Skipper Damien IEHL lead the French team as they made a perfect start to the defence of their crown on the opening day at the ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The French team of Damien IEHL
and his three crew won all four of their matches to top the Open leaderboard. On a competitive opening day in Brazil, IEHL also claims the distinction of remaining the only unbeaten skipper. France are also defending the title in the Women's division, although their team led by star-skipper Claire LEROY
(FRA) enjoyed more mixed fortunes.
Conditions in Porto Alegre were perfect for the start of racing, with the first flight of the day getting underway shortly after 10:00 in a southeasterly breeze which ranged between 10-18 knots throughout the course of the day. The women's division got racing underway, followed by the open teams latter in the afternoon.
After the opening 24 matches of the women's round robin, there is a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard. The teams of Giulia CONTI
(ITA), Anna TUNNICLIFFE
(USA) and Lucy MACGREGOR
(GBR) all recorded four wins and one loss on the opening day. Women's match racing joins the Olympic programme for the first time at the 2012 London Games and it's interesting to note all three of these skippers actively campaigned for the Beijing Games.
For Team USA skipper TUNNICLIFFE, Olympic gold medallist in the one-person Laser Radial dinghy at Beijing 2008, everything went to plan on day one, "I loved the racing today, the wind was perfect and the racing area is good for competition. We lost only one of our matches [against CONTI] and I was delighted with this start,"
Meanwhile some of the more experienced match race skippers, notably reigning World Champion LEROY and world #4 ranked Lotte Meldgaard PEDERSEN
(DEN) had a more difficult start. LEROY, who led France to victory at the last edition of the Nations Cup in 2006, suffered defeats against CONTI and Nicky SOUTER
(AUS). She fared better against the South American teams with wins against Cecilia RUIZ BARLETT
(ARG) and Juliana SENFFT
(BRA) added to another victory against Rita GONCALVES
(POR) leaving her fourth on the round robin leaderboard with a 3-2 scoreline. There was less good news for PEDERSEN, who ended the day well down the leaderboard in eighth after losing four of her five matches (against CONTI, MACGREGOR, SENFFT and TUNNICLIFFE).
The home Brazilian team, skippered by 21 year old SENFFT, had a tough start to the competition as they faced LEROY in their opening match. LEROY won that one, but the Brazilians bounced back to score notable wins against PEDERSEN, SOUTER and RUIZ BARLETT and end the day on a solid 3-3 scoreline.
The Open competition followed on from the Women's racing with the first flight getting underway at 15:00 and a total of 20 matches completed.
France, the current holders of the ISAF Nations Cup, got off to a perfect start. IEHL showed why he's one of the top-10 ranked skippers in the world as he lead the French team to wins in all four of their matches against Alvaro MARINHO
(POR), Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN
(IND), Juan FIGUEROA
(ARG) and Adrian SHORT
With three wins in his four races, Brazilian skipper Henrique HADDAD
also left the water satisfied. His day included wins against Manuel WEILLER VIDAL
(ESP), Mads EBLER
(DEN) and Jon ERIKSSON
(FIN), and one loss to the USA's Dave PERRY
HADDAD, 22 years old from the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, won the national selection event at Porto Alegre to earn the right to represent his country at the Grand Final, but he said today's races were the toughest he had faced at the venue, "The wind was moving around a lot. I think these were the most difficult of all the races that I have sailed in Guaiba,"
Along with the Brazilians, PERRY and the USA team and Portuguese team led by Alvaro MARINHO also started strongly and are in a three-way tie for second place on the leaderboard.
Racing continues in Porto Alegre tomorrow, with the remainder of the round robin competitions scheduled for completion.
Manuel WEILLER VIDAL
Lotte Meldgaard PEDERSEN
Cecilia RUIZ BARLETT
Find out more about the ISAF Nations Cup, including full results and photo galleries from Porto Alegre at www.sailing.org/nationscup