Described as rodeo sailing by one sailor, the opening day of the 2011 470 Junior European Championships was certainly exciting with big waves and a breeze of around 20 knots when racing got underway, decreasing to 14 knots for Race 2.
The 470 Men/Mixed teams are sailing in two fleets, with the Women in a single fleet. After qualification is completed, the Men/Mixed fleets will then qualify to either gold or silver for the final series.
In the Men/Mixed fleet, Gabriel Skoczek/Achille Nebout (FRA) started their campaign on a confident footing with 1,3 race finishes to lead the fleet. Just one point behind are Argentina's Pablo Volker/Agustin Cunill Martinez who posted a 4,1, with Australia's Crawford Brothers, Matthew and Robert in third overall after 2,4 results.
Proving that top sailors can sail anywhere, the first taste of the race course for the recently crowned 2011 470 Junior World Champions Nicklas Dackhammer/Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE) was immediately prior to race 1. An unassuming Bergstrom explained this was not an issue for the pair, "It was pretty good anyway. We did some tactics and technique training before the race and it took us only about 10 minutes and then we felt like 'ah this is OK'. The waves were very tricky and very big and it was pretty hard, especially in race 2 downwind, which felt double as long compared to the upwind because of the current. We did pretty well anyway, we came fourth in both races. We had some problems with the start and the upwind wasn't too good and we did some small mistakes which is why we didn't do better."
No real surprises on the teams in the top 10 so far, with the leaderboard filled with the likely candidates to do well here in Belgium. Some black flag penalties in race 2 has toppled a few teams down and tomorrow they will be more wary of the current that was helping to edge boats over the start line.
A challenging switch for 2011 compared to 2010 for Israel's Yoav Levi/Dan Froyliche, who this time last year wonn gold at the 420 Junior European Champions, but too old to continue racing in the 420 Junior Championships are now finding their place in the midst of the 470 fleet. "We are alone, but that is OK,"
said Froyliche as he explained that their learning curve is steep and most of their sailing friends are still in the 420. Prior to the Championship they have raced their 470 in four other events. Froyliche continued, "It is a very high level in the 470 and much more physical. We are aiming for a top 10 finish here. We will do what we always do - sail our best."
A different kind of switch for Phil Sparks (GBR), who has brought in different crew Ben Gratton for the Championships, having sailed previously this year with David Kohler. Sparks explained, "I have only been sailing with David for a month or so and prior to that I was sailing with Ben and we had said we would do this Championships together."
Whether this partnership can continue their opening day's performance remains to be seen, although Sparks has already proven himself this year at the senior 470 European Championships and the 470 Junior Worlds where he finished 20th and 3rd overall with Kohler. Sparks feels they can improve their performance, saying, "we had a few hours training together before the event, but we are not quite as fast as we hoped. We know what we need to do, and although we are sailing as fast as everyone else, we are not as fast as normal."
Consider that this pairing won the 2009 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in the 420 and you get an idea of what Sparks is referring to when it comes to their speed.
Men/Mixed Top 10 Overall
1. Gabriel SKOCZEK/Achille NEBOUT (FRA) - 4 pts
2. Pablo VÖLKER/Agustín CUNILL MARTINEZ (ARG) - 5 pts
3. Matthew CRAWFORD/Robert CRAWFORD (AUS) - 6 pts
4. Kévin PEPONNET/ulien LEBRUN (FRA) - 7 pts
5. Sacha PELISSON/Nicolas ROSSI (FRA) - 7 pts
6. Simon SIVITZ KOSUTA/Jas FARNETI (ITA) - 8 pts
7. Philip SPARKS/Ben GRATTON (GBR) - 8 pts
8. Vasilios PAPOUTSOGLOU/Ioannis ORFANOS (GRE) - 8 pts
9. NLouis MOYSAN/Baptiste BERTHIER (FRA) - 12 pts
In the Women's fleet, the well-known faces of Tina Lutz/Susann Beucke (GER) are in the lead. Beucke perfectly described today's racing as "rodeo sailing". It was a rodeo in which they stayed firmly in control to finish third in race 1 and take a win in race 2. A full racing season has seen them compete at the 470 European Championships, 470 Junior Worlds and now the 470 Junior Europeans in the past four weeks alone. However, they have more than just the 470 Junior European Championships on their mind right now as they are aiming to be selected to represent Germany at the 2012 Olympics. Beucke explained, "Tina and I are still in a position to go to the Olympics. We are up against another team and so far at the moment that is our big goal for this year." Their next major event after the 470 Junior Europeans will be the 2011 ISAF Worlds in Perth, which is the last of three events identified as the German selection process. "We need to secure the nation qualification for the 2012 Olympics at the ISAF Worlds and be in front of the other German team. We just need to beat them by two places in Perth so it is really close," concluded Beucke. Their challengers for selection come in the form of Kathrin Kadelbach/Friederike Belcher (GER).
Just two points behind them in second are Nina Keijzer/Anneloes Van Veen (NED), with Anna Kyselova/Anastasiya Krasko (UKR) in third. Kyselova finished seventh at the 2010 470 Junior Europeans and her performance with Krasko on the senior 470 circuit delivered the pair a career best world ranking of #47 in June 2011.
All but 6 of the 30 Women's teams competing have come straight from the 2011 470 Junior Worlds, so are fresh from racing against each other.
Roberta Caputo/Benedetta Barbiero (ITA) are one of the teams planning to improve on their 17th place finish at the Junior Worlds. They won the 2010 420 World Championships and in September last year made the transition to the 470, as Barbiero explained "It was very hard for us as it was a new boat, bigger with lots of systems but we keep improving ourselves during these races." Caputo continued, "We are really enjoying it and we want to do every time better. It was a good race today to know our level, so we will see. The first race was not so good, but the second better. Our plan is to qualify to the top 10 and do a medal race for the first time."
Women Top 10 Overall
1. Tina LUTZ/Susann BEUCKE (GER) - 4 pts
2. Nina KEIJZER/Anneloes VAN VEEN (NED) - 6 pts
3. Anna KYSELOVA/Anastasiya KRASKO (UKR) - 8 pts
4. Anna BURNET/Flora STEWART (GBR) - 11 pts
5. Sasha RYAN/Chelsea HALL (AUS) - 14 pts
6. Cassandre BLANDIN/Charlotte MERY (FRA) - 14 pts
7. Jurczok VICTORIA/ Josephine BACH (GER) - 16 pts
8. Amy SEABRIGHT/Eilidh MCINTYRE (GBR) - 17 pts
9. Sanne CRUM/Lana KEIJZER (NED) - 21 pts
10. Joanna FREEMAN/Katie TOMSETT (GBR) - 23 pts