Up to today, the defending women's champions from Italy have owned the 2010 Open 470 European Championships. Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol might have had a bad opening heat at the beginning of the week, but since then a string of race wins had launched them into a seemingly unassailable lead.
A lot can happen in a day's racing on the tricky waters of Istanbul, however, and after a tough two races the Italians face a real fight if they're to keep hold of the European crown. Two French teams demonstrated incredible mastery of the light and patchy breezes, with Emmanuelle Rol
and Hélène Defrance
scoring two 3rd places to move into the lead. Their team mates Camille Lecointre
and Mathilde Geron
scored two 2nds to move into 2nd overall, just a point off the lead.
Conti's 10 point lead may now have dissolved into an 8-point deficit, but with two fleet races remaining in the 31-boat women's division before the double-points Medal Race on Monday, there's still time for the Italians to take their revenge.
The Italian skipper was in good spirits considering she'd just lost her lead.
"Our performance was so and so,"
said Conti. "The first race we were caught out by a big righty when we were on the left, and we lost 10 boats just like that, and we couldn't recover." However, the Italians were jolted into life during the next race after suffering a shocking start. "We rounded the top mark 3rd last, but we got closer to the boats in front of us, and on the second upwind stayed more in the middle of the course, tacking below other boats, not caring about bad air, just doing what we wanted to do. We climbed back up to 4th at the finish. We put a lot of effort in to end up in that position, we didn't just sail into a corner and hope for some luck. I think that was our best race this week."
The first race saw all kinds of leaders before the Israeli team of Gil Cohen
and Dana Mamriev
pulled through to win. "We like these conditions,"
said Mamriev, "they remind us of sailing at home, working on the shifts and looking for the gusts."
British team Hannah Mills
and Claire Cumming
had had their moment at the front of that race, along with team mates Sophie Weguelin
and Sophie Ainsworth
, before both teams got caught out by the shifts. However Mills put it right in the next race, winning by a massive margin as the sun was setting over Istanbul. "Scary race,"
said Mills, "but nice to get a race win in that stuff. We just tried to sail our own race rather than getting caught up in small battles, keeping focused on the bigger picture."
If that was lesson of the day, to sail the wind rather than the fleet, then the Greeks have certainly taken it to heart in the men's Gold fleet. Overnight leaders Panagiotis Mantis
and Pavlos Kagialis
extended their advantage with two fifths, and now lead by six points from Israel's Gideon Kliger
and Eran Sela
, who won today's first race.
Just two points behind the Israelis are another strong Greek duo, Panagiotis Kampouridis
and Theodoros Polychronidis
. French sailors Nicolas Charbonnier
and Baptiste Meyer
won today's other race and move up to fourth ahead of the defending European Champions, the Croatian team Sime Fantela
and Igor Marenic
who slipped badly today.
Charbonnier was pleased to have won a race, but said he had a lot to learn from how the Greeks handle the seemingly random shift and gust patterns. Even series leader Kagialis said he preferred strong winds, but was still happy to have done so well today. "In the second race we had a penalty from the jury at the start, I don't know why. But we did a 720 turn, started last boat, but with good tactics we climbed up to the top five."
His helmsman Mantis attributed their success to "a lot of patience, and a little bit of luck. You always need luck!"
In the men's Silver fleet, the points remain very tight with Finland's Joonas and Niklas Lindgren holding on to the lead by a single point from 470 Junior World and European Champions, Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion.
As for tomorrow, Gold fleet leader Panagiotis Mantis believes strong winds are returning. If his 24-hour weather forecasting proves as good as his short-term reading of the wind shifts, then we'll be in for a storming final days' fleet racing on the warm waters of Istanbul, before the Medal Race showdown on Monday.
If strong winds do return tomorrow, that would suit Giulia Conti just fine. Asked if she was ready for a fight, Conti replied: "I was born ready. It's going to be tough because both of the French are very good sailors, smart and fast. So yes, it's going to be tough, but the best team will win in the end."
The 2010 Open 470 European Championships conclude on 6 September. The regatta is organised by The Istanbul Sailing Club in co-operation with the International 470 Class Association and the Turkish Sailing Federation.
You can follow the racing live online, via the GPS tracking system, which will be displayed here: www.onlineracetrack.net
For more Information visit: European Championship Website - www.470euro2010.org
Full Results - www.470.org/content.asp?id=2178