ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao threw out big breeze, strong gusts and wild waves as racing at the opening event of the 2013-14 ISAF Sailing World Cup began.
A wind shift ahead of racing brought a strong northerly breeze that took the world's finest Olympic sailing talent close to the limits.
Wind speeds in between 20-23 knots and gusts up to 30 knots made for exciting racing for the 131 sailors from 24 countries spread across the Laser, Laser Radial, Men's and Women's 470 and Men's and Women's RS:X fleets.
Enjoying a return to Qingdao is Shahar Zubari (ISR). The Israeli relished the strong winds Qingdao had to offer and stayed at the front of the fleet with a 2-1-2 scorecard.
"I guess it was not the typical Qingdao that we knew from the Beijing Olympic Games,"
said a buoyant Zubari, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist. "In the beginning it was light and then it just picked up, moved to the north with big gusts and strong winds. It was fun racing, I had a good time and got some good results.
"I'm happy to be on top and we'll see what happens during the week. I'm just trying to do my best every day and not focus on the overall result. Tomorrow the forecast is again the same as today so I'm going to have a good time."
Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games Techno 293 silver medallist Michael Chen (HKG) continues to make a mark on the senior fleets having recently stepped up to the Men's RS:X. The Hong Kong sailor won the third race of the day and is just two points off Zubari.
World #2 Ricardo Santos (BRA) is third overall.
China's women's windsurfing pedigree shone through on the opening day as Chinese sailors occupy the podium spots.
Keeping things consistent with three seconds was Peina Chan who leads on six points whilst Jiaman Zheng (CHN) and Jiahui Wu (CHN) sit second and third.
Maayan Davidovich (ISR) took two race wins but a 13th in the opening race means she sits fourth overall, "Today I had good starts but in the first race I made a terrible mistake. I went to the left and the wind went to the right so I finished nearly last but the other two races were good so I'm happy and waiting for the next races. It was a lot of fun but not easy."
With the discard coming into play after five races Davidovich will have the opportunity to move to top spot on Tuesday 15 October.
World #1 Bryony Shaw (GBR) is sixth overall but like Davidovich a 13th in Race 2 blemishes a steady start.
World #1 Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) came out flying in the Laser Radial posting an opening race bullet followed by a second to lead Amelie Riou (FRA) by three points.
In the opening race the Belarusian had Ashley Stoddart (AUS) for close company up the opening leg as both sailors tried to assert themselves. Drozdovskaya took a slender half boat length lead as they rounded the top mark before her years of experience came into play.
A 20 second lead at the bottom mark was duly extended as the race played out and she finished over a minute ahead of Stoddart who had Riou for close company.
As the breeze picked up Drozdovskaya stayed strong and although Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) took the second race win by six seconds she holds the overall lead.
London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Pavlos Kontides dominated the Laser fleet posting two bullets.
Strong starts and good speed in both the upwinds and downwinds meant that Kontides blew the chasing pack away in the opening race before a narrow three second victory in the second.
"It was hard for the Race Committee with the shifts and unstable first of all and then it really kicked in,"
commented Kontides on the big breeze that came through. "You should be patient with the shifts and hike hard in the choppy waves and current.
"It was a good day for me and I enjoyed sailing and I hope to keep it up for the rest of the week.
"It's really good to start the regatta with the best places possible but I don't see the wins, I just want to sail my best and minimise my mistakes and then the result will come at the end."
Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) is three points off the Cypriot in second with Kacper Zieminski (POL) a further two in third. Portugal's Gustavo Lima and New Zealand's Thomas Saunders follow and will be in hot pursuit of the podium spots.
Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic were unaffected by the big breeze in the Men's 470 and took the single race win on the opening day.
After racing Fantela commented on what pulls them through the toughest of challenges, "We have sailed this boat for 12 years so we need to like all the conditions, it's our motto. Just sail what you get and make the best of it. You can't affect the result.
"We made some mistakes but that's sailing, you do your best and today we found the right solution for the course."
Fourteen boats are racing in the Men's 470 fleet and whilst the Croatians have an early advantage having posted a 25 second victory they know they have strong rivals in the fleet, "We have the Argentineans, New Zealand guys, the South Africans are going up the ladder and the Chinese finished second and third in today's race.
"You don't really know the Chinese as they don't go to regattas often but we know they are fast and can easily finish at the top of the fleet."
Hao Lan and Chao Wang (CHN) and Dongwei Wang and Daokun Deng (CHN) posed the unknown threat and came through in second and third ahead of London 2012 bronze medallists Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente (ARG) who finished fourth and World #3 duo Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Wilcox (NZL) who came through with a sixth.
ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Nominees Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie (NZL) were head and shoulders above the eight boat Women's 470 fleet and took a convincing opening race victory.
Huimin Feng and Lizhu Huang (CHN) are second and Nan Zhang and Yixiao Lv (CHN) sit third.
Racing is scheduled to start at 13:00 on Tuesday 15 October. The Men's and Women's RS:X will sail three races whilst the Laser, Laser Radial and Men's and Women's 470 will race two.
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