The first of several crunch days at the SAP 49er & 49erFX Europeans with fast paced racing on what was a mainly breezy day. The second day of the Qualifying Races and the initial Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets are now determined in the 49er fleet, with the 49erFX continuing to sail qualification races through until Thursday.
With the breeze up and more consistent pressure, some of the pre-race favourites found their groove around the race track, which belonged to New Zealand's Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski in the 49er fleet and the home team of Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgarrd Olsen of Denmark in the 49erFX.
The increase in breeze was what the top teams wanted and they thrived in the stunning conditions that the race course off Aarhus in Denmark delivered, with three races for everyone. Up front were the Kiwis with an astonishing performance from the young pairing of Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski in the blue fleet, propelling them up the leaderboard to first overall.
Who would have believed that this pair were in the silver fleet relegation zone going into the day, as they showcased sheer skill and guts around the track to knock out two wins and two seconds to jump into the lead. Holding a world ranking of #28, they are fresh from a win at Garda and Trentino Olympic Week last month.
The men were re-seeded after the opening day of racing into three fleets, and all three fleets were up on the track at the same time across the three race courses. The discard kicked in after race 5 which helped to shuffle the scorelines.
Another great Kiwi day in the blue fleet for London's Olympic silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who secured the other two bullets and climbed up to 5th overall. Right up with the Kiwis for the first two races was Danish 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Allan Noregaard with crew Anders Thomsen. The Danish team used every whiff of their local knowledge to secure a 3rd, 4th, 11th and 9th and edge up the leaderboard from well inside the silver fleet relegation zone at the end of the day yesterday, to a safe 11th overall.
With the blue fleet dominated by Hansen and Porebski, over in the yellow fleet there was some drastic action being taken by the world #1 ranked team and defending 49er European Champions, Mathieu Frei and Yenn Rocherieux from France.
Their mediocre day one performance called for something a bit different today, if they wanted to secure their promotion to the gold fleet racing stage. In the day's opening race they took out the best start, opting for the pin end of the start line and the left hand side of the track, with some steady racing delivering them a 6th place, which they followed up with a race win, second place and another race win to climb up the leaderboard to fourth overall.
Over in the red fleet, the Danish 2008 Olympic gold medal helm Jonas Warrer and 2012 Olympic bronze medal crew Peter Lang were up against Austria's Olympians Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch, the British world #4 pair of David Evans and Edward Powys and the world # 6 ranked German team of Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel - an imposing startline by anyone's standards. The Austrians delivered the best scoreline of the red fleet with a tidy row of four top finishes - 1,2,5,2 - which they desperately needed to balance out yesterday's disaster, to position them in 6th overall. But Heil and Ploessel carried a far more steady scoreline from yesterday and were already positioned well up the leaderboard, so their day 2 delivery of two bullets, a sixth and a seventh easily moved them up to second overall.
The world #9 team of Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign from Great Britain were also drawn in the red fleet and delivered a string of top five places to end the qualifying stage in third overall. The pair missed the 2012 49er Europeans, so are looking to getting back on the podium and aim to improve on the silver medals they secured at the 2011 49er Europeans.
A gut wrenching day for some of the top teams, as Denmark's Jonathan Bay and Chris Thorsnell, Poland's Tomasz Januszewski and Jaceck Nowak, and Great Britain's John Pink and Simon Wheeler, along with Spain's Carlos Paz and Anton Paz all missed the gold fleet cut by a few points. But they will have their chance again, as the format being trialled here at the Europeans offers the overall top placed team in the silver fleet from tomorrow's racing to be promoted to up to Gold. Similarly, the top placed team in the bronze fleet can move on up to Silver.
49er Men Top 10 Leaderboard - Provisional Overall Results
1. Marcus Hansen/Josh Porebski (NZL) - 10 pts
2. Erik Heil/Thomas Ploessel (GER) - 16 pts
3. Dylan Fletcher/Alain Sign (GBR) - 18 pts
4. Mathieu Frei/Yenn Rocherieux (FRA) - 21 pts
5. Peter Burling/Blair Tuke (NZL) - 26 pts
6. Nico Luca Marc Delle-Karth/Nikolaus Leopold Resch (AUT) - 27 pts
7. Federico Alonso Tellechea/Arturo Alonso Tellechea (ESP) - 29 pts
8. Diego Botin/Pablo Turrado (ESP) - 30 pts
9. Jan Hauke Erichsen/Max Lutz (GER) - 30 pts
10. Stevie Morrison/Ben Rhodes (GBR) - 31 pts
The Danish team of Nielsen and Olsen were the undisputed team of the day, setting the pace around the windward leeward course to take out the first two race wins, and then a second place. Early days, but they have already found themselves with a handy 12 point margin over the second placed German team of Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke.
Lutz is a bit of child sailing prodigy, and back in 2005 aged 14 years, she won the Optimist Dinghy World Championships. At that time she was only the third girl to ever win the Championship. Back to today, and the pair struggled with the variable wind around the track, particularly off their game in the day's opening race where they finished 30th. But they clawed back with an 8 and 4.
The new pairing of former Laser Radial sailor Charlotte Dobson and former 470 crew Sophie Ainsworth have already demonstrated they have what it takes, albeit in separate 49erFX combinations. Dobson won the 49erFX fleet last month at the 2013 Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth with Nicola Groves, whilst Ainsworth finished in second with then helm Kate Macgregor. Three top ten finishes today places them in third overall. Macgregor is also racing here with new crew Mary Rook.
The World ranked #2 pair of Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze repeated some of their racing flair from day one, with a 3, 2 from the first two races. Lucky for them the discard kicked in after race 5, so they were able to discount their 29th place in race 6, and end day 2 in fourth overall.
The World #1 team of Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech of New Zealand are in fifth overall, on an equal 30 points with the Brazilians. The Kiwis will be waiting for their moment to pounce and are more used to being at the very front of the pack, having won two and finished second across the three ISAF Sailing World Cup events of the 2012/2103 circuit they contested.
Improving their leaderboard position from 10th up to 8th after three races today are Annemiek Bekkering and Claire Blom from the Netherlands. A former match race helm, Bekkering's first major 49erFX event with Blom was the ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma in April, where they finished 7th, and the pair have consistently scored well so far this year.
"It was a tough day today, a bit more breeze than yesterday which was good,"
commented Bekkering on the day's conditions. "It was still shifty, but luckily it picked up at the end. It was typical that there was more breeze at the top mark and then at the downwind it was less. At the top mark it was quite exciting because all the boats came together. No crashes, but excitement!" So far so good on their approach to the day, as Bekkering continued, "It went OK, but we lost some speed. We came out good and so far for the qualifiers all is OK. Tomorrow we will go for it and the do our best in the finals. The competition is quite good with lots of different teams and countries. This is the first time we have more than 30 boats and it is great practice for the Worlds. We can see the difference between the full-time teams and those just starting."
49erFX Women Top 10 Leaderboard - Provisional Overall Results
1. Ida Marie Baad Nielsen/Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) - 12 pts
2. Tina Lutz/Susann Beucke (GER) - 24 pts
3. Charlotte Dobson/Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) - 26 pts
4. Martine Soffiatti Grael/Kattena Larsen Kunze (BRA) - 30 pts
5. Alexandra Maloney/Molly Meech (NZL) - 30 pts
6. Jena Mai Hansen/Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) - 37 pts
7. Victoria Jurczok/Anika Lorenz (GER) - 38 pts
8. Annemiek Bekkering/Claire Blom (NED) - 47 pts
9. Giulia Conti/Francesca Clapcich (ITA) - 48 pts
10. Olivia Price/Caitlin Elks (AUS) - 51 pts
Three races are scheduled for all fleets on Thursday's day 3 of racing.