the last round of the second stage to qualify with them into the semi-finals. But there they ran into the Danish express, skippered by Nicolai Sehested, again, and were well beaten twice in the two semi-finals.
The day started unfortunately for Sweden's skipper, Viktor Ogeman, as his tiller broke and he fell in the water in the pre-start of his first match of the day against Denmark, as they finished their group round robin. He went onto lose, the first of three defeats inflicted by Sehested on him on Friday. "My crew came back for me, which was a good sign," Ogeman joked. "Nicolai was very sporting and didn't attack. I made a couple of mistakes in the semi-finals and that cost us but we were ahead in the second race and I definitely think we can still win."
Sehested disagrees. "The breeze was up today and we're fast in the DS37 when it's like this, we're confident," he said.
The Women's event has been raced in the smaller Match28 boats but Denmark's skipper, Lotte Meldgaard, has looked only slightly less dominant.
The experienced 40-year-old Meldgaard and the 24-year-old Brazil skipper, Juliana Senfft had dominated the women's round robin with ten and nine wins respectively out of their 12 matches. The trend continued in the semi-finals with Meldgaard wining both her first two matches against Norway's Anne Marit Hansen comfortably.
Senfft, sixth in the last two Nations Cups, beat America's Sandy Hayes, with similar ease. "We have to win our semi-final first, but I think she (Lotte) will be favourite in the final," Senftt said. "We've sailed a lot against each other on the match racing circuit and been quite even, but she knows the boat better and has home advantage."
Racing will start at 10:00 (CET) on Friday. Watch it live.
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