Yesterday the Aussies proved themselves well at home on Lake Neusiedl, posting an impressive set of results across the fleets. Today the trend continued as the breeze once again swept across the lake. Although not as strong as yesterday, there was plenty of breeze for the sailors, with shifts and wind holes proving the main challenges.
Unsurprisingly in these early stages, it has been the lake sailing specialists who have stood out so far. One of the big questions and most fascinating elements of the event will be watching to see how quickly the other sailors can adapt, and whether they can close the gap on the crews which have in many cases grown up sailing on lakes.
Also looking good at this stage in the competition are many of the sailors from Asia, with Japan and China both showing excellent form in the men's and women's RS:X events.
This drama will then be played out again next week, when the invited sailors join the gold fleets to battle it out for the ten World Championship titles to be decided on Lake Neuisedl.
Two Australian teams which illustrate the trend of the week so far are the 49er crew of Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN and Laser sailor Tom SLINGSBY. Both hail from Gosford, north of Sydney, where lake sailing is common. Clearly their local training waters are paying big dividends in Austria so far, with the two crews sharing eight bullets between them in the qualifying series.
Despite his 100% record SLINGSBY was not getting carried away, saying, 'We Aussies like the strong conditions, when the wind lowers we will probably fall back as well.' He may be talking down his chances, but on current form SLINGSBY will be one of the hot favourites when the final series gets underway next week. Since winning his first ISAF Graded event in the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française last year, SLINGSBY has been stringing together an impressive set of results in the process establishing him in the world top ten. And he is on hot form - at the end of April successfully defending his title in Hyères.
|It was another great day of
racing on Lake Neusiedl
© David BELL
Clearly SLINGSBY feels at home on the Neusiedl waters, something that can also be said of OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN, who scored another two bullets today, to increase their total for the series so far to four, and put them eight points clear at the top of the 49er standings.
Asking around the 49er fleet and everybody had been impressed by the speed of the Aussie pair. Austria's Clemens KRUSE is crewing for 2000 Olympic windsurfing gold medallist Christoph SIEBER (AUT) and was quick to indicate the Australians as the team to beat so far. With the home support behind them though, SIEBER and KRUSE have also been showing strongly, especially for a crew which only got together last year. Of sailing on his home waters KRUSE explained, 'There's more pressure, but we're really motivated to do well.' Today the extra motivation was really needed as they had to recover from an OCS in the opening race. Finishes of 6 and 7 were a confident recovery, and sees the Austrian pair in ninth place overall, and just ten points off second place.
Jonas WARRER and Martin KIRKETERP move up from third to second overall after scores of 1,5,4 for the day, although both Jorge LIMA and Francisco ANDRADE (POR) and Emmanuel DYEN and Yann ROCHERIEUX (FRA) are tied on 14 points with the Danes.
In the Laser Radial another lake specialist, Veronika FENCLOVÁ (CZE) proved the star of the day. She took bullets in both of her races to move up to seventh overall, although she is still counting a DNF from yesterday. FENCLOVÁ's main successes have come in her home regattas on Lake Lipno in the Czech Republic, but today she excellent in the shifty conditions, explaining, 'It's quite similar to conditions in the Czech Republic on the lakes - I'd say my sort of conditions.'
Matt BELCHER and Nick
She identified Sari MULTALA (FIN) and Mateja PETRONIJEVIC (CRO) as other sailors who have impressed her so far, although both were somewhat less prominent at the front of the two Radial fleets today, dropping back to 15th and sixth place overall, with MULTALA suffering after going OCS in race three. Replacing them in the number one spot is Australia's Sarah BLANCK, who after a 2,5 day is three points clear of China's Xu LIJIA. Tatiana DROZDOVSKAYA from Belarus is third overall.
Australia continued their great showing from the opening day to extend their dominance in Neusiedl yesterday. Topping both the 470 fleets means they have five leaders across the ten events and have marked themselves out as early contenders for the King's Trophy for the top performing nation at the event. Whether the Aussies can maintain this sort of pace through the final series next week is another matter. But for now they are the team to beat in Austria.
Matt BELCHER and Nick BEHRENS (AUS) and Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON (AUS) continue to hold their overall leads in the two 470 fleets. A bullet in the day's second race puts BELCHER and BEHRENS three points ahead of Javier CONTE and Juan DE LA FUENTE (ARG), with Ronan DREANO and Ronan FLOCH (FRA) moving up into third place. It was a less successful day for 470 World Champions Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS), whose finish of 20 in race three sees them fall to ninth overall.
Two more races in the Hobie 16 fleet saw Kerstin WICHARD and Anja HAFKE seize the overall lead, with a third and a fourth putting them eight points ahead of Australia's Belinda ZANESCO and Bridget WATERHOUSE. However the top two teams of the day were Silvia SICOURI and Lara SICOURI (ITA) and 2002 ISAF World Sailing Games Champion Marie DUVIGNAC with crew Pauline THEVENOT (FRA). Both crews scored a bullet and a second place apiece to move to third and fourth respectively. Were it not for a DNC for the Italians and a DNF for the French girls yesterday, these two crews would be well clear in the top spots.
Two bullets from two races sees Andy WALSH and Ed BARNEY extend their lead at the front of the Hobie Tiger fleet, whilst the local team of Austria's Thomas ZAJAC and Thomas CZAJKA also had a good day with a 2,3 to put them clear in second place. Meanwhile Hobie Tiger World Champions Enrique FIGUEROA and Jorge HERNANDEZ (PUR) move up to third place overall with scores of 4,1 for the day. The day's other race win went to the British crew of Chris RASHLEY and Marcus LYNCH and helps move them up to fifth overall. Double Olympic gold medallists in the Tornado and great Austrian hopes Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER meanwhile continue to put in solid if unspectacular results. A fourth and an eighth place added to yesterday's 4,3 scoreline sees them eighth overall.
|The Laser Radials in action
© David BELL
Continuing to lead in the Women's fleet is the winner of the ISAF Grade 1 Sail Melbourne and overnight leader Qiubin CHEN (CHN). A consistent 2,3 today, enables CHEN to solidify her early points edge on the rest of the fleet, and looks as though she may be hard to challenge in this qualification series.
Moving up is Weiming LIU, who joins team mate CHEN in the top three, and now sits in third overall after her 3,2 postings. An excellent result for this sailor, who holds a world ranking of 25, after gaining ranking points from only one ISAF graded event. A result of 12 at the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française a few weeks ago gave LIU her debut on the world circuit.
With the RS:X making its appearance on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings from January 2006, one would not want to compare form over the past two days to the sailors' rankings, as these count for just over four months of competition. Of the sailors in the qualification series, more than 50% are currently unranked and wanting to prove their worth at the World Sailing Games.
The top ranked sailor in the fleet is Jannicke STALLSTROM (NOR) who sits at number 9. With a DNC in today's race 4, she has slipped from her overnight fifth overall down to tenth. Halfway through the eight race qualifying series, there is all to play for.
|There were more great
conditions in Austria today
© Emily L. FERGUSON
However, expect the serious challenge to come from the higher ranked sailors who have the automatic bye and join the fleet in the final series, which is scheduled to get underway on Tuesday 16 May.
ZUBARI raced a consistent and solid series, and this virtual unknown is clearly going to be closely watched by the rest of the fleet in the final four races of the qualifying series. His performance would suggest coaching from Israel's windsurfing hero, Gal FRIDMAN (ISR), who claimed Israel's first ever gold medal in any sport at the 2004 Olympic Games.ZUBARI's world ranking of 97 carries just one event credit, a 21 at the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy - he could be going a lot higher.
TOMIZAWA is similarly new to the scene, and also carries just one ranked event, a twelfth at the ISAF Grade 1 Sail Melbourne at the start of 2006.
Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) has moved up into third overall after a 11,1 today - a place you would normally expect to find this previous world ranking leader in the Mistral Class (the Olympic equipment prior to the selection of the RS:X).
Tom ASHLEY (NZL), overnight leader, seemed to find the more shifty conditions today a challenge, and a 12,2 posting has pushed him down into fourth. However, it is exceptionally close with both the first and second placed sailors on equal points at 16 apiece, and the third and fourth placed sailors also matching each other with 17 points apiece.
|Team Racing action from Rust
A disappointing finish for Ioannis CHRYSOCHON (GRE) after race 4, as his seventh place pushed him down out of the top three, a place he briefly claimed after race 3 today, to sit at fifth overall. Two Greek sailors show in the top 10, with CHRYSOCHON joined by Byron KOKKALANIS, whose third place in race four places him in fifth overall.
A real spread of results across the fleet, with four different sailors claiming the bullets, and the second and third places spread across a further seven.
Introduced into the ISAF World Sailing Games for the first time in 2006, the highly tactical team racing event is being contested in supplied 420 dinghies. Racing close to the shore of the village of Rust, and within distance of the spectators at all times, the team racing is proving highly popular with the crowds.
Round Robin 1 for the eleven teams challenging for the World title was completed by mid-afternoon today, having completed the remaining 15 races of the 55 scheduled races in Round Robin 1. Not surprisingly, it is GBR team 1 who dominated, with a win ratio of 90%, claiming 9 victories and 1 loss. Team racing tends to be dominated by the British and Americans, and USA1, are close behind in second with a win ratio of 80%, 8 victories to 2 losses
On an equal 80% win ratio to USA1 and sitting in third is the Czech Republic's team 1.
In many ways a combination of fleet and match racing, team racing effectively compromises a fleet race, but with the boats competing of two teams and the teams match racing each other. The principle idea behind team racing is that individual success is subservient to the performance of the team as a whole. Rather than counting boat scores, the aggregate score of the team is counted, and this is what wins or loses the matches. For the World Sailing Games, the teams consist of two boats, each boat with a two-person crew.
Round Robin 2 got underway later this afternoon, and should be completed tomorrow.
The Team Racing is being contested in Rust from 10-15 May, and will then move to Neusiedl am See from 16-20 May.
Racing continues in Austria tomorrow, with more good conditions expected in Lake Neusiedl, before the wind is expected to drop away this weekend.
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