It didn't matter what the Aarhus weather threw at them, Wolfgang Hunger and Julien Kleiner's team work coped with the most extraordinary conditions to win the SAP 505 World Championships with a race to spare.
On a day that produced every breeze from a flat calm to a Force 6, and wind shifts of 90 degrees or more, the Germans demonstrated supernatural mastery over conditions that had the rest of the 126 competitors utterly confused.
The race started in light winds and Ian Pinnell
and Ian Mitchell from Great Britain led for the first lap. The duelling contenders for the overall title, the Germans and the Danish Bojsen-Møller brothers, were well back in the fleet. Up the second beat, however, Pinnell and the leading pack fell into a hole as the breeze filled in from the left.
At the second windward mark, there was a new leader. Wolfgang Hunger
and Julien Kleiner
(GER) had come back from the dead (or about 40th place to be more precise) to lead handsomely around the mark. "I saw a cloud on the left and saw the boats at the back of the fleet running very deep downwind, so I thought there might be a shift,"
However the breeze was barely blowing, only coughing into life every now and then, and the race committee abandoned the race. "I was very disappointed,"
said Hunger, not surprisingly.
After waiting some time for the wind to settle, the race committee initiated a new start sequence at 5.05pm, appropriately enough. With a big dark cloud to the right, the majority of the fleet elected to start late out of the gate in the hope of picking up a right-hand windshift.
For the second time that day, Americans Howard Hamlin
and Andy Zinn opened the gate as pathfinder, tacking just as the gate closed at the 6 minute mark. Little did they realise that as they tacked, it was square on the face of none other than Hunger and Kleiner who had left their start as late as possible for that enticingly dark cloud.
Perhaps, though, the Americans had unwittingly done the Germans a favour. After tacking off further to the right, Hunger hooked into a good line of breeze pouring down from the cloud and led around the mark by 20 seconds. The Bojsen-Møllers were back in 6th but dropped out of the top 10 as they tried some extreme tactics in a bid to gain some leverage on the Germans. Then the thunder and lightning arrived, and the wind accelerated to more than 20 knots in the gusts, and the Americans - who love the breeze - charged through the fleet.
They couldn't catch Hunger though, or at least not until it mattered, as Edward Conrads
and Brian Haines
(USA) stole the lead from the Germans in the dying stages of the race, as the wind also died. Hunger fought like mad to get back past the Americans but crossed the finish line two seconds back. No celebrations of a fourth world title, not yet. "I was disappointed because we were counting and thought we had to win the race to be sure of winning the Worlds,"
said Hunger. "Then we counted again and realised we had done enough to win."
So Hunger wins his fourth world title, although it's the first for Kleiner. "It's great to win with Julien,"
said Hunger, also a two-time 470 World Champion. "He's a very good crew, a smart sailor. It is fun to sail the 505 fast in every wind condition, and this week in Denmark we have had every condition, and then there are the tactics. All of these things make the 505 interesting."
Hunger is one of the greatest Olympic sailors never to have won an Olympic medal. Jorgen Bojsen-Møller, on the other hand, remains the Olympic Champion who still has not been able to win a 505 world title. "I think we have sailed OK this week, but it wasn't good enough. Maybe we should have done more training. We were very busy trying to get a new boat finished, but maybe we should have trained instead. We will come back another time to see if we can win the 505 Worlds."
While the new World Champions will stay ashore tomorrow, the rest of the fleet will go out into the Bay of Aarhus one more time to decide the final positions in the championship.
The SAP 505 World Championship takes place in Aarhus, Denmark, from 30 July to 5 August. This regatta is the latest in a series of major sailing championships hosted by the City of Aarhus over the past 10 years, with the Volvo ISAF Youth Worlds having taken place here in 2008 and with a number of major championships scheduled in the near future, including the A-Class Catamaran Worlds in 2011.
The 2010 SAP 505 World Championship is organised by Sailing Aarhus in cooperation with Sport Event Denmark, Sport Aarhus Event and the Danish Sailing Association. With a strong focus on innovation and new technology to promote sailing to a wider audience, Denmark and the City of Aarhus are bidding for the ISAF Worlds 2014, the most prestigious regatta next to the Olympic Games.
Free photos for editorial use can be downloaded here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sailingaarhus/
You can follow the regatta at the official event website: www.505sapworldchampionship2010.com
To learn more about all the different ways you can keep track of the racing: http://www.505sapworldchampionship2010.com/media-guide/
To find out more about how the University of Aarhus is bringing sailing to a wider audience: http://activeinstitute.dk/2010/07/the-sap-505-world-championship-mashup/