With the final registration completed yesterday, the entry total now stands at 456 athletes from 40 nations, which marks the largest sailing competition ever held in Qingdao.
The honour of claiming victory in the opening race in the women's one person dinghy fleet went to Xiaoying SHEN (CHN). For SHEN, China's representative in the Europe in Athens, but who only entered the Laser Radial ISAF World Sailing Rankings in February of this year, her current ranking of 126 is clearly more an indicator of her lack of competition on the international circuit, rather than her evident talent. All the Chinese team have spent time training in the Bay, and their knowledge of the venue and the challenging currents and shifty winds are certainly an advantage.
SHEN is a relative unknown in the Laser Radial fleet compared to her teammate Lijia XU (CHN), who recently stormed the fleet to take the gold medal with a race to spare at the Laser Radial World Championships in the USA. XU's achievement marked the first World Championship title to be won by China since the nation first started competing internationally 26 years ago. Unfortunately for SHEN she did not finish (DNF) race two and dropped down the results to finish today in 17th overall, whilst XU improved her game to win race two, and close today in seventh position.
Speaking modestly about the experience of the Chinese sailors in the fleet, XU commented, 'We have too many flaws in our technique. At the end of last year when we started this campaign, we knew absolutely nothing. We will continue to explore and adapt ourselves to the class, and gain experience through international regattas.'
Over in the men's Laser fleet, it appeared as though victory in race one went to 2004 ISAF Youth Worlds Champion Nick THOMPSON (GBR), but after a protest he was subsequently disqualified.
Consistency pays and Evagelos CHIMONAS (GRE), who as a result of THOMPSON's DSQ, took the first race followed with a gun in race two, to deliver a promising start to his campaign and for now holds the glory of sitting in first overall.
Continuing the recent successes of sailing in Singapore, Maximillian SOH (SIN) is in second place, with a scoreline of 5,3. Claiming an ISAF World Ranking of 94, SOH has only been competing on the international circuit since May last year, but has already shown potential on the youth circuit, most recently placing 15th at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship held in Weymouth, Great Britain in July.
One of two Olympic medallists from the 2004 Games contesting this regatta is Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO), who is pleased to sit in third overall, but admits the competition here is tough. 'There are many people who can finish in the top three at the 2008 Olympics. There are some new young guys who still have two years to train and be good.' Reluctant to predict the final results for the Qingdao International Regatta, ZBOGAR added, 'It's very hard to say right now!'
Emmanuel DYEN and Yann ROCHERIEUX (FRA) had a fantastic opening day, placing 3,1,2 to gain six points and give themselves a small but helpful points margin over the second placed boat. Skipper, DYEN, was pleased with their result, 'We did good today! It was a very good wind and we had good eyes, so we made it to the front of the fleet. It was really wonderful!'
With a World Ranking of 17, DYEN and ROCHERIEUX more usually find themselves finishing in double figures at events, but if they continue the level of performance seen today, the pair could well reward themselves with a top ten result.
Athanasios PACHOUMAS and Athanasios SIOUZIOS (GRE) are fresh from claiming the silver medal at the recent 49er World Championships held in France, and maintain their pace in Qingdao to post 10, 2 and 6 to sit in second place.
Third place goes to British pairing of Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR). This pair pose a challenge for team mates Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), the recently crowned 49er World Champions and World number one crew, who sit in sixth overall. DRAPER and HISCOCKS will be focusing to find their groove tomorrow and make their mark at the front of the fleet. Meanwhile, disappointment for defending Olympic gold medallists Iker MARTINEZ and Xavier FERNANDEZ (ESP) who tumbled down the scoreboard after failing to finish race three, and sit in 14th overall, after finishes of 6, 9 in races one and two.
Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA), not only won race one, but such was their dominance that they overtook most of the men's 470 fleet who had started ahead of them. Not a surprising finish from this pair, who up until a couple of months ago had been the long time leaders of the ISAF World Rankings, a position they had held for just over two and a half years. Race two saw PETITJEAN and DOUROUX further back in the fleet to finish in tenth, but they will be happy with their first day's racing.
Marina GALLEGO and Laia TUTZO (ESP) hold themselves in third overall, with two top ten results of 6,6.
Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) head up the men's 470 fleet, with results of 5 and 1. A great opener for the pair who return to the 470 fleet after an extended absence. Following their silver medal at Athens, ROGERS and GLANFIELD took some time away from 470 sailing and were all set to make their return to the fleet at the start of this year when disaster struck, with ROGERS having a serious crash on his bike just a couple of days before their first event in April 2006. The Olympic Test event is the first time they have sailed together since, and they will be pleased to have demonstrated that their formidable pace continues.
Disappointment for the leaders of the ISAF World Rankings, Gabrio ZANDONA and Andrea TRANI (ITA), who assumed victory in race one but were subsequently disqualified, before finishing race two as the second to last boat, and closed the opening day placed last overall.
Talking this morning to the Chinese team of Xiaqun SONG, Xiaoni LI and Chuanshuang ZHANG, one would have been forgiven for anticipating a result nearer the rear of the fleet than the front. Especially considering the team have only sailed together for five months and the only result counting towards their ISAF World Sailing Ranking is a finish place of 33 out of 37 boats at the recently held Yngling World Championship. But that expectation was proven wrong as race 1 saw the team lead the fleet to take the gun. No doubt a surprise victory for this team, considering SONG's objective for the regatta in her aptly named boat 'Kwicky!'. 'This regatta is very important for us. It is an honour just to be sailing. We want to practice and learn from the other Yngling crews', said SONG, before adding, 'We will do our best!'
Sally BARKOW and her crew of Debra CAPOZZI and Carolyn HOWE (USA) swiftly challenged in race two to take the gun and the overall lead in today's racing. Whilst SONG and her crew placed tenth, to close today in fourth overall.
Mandy MULDER, Brechtje VAN DERWERF and Janneke HIN (NED) sailed consistently to finish in second overall, with Helena LUCAS, Annie LUSH and Lucy MACGREGOR (GBR) in third as the Yngling fleet heads for day two of racing tomorrow.
The reigning Yngling World Champions and leaders of the ISAF World Rankings, Monica AZON, Sandra AZON and Graciela PISONERO (ESP), will be looking to find their form, as today's results of 8, followed by a premature start (OCS) in race two, see them sit in unlucky 13th overall.
The men's keelboat event hosts a small seven boat fleet of Stars, who contested two races on Course Area D. The top three placed crews finished on an equal five points apiece, with the overall lead going to Diego NEGRI and Luigi VIALE (ITA) based on countback. George SZABO and Eric MONROE (USA) are in second place, with team mates Andrew HORTON and Brad NICHOL (USA) in third.
Double gold medallist at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in 2005 and 2006, Poland's Lukasz GRODZICKI showed what it takes to win today, by placing two third places to claim the overall lead in the Men's RS:X. Early form is not always a measure of success, but in the case of GRODZICKI he usually starts and finishes with equal delivery. GRODZICKI sits just outside the top 20 in the ISAF World Rankings, but not even counting 19 years to his credit, there is plenty of time to move to victory.
A Chinese double behind GRODZICKI , with Feng HE (CHN) posting results of 5,2 to finish in second, and team mate Zhennan FANG (CHN) posting a 7 followed by victory in race two to secure third overall.
With today's racing finished and the first taste of Olympic competition on the waters of Fushan Bay giving further experience to all, tomorrow will no doubt see the several Olympic medallists and World Champions in the fleet, making their challenge for the front.
It will be interesting to see the form as the women's RS:X fleet gets underway tomorrow, and whether GRODZICKI's fellow gold medallist from the 2006 Youth Worlds, Laura LINARES (ITA), will equally make her mark on the Olympic platform.