The 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final is set for a dramatic climax in Abu Dhabi after a spectacular day of racing saw the sailors battling to grab the initiative in the gold medal chase.
Honours in the eight Olympic sailing classes as well as an open kiteboarding competition will now be decided in a tense final day of medal races at Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club tomorrow (Sunday), with several defending champions coming under pressure.
In the open kiteboarding event, defending champion Oliver Bridge is in pole position heading into the semi finals. Bridge has been on fire since day one and even though at one point he relinquished his lead, he regained it with a strong display.
The young Briton heads into the semi-finals with a strong advantage. Tomorrow’s two semi finals will be contested with six sailors in each fleet. Points will be carried over into the semi-finals with the top three riders advancing to the final. From there it is a do or die scenario with the first across the line taking gold.
Brazilian Ricardo Santos holds a slender two-point advantage over Spain’s Ivan Pastor Lafuente in the Men’s RS:X class after winning the second of three races in Day 3 of the regatta, which is sponsored by ADS Securities and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority
Byron Kokkalanis of Greece, last year’s silver medal winner, is third after taking the last race of the day which saw British overnight leader Tom Squires come home in 12th, slipping to fourth overall. But with double points counting in the medal races, the tussle for gold is still wide open.
Brazilian Santos reflects with a smile on his day on the water and his improving regatta saying, “It was fun, I am improving every day. My regatta on the first day was the worst. The wind was very shifty, tricky and the level of the fleet is very high. Today was perfect, I came first twice and then fourth so I am happy. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
It is going to take a last day disaster to prevent Bryony Shaw from landing her second successive World Cup gold medal in Abu Dhabi after the British sailor underlined her dominance of the Women’s RS:X class, winning all three of today’s races.
With six victories overall in nine races, Shaw leads by seven points from Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini who finished second to her in two of the races, with Brazilian Patricia Freitas in third another six points adrift after a run of 6-2-3 today.
In an offshore breeze of 8-13 knots at Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club, Australian Tom Burton held onto his overnight three point lead in the 20-boat Laser class from Brazilian Robert Scheidt after both suffered, and discarded, their worst results of the regatta so far.
Burton followed eighth with fourth and five-times Olympic medalist Scheidt went from second to 14th, while Britain’s Nick Thompson is in third another five points away. The day’s race winners were Swede Jesper Stalheim and Cypriot Pavlos Kontides who are fifth and sixth respectively.
Another fascinating medal race battle for gold is assured in the Laser Radials where Holland’s Marit Bouwmeester leads by a single point from Sweden’s Josefin Olsson after both had mixed fortunes.
After winning the first of the day’s two races in which Bouwmeester finished fifth, Olsson slumped to 17th and her Dutch rival to 13th in race two, both immediately discarding the results. Belgium’s defending champion Evi Van Acker is another seven points behind in the bronze medal position after third and eighth place finishes.
It didn’t get off to the best of starts for defending champion Van Acker, but the Belgian is still in with a shout of keeping her crown, “I haven’t been so happy with how it has been going but I am glad to be in third position now and sailing in the medal race tomorrow.”
There were no bigger gold medal favourites at the start of the regatta than Men’s 470 defending champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, and the multiple world champions have certainly lived up to their billing.
They go into the medal race leading by seven points from Sweden’s Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström after both pairings scored second place finishes today and discarded sixth positions.
Still in the hunt are Americans Stuart McNay and David Hughes who won the day’s first race before finishing seventh in the next to end the day in third, a single point adrift of the Swedes.
Australian Belcher has appreciated the challenge of the ‘tricky’ conditions and is looking forward to a medal race showdown for the World Cup crown saying, “It’s been great to race in the morning; conditions have been pretty difficult this whole week. It can be pretty dynamic racing this early and with the direction of the breeze it can be pretty tricky. The racing has been pretty close, we pulled it back in the last race and had a good first one. With only six races in the class it’s been close, so it will all come down to tomorrow.”
Austria’s defending Women’s 470 champions Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar had been ahead from the start, but lost their lead today to Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark who followed up their first race victory with a third place in the second to carry a three point lead into the medal race.
Vadlau and Ogar are tied for second with Japan’s Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka, and this is a class which looks certain to produce a nail-biting finish.
Croatia’s Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic leads the Finn class heading into the medal race, but Britain’s Edward Wright and Turkey’s Alican Kaynar are also tied in second, four points away, and will be looking to make a decisive final day move.
Gaspic reinforced his challenge with back-to-back second places today while Wright and Kaynar both scored race wins as well as fourth place finishes.
With Poland’s Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki leading overnight, the 49er Men’s class was continuing with three races later in the day.