Day one of the 2007 International Match Racing Championships for Blind Sailors in Palermo provided plenty of challenges and surprises.
Storm cells moving through to the northwest of the course area posed some problems for race officials, with the breeze rotating through 500 degrees during the day and fluctuating from zero to 12 knots. As a result of a late start and a number of course changes, only five matches were completed.
The first three heats were very much as expected with the top three ranked teams comfortably winning their matches. Luigi BERTANZA (ITA) sailed away from Kylie FORTH (AUS) at the start and was never headed, as did Alessandro MALAPIERO (ITA) over Diana TROMBONI (ITA). Eitam ISRAELI (ISR) incurred a penalty before the start in his match with Manuel GIMENO (ESP) but sailed clear with plenty of time to exonerate and finish ahead.
Some surprises arose from the lower end of the rankings however. In the fourth match of the day, the ninth ranked Hurtado ROSER (ESP) fought out a close first lap with Moritz WYDER (SUI), but broke free to claim the win.
In the final heat, held in fading light and a dying breeze, first time match racer Paulien EITJES (NZL) took the win from the experienced Antonio BERSANI (ITA). This was a closely sailed match until the final top mark rounding and will be a significant confidence boost for the bottom ranked helmsperson who bettered the fifth ranked skipper.
Race officials will now be under pressure to make progress in the 45 match round robin as racing concludes Sunday 4 November.
First match on Friday will see the young Australian combination of Kylie FORTH and Ryan HONSCHOOTEN meeting Hurtado ROSER and Frederico GINER from Spain.
Hosted by Circolo Canottieri Rogero Di Lauria, the event uses the innovative Homerus system of acoustic buoys. Sailors competing in this event must be IBSA classified B1 or B2 - legally blind.