ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao offered a fascinating finale as the inaugural event in China and the first World Cup regatta of the 2013-14 series concluded.
A range of conditions were thrown at the sailors across the week and on the final day a south easterly 5-7 knot breeze with gusts up to 10 knots and a maximum current of 2.1 knots made reading the conditions key.
Argentina's Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente clinched a tense Men's 470 gold in a Medal Race that swung to and fro.
Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic trailed the Argentineans by four points heading into the Medal Race after a hard fought ten race series.
The maths had been done in advance with crews knowing the equations for victory.
Neither the Argentineans nor Croatians were able to grab the bull by the horns and take control of the Medal Race. New Zealand's Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox raced ahead and took the bullet and with it bronze medal as the action ramped up mid-fleet.
Both crews got away cleanly after a tense match up but with the Argentineans benefitting from the first gust at the start they had the advantage and a two boat lead at the first rounding.
The race continued to go to and fro as de la Fuente explained, "On the last upwind he rounded two boats ahead of us so we had to pass two boats in the last downwind to finally beat them. The racing was very close and with these light and puffy winds it was difficult to control the boat."
As the Argentineans clawed places back to regain the lead Fantela and Marenic pushed hard attempting to overtake one of the Chinese crews, "On the last reach we were fourth and trying to pass the Chinese boat but it wasn't enough time,"
On the victory and tense final race de la Fuente said, "It was a stressful race but we're really happy. Now we're trying to relax again. We came here looking for light winds and currents and we had it over the last four days so we're happy for that."
Despite having to settle for silver Fantela enjoyed the racing, "We are happy, we had a good week. All of our races except one were top four. We are happy with our speed and happy to fight with the fastest guys on the race course."
Despite a wobbly penultimate day that saw their rivals inch closer, Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) took the gold medal with a third place in the Women's 470 Medal Race.
China's Hui Feng and Lizhu Huang fought hard to overcome the six point gap between themselves and the Kiwis. Feng and Huang held the advantage over Aleh and Powrie throughout the race but the Kiwis kept them in their sights in tricky conditions.
Malaysia's Khairunnisa Mohd Afendy and Norashikin Mohd Sayed took the race win with Feng and Huang following through in second. The Kiwis came through in third to earn gold, finishing two points clear of the Chinese duo.
After racing Powrie was happy how things went, "It was a bit stressful today. It was a bit more compact being on the smaller course and the girls in second had pretty good pace so we had our work cut out. We managed to keep close and come away with the win.
"We knew we could have at least one boat in between so we had a bit of room. We're really happy with the week and a nice way to finish off our year and we're stoked."
China's Qian Fu and Liyun Liu round off the podium.
China's Dongshuang Zhang was ruthless in her pursuit for gold, targeting her only rival for top spot, Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR).
In the pre-start Zhang stuck to Drozdovskaya like glue, keeping her within close range, holding her back.
As the start played out there was little separation and Zhang kept on top of the Belarusian, pushing her far right on the first upwind. There was nothing Drozdovskaya could do as Zhang kept on top of her and as she rounded the first mark over three minutes behind eighth place significant damage had been done.
"It was so difficult but this is sailing,"
said Drozdovskaya. "She can do that in this situation. After yesterday I finished first in the first race and she must have thought I could do it again. I lost the start and then I went to the wrong side and lost so much."
Zhang was always clinical in her decision making and had the edge over Drozdovskaya.
Mathilde de Kerangat (FRA) held on to the final podium spot by one point ahead of Lithuania's Viktorija Andrulyte.
Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) wrapped up the gold ahead of the Medal Race and in more light winds the Croatian concluded his week with a fifth, to finish 23 points ahead of Pavlos Kontides (CYP) in second place.
Stipanovic's light frame gave him the edge over the week and lost weight for the regatta. Although he had it wrapped up in advance of the Medal Race there was no let up from the Croatian, "It was very hard but I'm happy with my finish. I had a big lead but I was still pushing like it was the first day and first race today."
As winner Stipanovic takes a chunk of the prize money on offer and it will go a long way in funding him throughout the year, "It's really nice to win the prize money because in Croatia it's very hard to find sponsors so this cheque will help me push to continue training and sailing."
Kontides stayed out of trouble to secure silver whilst the fight for bronze was wide open.
Six points separated third to sixth in advance and the race was on. With it so wide open it was down to who could keep their composure and read the conditions. In the end Poland's Kacper Zieminski (POL) did exactly that and came through in third place to take bronze.
Outside shot Andrew Lewis (TRI) finished the Medal Race in second and moved up from seventh to fourth, a narrow two points off Zieminski.
Israel's Shahar Zubari ventured into the final day of racing with an 18 point lead. With such a strong advantage the Israeli sailed cool, calm and collected coming through in fourth to take gold.
After racing the Israeli was delighted with how his week went, "I'm really happy to race in Qingdao. It's different than any other place in the world, it's stable with a lot of wind shifts and gusts so we have to think a lot.
"It's not been an easy week but I'm happy to come away with the title."
Brazil's Ricardo Santos (BRA) held off a final day charge from Hong Kong's Michael Cheng (BRA) as the pair took silver and bronze respectively.
For Cheng it was his first ISAF Sailing World Cup medal and he was thrilled post racing, "I feel really good, I feel great. It means it is the beginning of my career and I will continue to work hard every year.
"I will feel a little bit stressed standing on the podium next to two experienced guys when I just feel like a little kid. I've got so much to learn from them and it's a good start for me."
Peina Chen (CHN) reigned supreme in the Women's RS:X taking the gold after a consistent week of racing.
Chen came through in fourth in the Women's RS:X Medal Race to seal the deal. Maayan Davidovich (ISR) sat second overnight but a disastrous ninth enabled Medal Race victor Jiahui Wu (CHN) to leapfrog the Israeli into second.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne will welcome sailors for the second regatta of the 2013-14 series from 2-8 December 2013.
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