The Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus 2018 has its first medal race fleet in the women’s 470 with Japan’s duo of Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka leading by five points.
Yoshida and Yoshioka, fifth in the Rio 2016 Olympics, were sixth in the only race possible on Tuesday. France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz, bronze medallists in Rio, won to close in second place. But Hannah Mills, the Rio Olympic champion and her new crew, Eilidh McIntyre, were furious after finishing 18th – their worst of the series.
“Are we feeling confident? Yes, of course, we’re here and still leading,” Yoshida said. “The French were first, but we’re happy with sixth in the circumstances.”
For Mills, however, “today was absolutely ridiculous. The wind came in at 5-7 knots and was pretty steady, probably the steadiest we’ve had in Aarhus.
“We were out on the water for about 3-4 hours without any racing. We did a few starts and got postponed a lot. The wind was shifting like 10 degrees. I just feel very frustrated.”
The World Championships in Denmark is coming to the business end of the week and the fields are beginning to narrow toward the medal race. Four more fleets, the Finn, the men’s and women’s 470s, Laser and Laser Radial medal race fleets could be decided tomorrow – wind permitting.
After Big Monday stalled, Tense Tuesday at least saw plenty of racing and left some big names with bigger scores. Some fleets were on the water for six hours, starting, stopping and pressing in shifting pressure in the Bay of Aarhus.
But the top tens are still full of familiar names and after nine races in all conditions in the men’s 470, the Swedish 2018 European Champions, Anton Dahlberg and Frederik Bergström held their lead over the French and extended against Australia’s Mat Belcher and William Ryan, the silver medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympics. They will try to complete one more race tomorrow on the reserve day before the medal race on Thursday.
The forecast stable 8-10 easterlies did not materialise and all the fleets had to pick and roll their way through soft patches. “It was race all the way across the finish line today,” Bergström said. “There were a lot of things happening during the race, a lot of overtakes and big losses for some people, turnarounds in the fleet, which is brilliant racing.”
Belcher, 35, won gold at the London 2012 Olympics, and with Simon Fantela, the 2016 Olympic champion having switched the 49er, his boat, as has been the case for almost a decade, is the one to beat.
The Swedes have emerged from the pack this year and look capable of taking the crown. But they have never won a world championship and missed out in the class worlds a year ago after leading Belcher and Ryan by a point going into the medal race. Do they think it is easier to become a champion or stay one?
“I think once you have proven yourself, that gives you some confidence and we’re still working hard to find that confidence all the time,” Dahlberg, 33, said. “But we know we have it in us and we strongly believe in what we’re doing and I think we have managed a bit of both; we have the drive of coming from behind, but we are starting to get the experience and trust in our process.”
Like Mills he is feeling the heat from the challengers. But despite two finishes outside the top there was the ever-present glint of man who’s been there and done that in eye of Belcher in the boat part afterwards. The man who won the 2011 World Championships in Perth and 2014 World Championships in Santander fired a perhaps mischievous shot across Swedish bows.
“I think the hardest world championships are always the first one because to get that step and get that confidence takes a long time,” he said. “For us, in this position of winning the worlds or not, we’ve been there so much it doesn’t really bother us too much. People deal with that differently, but if you’ve done it once you can reassure yourself that you can do it again. (Being the target) gives you confidence and we’ve been in that position for almost a decade.”
He acknowledged the rise of the Swedes but hinted in his own inimitably friendly way that the gloves were coming off.
“Certainly the Swedish guys have really picked up quite a lot. We’ve had some great battles this year – really enjoyable battle,” he said. “But no doubt the Japanese contingent with nine boats, which is just insane, are obviously coming along pretty well. We’re just focusing on what we need to do. Now, two years in (to the Olympic cycle) we’re going to start to ramp up the programme, but we’re really happy with where we’re at. There are different stages in campaigns and different stages in life as well.”
The laser has been even more keenly fought and Australia’s Matthew Wearn continues to look like the greatest rival of his compatriot, Tom Burton, the 2016 Rio Olympic champion. After eight races, Wearn, 22, who became European champion this year, leads after two single digit races on a day when many of the top ten registered at least one huge double digit. Burton, 28, is eight points back in fourth. Wearn won the Test Event in the Bay of Aarhus last year against Burton, but this World Championships would be his biggest step towards a changing of the guard.
The gold fleet only managed one race and the second was abandoned. Danish, Anne-Marie Rindom continues her lead at the top of the leaderboard. Paige Railey (USA) is second, and Sarah Douglas (CAN) is third.
Edward Wright (GBR) had a good second race today, finishing second and he holds first place overall. Tom Ramshaw (CAN) in second, and Josh Junior (NZL) follow closely with only one point separating him and Ramshaw.
The RS:X Men completed three races today with Pawel Tarnowski (POL) topping the leaderboard, and Dorian Van Rijsselberghe (NED) in second place. Italian, Daniele Benedetti is third.
In the RS:X Women, Yunxiu Lu (CHN) leads overall after day six. Lilian De Geus (NED) is second and Charline Picon (FRA) is third.
Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli ARG), take charge after a tough couple of races in the Nacra 17 fleet. Brazilian’s, Albrecht & Nicolino de Sá shoot up to second and Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin move up to third.
Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) hold first place, and the Dutch, Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz take second overnight. Austrian’s Tanja Frank and Lorena Abicht finish the day in third.
There was no racing today for the 49er Men as today was their layday.