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16 May 2006, 06:45 pm
Day 7: Slow Start To The Final Series
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ISAF World Sailing Games 2006
Lake Neusiedl, Austria

The top sailors had arrived and everyone was ready for the start of the final series at the ISAF World Sailing Games today, but the wind in Lake Neusiedl, Austria refused to co-operate. Only in the late afternoon did a light breeze arrive and the invited stars immediately lived up to their standing in the opening races.
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The forecast this morning indicated a five knot breeze from midday onwards, but it failed to materialize until 1600, when all the fleets went out eager for some racing after an impatient wait on the shore. For the 49ers, the RS:X windsurfers and the Hobie Tiger fleet, races all took place, but elsewhere the wind died and competition had to be abandoned.

Johannes POLGAR and Florian SPALTEHOLZ (GER) seized the initiative in the opening Hobie Tiger exchanges, despite this being their first regatta in the equipment. Boat park neighbours Andy WALSH and Ed BARNEY (GBR) helped them tune the boat and they promptly went on the top the leaderboard at the end of day one. 'Today was perfect' he said as he hit the beach with a big smile at the end of the day.

The opening race took place in eight knots coming from the south, with Austria's Thomas ZAJAC and Thomas CZAJKA taking the bullet ahead of POLGAR and SPALTEHOLZ. Race two saw POLGAR and SPALTEHOLZ win to claim the top spot overnight, whist Tornado Olympic Champions Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) second. WALSH and BARNEY had a 3,4 day to lie second overall, with sixth in the opening race putting them third on the leaderboard. Meanwhile ZAJAC and CZAJKA's impressive start means there are two Austrian crews in the top ten.

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

The women in the Hobie 16 were unable to start any race as the breeze had totally faded as the Tigers crossed the finish line.

Spanish Into the Sunset

The Olympic Gold Medallists, Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) showed their quality today, out sailing the fleet with two bullets in the two races held today. Having done little 49er sailing since their Olympic victory, the pair have shown that absence makes little difference when you are at the top of your game.

The Spanish were one of four invited crews who pre-qualified for the gold fleet final series, and their main competition came from the other pre-qualified sailors, including the silver medallists in Athens, Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR).

The start of race one saw the MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ hot off the start and lead the fleet away heading up the right of the course. A wind shift helped them to consolidate their position and hit the windward mark significantly ahead of the fleet, followed by Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) and LUKA and LEONCHUK. This order continued, until Ukraine managed to position themselves just ahead of the Italians at the mark and creep through. Whilst the Spanish went off to the right, Ukraine and Italy went left down to the gate, but with the pressure on the right sight of the course, the Spanish continued to extend their lead. The order remained through to the finish with Spain taking the gun, over Ukraine and Italy.

Another Bullet For Spain

Onto race two, and the Spanish and Ukrainians had the pin end of the start line virtually to themselves, which they played to their advantage getting away with good boat speed. Although Ukraine had the edge and led Spain around the windward mark, MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ played the shifts going downwind and managed to regain their lead. Although chased hard by LUKA and LEONCHUK, the Spanish took the gun, with Finland's Tom LONNQVIST and Jacob GRANQVIST in third, the only other crew anywhere near the two leading boats.

With two bullets Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) lead the fleet, with Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR) in second and Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) in third.

'In these conditions anyone can do well', commented Xabier FERNANDEZ. 'We are very happy with today's result. Two wins is perfect. It was a bit crazy out on the course as the pressure could come from anywhere.'

In contrast to their dominance of the qualification series Nathan WILMOT and Ben AUSTIN (AUS) struggled in today's light and shifty winds to place 7,10 and finish in seventh overall. 'The conditions out there were very tough today. The whole field sailed at a very high level,' commented WILMOT.

An unfortunate departure from the gold fleet due to injury, sees the home team of Nico DELLE-KATH and Nikolaus RESCH out of the rest of the competition. DELLE-KATH sustained damage to his knee ligament at Hyeres which has returned to haunt him.

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All the racing in the 470s was
abandoned today

Frustrating First Finals Day For The 470s

In Men's 470 fleet, Benjamin BONNAUD and Romain BONNAUD (FRA) had pulled out a big lead by the fourth mark when racing was abandoned, bringing cheers from some of the sailors left trailing far behind at the back of the fleet, a group which included qualifying series winners Mathew BELCHER and Nick BEHRENS (AUS). They can count their blessings tonight and hope for a better performance in the stronger winds predicted for tomorrow.

Unfortunately the wind died away again as the sun began to go down and the race committee had to abandon. The two fleets headed back to Weiden where they have already spent a frustrating day. Also relieved by the abandonment were number one team in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings Gideon KLIGER and Ehud GAL (ISR), who had already returned to the shore after being OCS in their first race here.

The Israeli duo have not sailed on Lake Neusiedl before and are also facing the unfamiliar challenge of racing in supplied equipment. KLIGER commented, 'The other sailors have a big advantage as they have sailed here now for a few days and have had time to get used to the boats.'

The Women's 470 fleet were also pulled off the course and were towed back to shore when both races was abandoned at 1915. The crews are now de-rigging their boats and securing them for the night in a different location to usual as a big storm is expected to pass through during the night. The Lasers were also unable to complete any races today.

Earlier today, Sari MULTALA (FIN), world number 34 in the Laser Radial who finished 3 overall in the qualification, was looking forward to the final series. 'This event is like two separate competitions,' she said. 'I am looking forward to now racing with the world's best. I plan to get myself in a good enough position to safely secure a place in the medal race. I'm not a risk taker so will sail safe.' When questioned on the result she hopes to achieve here in Austria, MULTALA advised she was hoping for a top three place, although her coach upped the challenge stating his goal that MULTALA secure the gold.

Team Racing

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GBR3 and USA2 in a close call at
the mark

Yesterday the fleet of 420s was moved up the lake from Rust to Neusiedl where the finals will take place. Three new teams have arrived to join the gold fleet qualifiers. USA2, USA3 and GBR3 are now in contention and began today their fight to progress to the quarter finals.

The course was set just off the pier at Neusiedl, perfect for the spectators to get a taste of the action. The wind was not kind to and only one race was completed. GBR3 beat USA2 and then the round robin had to be stopped as the wind died. Racing continued later in the day when the wind made a welcome return but at the time of going to press the results were not yet available.

Tomorrow the forecast is for much stronger winds which should see the final series get underway in all fleets right round the lake. Eight races are scheduled for the final series (ten for the 49er), with the top ten competitors in each fleet then moving forward to a final Medal Race to decide the World Sailing Games titles on Lake Neusiedl this Saturday 20 May.

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

ISAF. Image, The 49ers led the racing on Lake Neusiedl today:© ISAF World Sailing Games 2006
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