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14 May 2006, 05:00 pm
Day 5: Making The Gold Fleet Cut
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ISAF World Sailing Games 2006
Lake Neusiedl, Austria

A consistent breeze on Lake Neusiedl, Austria saw today's scheduled races completed at the ISAF World Sailing Games, and those making the cut rewarded by qualifying to the gold fleet. The top ten boats in the gold fleet will then battle for victory in the final Medal Race.
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After two days of waiting, the weather rewarded the competitors in impressive fashion, with exciting racing across all the courses. The perfect weather meant racing got underway as scheduled at 1100 around all the venues, with only the Lasers sailing on into the late afternoon to catch up with the slightly convoluted schedule caused by their late finish last night.

Aussie Surprise

Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN (AUS) have been the surprise crew of the 49er fleet. Competing in their first event in Europe, the pair only started sailing together in August last year. Since September 2005, they have been training four days a week with intensive coaching and their hard work has paid off, as they lead the 49er fleet going into the final series. OUTTERIDGE, who is a three-time gold medallist in the double-handed dinghy event at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship commented on their performance, 'We are quite surprised - shocked really. We didn't expect to sail so well.' AUSTIN added, 'We have found the conditions really shifty, but have kept our heads out of the boat and found the pressure.'

The pair have only competed in 4-5 regattas in Australia and the only crew here in Austria they have previously sailed against are the New Zealanders.

Results
Men's RS:X
Women's RS:X
Laser
Laser Radial
Men's 470
Women's 470
49er
Hobie Tiger
Hobie 16
Team Racing

Looking ahead to maintaining their form, OUTTERIDGE said 'I can't see that anything will change, although of course the world champions now join the fleet and are hugely experienced.' And on their chances, OUTTERIDGE added 'We don't expect to get the gold, but we hope to finish with a top three result.'

After yesterday's disapppointing light wind the 49ers were treated to excellent conditions today and with only the top 12 going through to the final series there was everything to play for.

Today's Action

The yellow fleet got underway in 17 knots of breeze and the fleet immediately split up the first beat with those chosing the left taking the advantage. First round the windward mark was Marcin CZAJLOWSKI and Krzysztof KIERKOWSKI (POL), and lying in 13 place overall this was just the start they were hoping for. The reverse was true for Russell and Matt MCGOVERN (IRL) who learned they had been OCS. The frustrated team had to head ashore, watch and wait, as their fate for the finals was played out on the water.

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Alexandre MONTEAU and
Damien GILLOU take another
bullet
© ISAF

Overall fleet leaders Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN (AUS) rounded fourth but this talented team again showed their class as they steadily worked their way through the fleet to finish second.

Coming up the second beat, the right proved to be the favoured side of the course and Allan NORREGARD and Christian ANDERSEN (DEN) benefiting the most to take the lead for the final leg, which they held to the finish to take their second bullet of the championship. OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN came in second ahead of CZAJLOWSKI and KIERKOWSKI in third. Ranked at number six in the world, this young Polish team had everything to play for today. Lying just outside the finals cut off, they needed a good race to stand a chance of qualifying. It was now up to the blue fleet to decide who was going through.

Event Class No. of sailors
qualifying for
Gold fleet
Men's One Person Dinghy Laser 32
Women's One Person Dinghy Laser Radial 25
Men's Two Person Dinghy 470 24
Women's Two Person Dinghy 470 15
Men's Windsurfing Neil Pryde RS:X 19
Women's Windsurfing Neil Pryde RS:X All
Men's Multihull Hobie Tiger WSG Edition 14
Women's Multihull Hobie 16 with spinnaker All
Skiff 49er 12
Team Sailing 420 Top 3

The Decisive Race

With the wind building and shifting further to the west, the Race Committee issued a short postponement whilst they altered the course. The fleet got away first time with most of the fleet favouring the pin end of the line and heading off to the left of the course. First to the windward mark was Athanasios PACHOUMAS and Athanasios SIOUZIOS (GRE) whose regatta so far has been marred by a DNF in race three, a DNC in race four and then an OCS in race six.

Hot on their heels were Peter GRAHAM and Rory GODMAN (NZL) who went into the day in 21 place overall. success was not to be theirs however as a capsize at the first leeward mark put paid to their hopes for a sparkling finish. Coming into the final day in second overall were Jorge LIMA and Francisco ANDRADE (POR) but they were buried in the pack as they came to the first mark. A pack which had to avoid the upturned Hungarian team who capsized just metres from the mark.

Chasing hard on the leading Greek team were Jonas WARRER and Martin KIRKETERP (DEN) and Alexandre MONTEAU and Damien GILLOU (FRA) and their lead decreased with each mark rounding. Playing it safe and chosing the centre of the course, the Greeks could not hold on. The leading trio stretched out a considerable distance from the rest of the fleet and MONTEAU and GILLOU proved that they had the necessary goods and crossed the line first with the Danish team second and the Greeks in third.

For MONTEAU and GILLOU this could well be the race of their championship. Going into the day in 14 overall and carrying two OCS's (one which they discard), this team had to do something special to make the finals. So not only can they be delighted with their bullet they can also celebrate that they will be competing in the finals series as they move up to ninth overall.

Joining the fleet on Monday are four invited teams; home favourites Nico DELLE-KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH, current Olympic champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP), Pietro and Gianfranco SIBELLO and the current World champions Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR).

A Perfect Day For The Cats

15-18 knots of breeze greeted the Hobie Tiger fleet this morning and the race committee set one long race. In perfect Tiger weather the boats hit maximum speeds and young New Zealander Brett SELLARS showed his skill to lead at every mark rounding only to be passed just meters from the finish line by two time Olympic gold medallist in the Tornado, Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT). SELLARS had to settle for second with the young Austrian team of Thomas ZAJAC and Thomas CZAJKA. SELLARS and HAGARA will be even more pleased with their performance today as they have both secured their place in the finals which begin on Tuesday.

The blue fleet got underway just after 1400 and with the breeze gusting up to 25 knots it was a battle of survival for some of the sailors. First place went to Yann GUICHARD and Laurnet GUILLEMETTE (FRA).

US Hobie Tiger Champion Greg THOMAS and Jacque BERNIER finished second but that was enough to clinch winning the qualification round but on equal points with Enrique FIGUEROA and Jorge HERNANDEZ (PUR). The current World Champions, FIGUEROA and HERNANDEZ had their worst day so far, finishing in sixth place which they will discard. They finish the qualification series in second overall and have displayed the most consistent performance of the fleet.

The women's multihull fleet completed two races today. Belinda HAYWARD (RSA) showed the experience that gained her a Silver medal at the first ISAF World Sailing Games in 1994. She powered away in the stronger breezes and had the most consistent day of the women with a first and second place. HAYWARD and WILKINSON-DAVIES end the series at the top of the leaderboard just one point ahead of Annie NELSON and Susan KOSINOUSKI (USA). Marie DUVIGNAC and Pauline THEVENOT (FRA) showed good speed to win race seven despite not flying their spinnaker on the downwind leg. All nineteen Hobie 16 teams will be able to sail in the finals series .

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Action from the Hobie course
© ISAF World Sailing Games

Japan Delivers in the 470

With only the top 15 boats going through to the gold fleet and a chance at the medals, there was disappointment in the women's 470 fleet for those who came so close, but couldn't find the pace today.

No surprises at the top for those going through. Assured of qualification, Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON (AUS) emphasized their dominance once more by leading the fleet from the start and placing another bullet in the yellow fleet.

All the sailors in the top 15 going into today's races played a very safe series, with surely the biggest disappointment going to Signe LIVBJERG and Rie CHRISTIANSEN (DEN). Sitting fairly comfortably within the safety limit this morning at 13 overall, a posting of 12 in today's race 6 saw them plummet down to miss the cut by one point. If they had managed to push themselves past just one more boat, they would have been safe, but LIVBJERG, who holds a bronze medal from the 2004 Olympics in the single-handed women's dinghy just couldn't turn on the speed. The World Sailing Games marks her first appearance on the international scene in the 470, since swapping from the Laser Radial, her original boat of choice after the 2004 Olympics.

Relief for the Swedish crew of Karin ALMQUIST and Karin BERG who finished third, their best result of the qualification series, to finish the series in 13 overall and secure a place in the gold fleet.

Wakako TABATA and Naomi KURITA (JPN) took their first bullet of the series in the blue fleet, today, and safely qualify in 7 overall, just behind team mates Yuka YOSHISAKO and Noriko OKUMA. Australia joins Japan as being the only two nations with two boats going through to the gold fleet.

Hungary Converts To Gold

Over in the men's fleet, the yellow fleet got off the start line in northwesterly winds of 15-20, with the fleet heading off to the left of the course. Leading off the start were Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL (USA), followed by Stephen KEEN and Philip KEEN (NZL), with Mike ANDERSON-MITTERLING and David HUGHES in third place.

With a shifty wind, those who could anticipate and position their boat gained. The leading pack of three formed a procession around the course, with the head to head coming in the final downwind leg, when ANDERSON-MITTERLING and HUGHES were challenged by the KEEN brothers in a spectacular battle for second place. But the Americans managed to hold their advantage to finish second behind team mates MCNAY and BIEHL, with the KEEN's in third.

A bad start saw Matther BELCHER and Nick BEHRENS (AUS) finish in seventh and as a result hand the overall series lead to Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS), who posted a second place in the blue fleet.

The blue fleet started in 20-25 knots and short, steep waves. Too little too late for Karlo HMELJAK and Luka VERZEL (SLO) who despite winning by a significant margin, could only convert their 44 overall into 38 overall.

An excellent third place for Gabor SALLAI and David OLOSZ (HUN) saw them convert their overnight position of 24, just on the cut off threshold, and move up to sit safely inside the gold fleet at 19, a strong result for this team who hold a world ranking of 83.

Equalling their team mates in the women's 470, Japan were assured of two crews in the gold fleet, when the Olympic silver medallists Kazuto SEKI and Schoichi YANAGAWA found their form, finished in sixth and moved up from well outside the cut, to finish one boat inside at 23 overall.

China Continues To Dominate the Women's RS:X

No racing for two days due to lack of wind didn't affect the leaders who continued to deliver what was expected. Qiubin CHEN (CHN) again outshone the fleet and further extended her lead to hold a six point margin over chasing team mate Wei Ming LIU (CHN) who finished third today. Jannicke STAALSTROM (NOR) holds her form with a second place to day and remains in third overall.

An interesting battle ahead as these two will surely remain in the top ten who move through to the final Medal Race on 20 May. No qualification worries for the women's RS:X fleet, as all they all automatically qualify through to the gold fleet and final series.

With the scoreboard wiped clean as the fleet enter the gold fleet finals, there could however be some upsets as they re-juggle for position.

Another storming result from Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) sees him solid in the front and hold onto first position overall. Taking the bullet in the blue fleet was Shahar ZUBARI - an outstanding result for this sailor from Israel who sits just inside the world's top 100 and confidently moves through to the gold fleet.

With only the top 19 sailors going through to the gold fleet and a hope for medal glory, relief for China's Zhi Ming WU who makes it through as his nation's second gold fleet qualifier in the men's fleet.

Three Team Racing Boats Transfer To Gold Fleet

Today was the last day of team racing in Rust, the only venue where racing took place on every day of the qualification series. The second round robin was completed, but the third was cancelled so the teams who will progress to the gold and silver fleets are decided.

USA1 finished first ahead of AUS1 in second and GBR1 in third. These three teams will progress to the gold fleet with the other teams fighting it out to make the quarter final in the silver fleet. USA1, and GBR1 will be joined by three other teams who automatically qualified. They are two teams from the USA and one more from Great Britain.

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Team Racing in Rust
© ISAF

Both the gold fleet and the silver fleet will complete another round robin and the top two teams from the silver fleet will join the gold fleet to make up the eight teams for the quarter finals. The team who finishes first in the gold fleet will get the first choice for rival in the quarter finals with second placed finishes making the next choice and so on. The winning team from each pair will progress to the semi-final and the battle for the medals.

GBR1 have improved considerably throughout the Games, losing only one race in the second round robin compared to winning five of ten races in the first. Tom HERBERT commented, 'We race a lot in the UK, but we are used to races where each team has three boats...In the second round-robin we took much less risk while racing, we focused on no one finishing in fourth place. It was the most challenging thing out on the water for us. This type of team racing is much quicker, more intense.' HERBERT continued, saying, 'I would say that all teams here are improving. There are also sailors who have sailed on 420s, but have not done much team racing.'

Rust has been a fantastic arena for team racing, with the high speed intense action within inches of the shore providing an exciting thrill for spectators. The team racing moves to Neusiedl ready for racing to get underway again on Tuesday.

MUTALA Shines

In the Laser Radial the big question mark in the morning was the status of Sophie DE TURCKHEIM (FRA), winner at the World Sailing Games in Marseille four years ago and World Championship runner up last year but languishing outside of the gold fleet places this morning. DE TURCKHEIM explained that her lowly standing was basically due to a lack of concentration. She came to the event expecting to breeze through the qualifying series, but Lake Neusiedl is not a venue to suffer a lack of concentration, and after an OCS in race three DE TURCKHEIM was seriously in danger of missing out next week.

However she went a long way towards pulling herself up last night with a second place, and a bullet in today's yellow fleet race secured her a place in the gold fleet. With all ten of the invited sailors from the ISAF World Sailing Rankings set to take part next week, including World number one and World Champion Paige RAILEY (USA), DE TURCKHEIM knows she will have to step up her game if she is to make the Medal Race next Saturday.

Another former Europe sailor to star today was Sari MUTALA (FIN) in the blue fleet. She was at the peak of her powers taking two dominant bullets. The second was particularly emphatic with MUTALA leading from the front and just pulling away throughout the entire race. After a career spent as one of the top stars in the former Olympic equipment, the Europe, MUTALA says she is gradually adjusting to the Radial. After a difficult first year she says things a definitely improving as she gets more accustomed to the similarities and the differences between the two boats. For a the class' top stars, who have all come up through the ranks sailing the Radial at youth level, MUTALA is definitely one to watch out for in the future.

All To Play For In Busy Laser Day

The blue Laser fleet had a busy day today, completing three races early on to catch up with convoluted scheduled caused by the late racing last night. Thomas LE BRETON (FRA) scored an opening bullet, whilst race two went to Brendan CASEY (AUS). However the real focus was at more towards the middle of the fleet where the battle for the final places in the next week's gold fleet were being decided.

The cut off point for the gold fleet was lying at 71 points after six races, with eleven skippers lying within five points of this mark.

Challengers From Right Across The World

Amongst the sailors gathered round this mark were a couple of representatives from some of the sailing world's smaller nations. The Seychelles' Allen JULIE had a terrific race six finish of third to put him in a strong position going into the final race seven, whilst Kevin LIM from Malalysia had finishes of 15 and 10 to leave him just within the cut off point. This pair enjoyed contrasting fortunes in the final race. Rounding the bottom mark for the second time LIM capsized, but recovered quickly and elected to play the middle of the course whilst the fleet went hard right on the final upwind. It proved an inspired choice, as only race winner Evangelos CHEIMONAS (GRE) finished ahead of him and LIM guaranteed himself a spot in the gold fleet with an excellent second place.

LIM has been enjoying a very successful year so far, with top ten results at Sail Melbourne and the Laser Australians. He explained, 'We finally got some funding and therefore a coach, and I think that's made the biggest difference. He's really taught me to sail the boat fast and just corrected all the biggest mistakes I've been making and we've been working down the list and just been hoping to make more gains. It's just going to take time like anything.'

However things went less well for JULIE. The World Sailing Games is his first regatta of the season, and his lack of training proved costly in the final race. Three is a row proved a test to far of his pre-training fitness and he slumped to 20th.

The final day of qualification came to a fitting end with a dramatic Laser race, which typified much of the racing seen on the lake this way. After the blue fleet had sped through their three races earlier in the day, the yellow fleet headed out to complete their final race and bring this first phase of the ISAF World Sailing Games to a close.

Amongst the yellow fleet this left Giacomo BOTTOLI (ITA), Javier HERNANDEZ (ESP). Edouard SKORNYAKOV (RUS) and Deniss KARPAK (EST) to battle to secure their place in the final.

Pressure Tells

The tension was obviously showing at the start, with two general recalls before the race got underway in a 20 knot westerly. The committee end was generally favoured at the start, although BOTTOLI opted to go right to the pin end and immediately head out left. SKORNYAKOV meanwhile chose an oppose tack heading from the committee boat out left, whilst HERNANDEZ played a pretty central line. Neither move proved decisive with the upwind leg keeping things pretty tight. Uruguay's Alejandro FOGLIA rounded first, followed by Haris PAPADOPOULOS (CYP) with BOTTOLI and HERNANDEZ third and fourth, just ahead of series leader Tom SLINGSBY (AUS), and SKORNYAKOV also rounding in the top ten.

SLINGSBY has been the Laser sailor to beat so far this week and showed his speed on the downwind leg, moving through the pack to round second behind FOGLIA before immediately heading off to the left of the course. With the leading nine or ten boats still closely packed together, Michael BULLOT (NZL) also made big gains to round fourth, with HERNANDEZ holding things together in fifth, and BOTTOLI falling back slightly.

SLINGSBY's move left looked to be a race winner, and by the time he reached the windward mark he had a lead of over 30 seconds on PAPADOPOULOS, with BULLOT third and the gaps across the fleet beginning to open up.

Surprise Finish

Heading towards the finish and SLINGSBY looked to be cruising towards his fifth bullet of the series, whilst BULLOT had eased in front of PAPADOPOULOS. Then around the final mark and, in the worlds of the Australian, 'I lost concentration for a second, and in those conditions, capsized.'

BULLOT and PAPADOPOULOS both went passed, but SLINGSBY was quick to recover, just piping PAPADOPOULOS on the line for second, but victory had already gone the way of New Zealand's BULLOT. Despite the error, SLINGSBY has been the man to beat this week, looking very slick and very fast out on the shifty wind conditions typical of the lake. Despite the arrival of Paul GOODISON (GBR), Andreas GERITZER (AUT) et al, he will definitely start as one of the favourites on Tuesday.

With victory decided the battle for gold fleet positions was now all that mattered. Estonia's KARPAK scored a great fifth place to secure his place along the classes' top stars next week, whilst HERNANDEZ came in seventh to also guarantee himself a spot. Tenth for BOTTOLI was also saw him make the grade, whilst in 14th SKORNYAKOV squeaked into the gold fleet next week, taking the final qualifying spot.

On To The Finals

And so the qualifying series of the ISAF World Sailing Games comes to an end. The weekend has seen an influx of spectators to Lake Neusiedl, and next week will see an influx of sailing stars, as the top names from each class will join the qualifiers in the gold fleets.

Racing gets underway on Tuesday 16 May, with five races days scheduled, culminating in the Medal Races on Saturday 20 May. Keep an eye on www.sailing.org next week for all the latest from Austria.

For all the news on the 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games CLICK HERE.

ISAF. Image, The great conditions returned to Lake Neusiedl for the final qualifying race today:© ISAF World Sailing Games 2006
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