The 107 boat 470 Men and 470 Women fleets field a mix of seasoned campaigners and Olympic contenders, joined by a new guard of younger teams, and transitions from the 420 Class. Three races for the 470 Women and two for the 470 Men gave an early indicator of form on the opening day of the qualification series. Adding to the intensity of racing, for some teams the event counts towards national selection for the 2016 Olympics.
Consistency pays and two second places for Stu McNay/David Hughes puts them easily at the front of the pack. Mastery of today's tricky conditions in the blue fleet, rewarded the pair with their place at the front, by a 2 point margin over Ferdinand Gerz/Oliver Szymanksi (GER), with Johan Molund/Sebastian Ostling (SWE) in third.
"It was challenging racing and I am lucky that my crew had good vision of the course and guided us to the right places, as conditions were anybody's game," explained McNay. "There were no sure things out there, that's for sure. I am sure it will continue to be like that. We will take our alarms and others will take their alarms."
"Stu's a gracious person," grinned Hughes, responding to McNay's compliments. "The obvious answer is that it is a team effort. As Stu said it's tricky conditions out there, so we are trying to sail in the moment and make the next best decision and see how the chits fall. Awesome racing and no-one has a lead that is safe and everyone's in the mix the entire race, so its really enjoyable."
The Americans were not the only ones to read the race course well, with four teams claiming top 5 results in both races in the blue fleet. The scene was not repeated in the yellow fleet, with completely different teams claiming a top 5 finish in each race.
A strong 4th place start for the defending 470 Open European Champions and world #1 pairing of Mat Belcher/Will Ryan in the yellow fleet, was reversed by a 20th finish in race 2.
"The velocity is pretty good, although it was quite up and down," commented Belcher. "We had the pumping flag up in both races which was pretty good. The direction was extremely variable and it was pretty hard on the last downwind when we had around a 50 degree right shift, although it worked well for us. It's part of the conditions and everyone knows it. It was great racing and a nice place to race."
A similar day, but in reverse, for Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO), the 2012 European Champions, who bounced back from a 19th in the opening race to a 1st for the next. "It was quite hard and shifty and patchy. We didn't change any strategy for the second race," explained Marenic. "We did the same in race 2 and it worked. It's a long regatta and if we have more of this breeze it will be important to stay consistent and close to the top."
Race day 1 baptism of fire for the teams competing in their first ever 470 Championship, which for many is also their first ever 470 event.
With one previous 470 event to their credit, Great Britain's Tim Riley/James Taylor are inspired, rather than daunted by the talent on the race track. The pair led the way in the 420 fleet, but their learning curve has now started all over again, as Riley explained, "It's a major step up. You find in the 420 you are racing around the fleet and you can be at the top if you do things well, whereas in the 470 fleet you can sail an entire course thinking you have made no mistakes, but then you still finish 50th or 60th. The depth of the fleet is completely different."
Regardless of where he finishes, Riley is relishing the chance to race against World and European Champions, Olympians and his contemporaries, saying, "It's awesome to be here amongst the world's best. It is what every sailor who wants to achieve at a high level really wants to be doing. You don't mind being beaten by lots of people as long as you can see your progress and can see these top guys in the world, like Belcher and Patience, race round at the front of the fleet. It is quite amazing to see people who have spent so much time in progressing systems as you, achieving what they are achieving."
The 470 Men were split into fleets on day 1, based on their past performance, in order to ensure an event split of form between the two fleets.
470 Men - Provisional Results after 2 Races
1. Stuart Mcnay/David Hughes (USA-1713) - 4 pts
2. Ferdinand Gerz/Oliver Szymanski (GER-10) - 6 pts
3. Johan Molund/Sebastian Östling (SWE-348) - 6 pts
4. Deniz Cinar/Ates Cinar (TUR-1) - 7 pts
5. Paul Snow-Hansen/Daniel Willcox (NZL-2) - 9 pts
6. Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergström (SWE-349) - 13 pts
7. Luke Patience/Elliot Willis (GBR-868) - 13 pts
8. Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE-1) - 14 pts
9. Pavel Sozykin/Denis Gribanov (RUS-5) - 15 pts
10. Tetsuya Matsunaga/Yugo Yoshida (JPN-12) - 15 pts
A punishingly accurate partnership marked an impressive return to world class competition for Israel's Gil Cohen/Danielle Maman, as they pumped out three back to back race wins in the 470 Women fleet. The pair had the best downwind speed, combined with smart upwind legs as they consistently read the good shifts.
It doesn't get better than a win in the opening race, and for Cohen/Maman their perfect fleet domination was even more remarkable given this is their first event after a forced break from sailing. Cohen suffered serious injuries after a road accident, and a long road of rehabilitation since October 2014 has clearly strengthened Cohen's resolve.
"I'm exhausted," smiled a happy Cohen after racing. "We started very well in the first two races, and we had good speed. I think the hard race today was the last, because we started back around 20th, but our speed was just really good which is important in these shifty conditions and we felt the boat well."
Maman added, "We worked hard downwind, really hard. This makes me feel really confident for the future."
Cohen's journey since the Olympics has been dogged by injury as she explained, "First I had an accident in my knee and took one year off for physiotherapy and then the second accident meant I couldn't race. We have been sailing since May and training in Haifa and have come here to do our best. The accident has made me see things differently. It has made me stronger."
Gil finished 15th at the 2012 Olympics with her former crew, and the allure of Rio 2016 sees her seeking a second Olympic appearance. First, Israel needs to secure its nation slot, a target Cohen/Maman will be aiming to deliver at the 2015 470 World Championships, where three Olympic qualification places will be up for grabs. The task may be made a bit easier, as the Championship takes place on Cohen's home waters of Haifa, Israel. The 2015 470 Europeans is the first of Israel's selection events to select the team to represent the nation at the 2015 Rio Test Event, and is also part of the criteria to decide the team who will go to Rio if Olympic qualification is secured.
Racing in the blue fleet, 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL) scored 1,1,2 and are on leaderboard tiebreak with Cohen/Maman counting 2 points each, with Great Britain's Sophie Weguelin/Eilidh McIntyre in third.
The final race win in the blue fleet was claimed by the USA's Sydney Bolger/Carley Shevitz, who sits in 5th overall.
470 Women - Provisional Results after 3 Races
1. Gil Cohen/Danielle Maman (ISR-311) - 2 pts
2. Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL-75) - 2 pts
3. Sophie Weguelin/Eilidh McIntyre (GBR-321) - 5 pts
4. Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen (NED-216) - 6 pts
5. Sydney Bolger/Carly Shevitz (USA-88) - 7 pts
6. Amy Seabright/Anna Carpenter (GBR-865) - 7 pts
7. Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance (FRA-9) - 8 pts
8. Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol (SLO-64) - 8 pts
9. Akiyo Yamaguchi/Eri Hatayama (JPN-3) - 9 pts
10. Annika Bochmann/Marlene Steinherr (GER-72) - 9 pts
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