The final day of the series saw some of the best racing ever to be seen in Cork Harbour and those watching were treated to the extreme. France and USA were out of the starting blocks first in the open semi-final and the Mathieu RICHARD showed why the French team were the dominant force. A strong tide pushing the boats over the starting line made for some interesting pre start manoeuvres. In the first race of the day it was France who recovered the quickest from being pushed over the line and took the lead by heading out into the tide towards the shore. With a clear run on the semi's France moved into the Finals.
Meanwhile Russia and South Africa (RSA) were producing first class match racing to decide the other place in the final. Russia was trying to push RSA over the line in their first match of the semi final, but the South Africans managed to find at gap and got clear ahead. Ian AINSLIE's South African team showing better boat speed for the day and battled their way into the finals.
The finals began with the Open Event's first flight, tensions were high as the South Africans, the defending team, were trying to take the cup for a second time in a row with France looking to snatch it away. First flight saw both teams get a clear start at the committee boat end. France opened the gap slightly to leeward. A tacking dual up the first beat ensued but the excellent boat handling skills of the French gave them the extra boat length needed to pull away into clean air and take the first flight. The pressure on both teams began to increase. Could France take the next flight; - it would be game over, but if RSA took the race it was game on!
France lead off the start with RSA to leeward, with France a boat length ahead at the top mark. It was neck and neck downwind, coming into the leeward mark with RSA hitting the mark incurring a penalty. However France had an infrigment at the windward mark so they were even with penalties for the downwind leg. The hearts of the spectators were pounding and breaths were held at every gybe downwind. RSA slightly behind closed the gap, the French then shepherded RSA over to the starboard side of the committee boat. The South Africans then gybed in French water, made contact and a penalty was given to RSA, leaving them with a double penalty at the finish and France taking the Nations Cup.
It was a European final for the women's event with ISAF world no 1ranked skipper Claire LEROY leading the French team and world number 5 Denmark's Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN taking up the gauntlet. France had to take a pre start penalty for luffing too high. An even start with DEN to windward but France reached the windward mark first with 2-3 boat lengths to spare. At the top of the second beat France were able to clear their penalty received in the pre start and managed to stay ahead by a nose and taking the first match of the women's final.
France's second flight with Denmark was to be another close battle after a very even start, with both teams covering each other up to the windward mark. An incident with a passing cruiser at the leeward mark caused competitors to protest. The umpires decided that it was not affecting their racing and racing continued on. It was France who clinched victory by a whisper. The winning French team are Claire LEROY, Dorothee MARTIN D'AURAY, Elodie BETRAND & Morgane GAUTIER.
As the sun sets over the Irish skies it was been a sweet victory for some and for the remaining teams it has been top class match racing at the ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final 2006.
ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final Results
Round Robin Standings
1. France, Mathieu RICHARD, 15-3
2. Russia, Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV, 14-4
3. South Africa, Ian AINSLIE, 14-4
4. USA, Brian ANGEL, 11-7
5. Argentina, Juan GRIMALDI, 10-8
6. Sweden, Martin ANGSELL, 9-9
7. New Zealand, Simon DICKEY, 7-11
8. Portugal, Helder BASILIO, 4-14
9. India, Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN, 3-15
10. Ireland, George KINGSTON, 2.5-15
Round Robin Standings
1. France, Claire LEROY, 13-3
2. Australia, Nicky SOUTER, 12-4
3. Denmark, Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN, 11-5
4. Netherlands, Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN, 9-7
4. Bermuda, Paula LEWIN, 9-7
6. Ireland, Mary O'LOUGHLIN, 7-9
7. Great Britain, Lucy MACGREGOR, 5-11
8. New Zealand, Jess SMYTH, 5-11
9. Brazil, Rossana RAMOS, 1-15