Friday 30 January 2015
Issued on behalf of ISAF Sailing World Cup
What could be sweeter than to wrap an Olympic-style event with a medal guaranteed before the Medal Race even starts?
At ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, there’s an answer for that. Having the gold medal itself wrapped up, and extending an 18-month winning streak.
Do the math. In the Finn class, Giles Scott has 23 points. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic has 46. Scott could finish 10th out of ten qualifiers in Saturday’s Medal Race, with his closest competitor in first, and still win with points in his pocket.
There have been 599 boats racing on Biscayne these last five days. Scott’s Finn, GBR 11, is not the only one guaranteed to finish in a gold medal position tomorrow. Nacra 17 team Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA), Women’s RS:X dominator Bryony Shaw (GBR) and the breakaway 49erFX Kiwis, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) join him with gold in the bag.
Seven of ten Olympic classes completed at least one race on Friday in winds varying from killing light to dead calm. Days like that are a trial for race officials too—and then there was Yuseila Gonzalez Luis, who fought red tape and time and frustration to be the first Cuban sailor racing under the Cuban flag on Biscayne Bay since long before she was born. The morning began with a cascade of troubles and stumbling blocks, but Gonzalez was suited up and on the water in time to start the only RS:X windsurfing race of the day. She didn’t finish, but she was there. Some victories have to be measured on a personal scale.
The good news for Friday. The wind is coming back.
Across 13 fleet races Bryony Shaw (GBR) finished out of the top five just once, resulting in an early defence of her ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami title.
Shaw has been dominant across the week, mustering such consistency that has been lacking from many sailors score lines in the ten Olympic and three Paralympic events on show in Miami. Shaw is 33 points clear of Lilian de Geus (NED) and a further 14 ahead of Flavia Tartaglini (ITA).
“It’s a great start to the year,” commented Shaw. “Miami has had a really high quality fleet here. It’s been very popular, with the new World Cup format and it was a target event for me. I wanted to start the year on a high.
“We’ve had 30 knot gusts down to some marginal and then today was 5 or 6 knots. It was a range of conditions this week and that really played to my strengths. My downwinds have been exceptional this week. I’ve made some big gains and some big comebacks so I am really pleased.”
Shaw’s victory qualifies her to the 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final set to be held in Abu Dhabi, UAE from 27 October to 1 November. After winning the inaugural edition at the back end of 2014, Shaw likes where the World Cup is heading, “It’s a change for the scene, but it’s a change for the better so we’ll always get some world class racing.
“The World Cup series, I really want to do well in it, it’s a focus for me. The fact that winning here in Miami qualifies me for the World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi is great, it’s the focus for sailing now.
“It’s going to be great to have the elite of the sport racing, being the key focus.”
Silver and bronze is yet to be decided. Hayley Chan (HKG) and Olga Maslivets (RUS) are two points off Tartaglini so it’s all on the Medal Race.
Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) is ten points better off than Thomas Goyard (FRA) heading into the Men’s RS:X Medal Race.
The Dutchman has been his relaxed yet internally focused self in Miami and is primed for victory if he finishes in the top five.
For Goyard, his performance has come as a bit of a surprise for him. Not for vigilant observers, however, who have seen fervent improvements in Goyard across the last 12 months that resulted in a bronze at the Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds.
He holds a good points margin over the fourth placed sailor and bronze is guaranteed, but he is poised to improve on that, “It’s been a really good week for me. I did not expect to be in second but it is a really good result for me,” commented Goyard. “The wind was crazy today. Tricky and shifty. It was tough racing and still, really interesting.
“Everybody has a lot of points currently, even the leader. It’s not usual but it’s been a good regatta.”
The next ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta is a significant one for the French RS:X team, not only because it’s a World Cup regatta as Goyard explained, “The World Cup in Hyères will be really important because it’s part of the selection process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It’s important to do good results all throughout the year.”
For now Goyard is concentrating fully on solidifying silver and potentially overthrowing the Dutchman but he’ll have to keep a close eye on Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) who trails him by three.
Nick Thompson of Great Britain is in a lay-up for gold or silver, and so is Philipp Buhl of Germany, only one point behind. Either of them could place 10th in Saturday’s double-points contest and still lead third-place Matthew Wearn of Australia, if only by a squeaker.
Wearn has more to play for. Brazil’s formidable five-time Olympic medalist, Robert Scheidt, is 13 points back. Add one more point, and there is New Zealander Andy Maloney. The odds favor Wearn for bronze. But.
Wearn was smarting from his results in the Friday races. A 16th and a 30th meant that he has to keep the 20th place finish in race six that used to be his throwout. That was the context as he said, speaking for a lot of people, probably “It was extremely tricky racing. You think you’re doing well and then the next minute you’re not.
“Usually you go to a regatta and it’s all about boat speed,” he said. “This week was definitely about being smart as well as getting to the right place quickly. Mentally, it’s one of the hardest regattas I’ve ever done.”
This Medal Race will be one to watch. Marit Bouwmeester, NED, Anne-Marie Rindom, DEN, and Evi Van Acker, BEL, in that order are separated by only three points.
With such a tight threesome, Van Acker said, “It’s going to be an interesting day.”
The only other Radial sailor with a mathematical chance at a medal is Paige Railey, USA. If she can win the race, she can beat any or all of the top three—if their day turns into a bottom of the pack nightmare.
Railey, a Florida native, called this week of sailing in extremely shifty and unstable winds “probably the most difficult conditions I’ve seen in ten years of sailing here.” With the breeze dropping out of the teens to single digits on Friday, it was close to gruesome, and only a fraction of the scheduled races were completed—and only one Radial race.
“We set up expecting to start in one set of conditions,” Railey said, “and then the race started and we found ourselves in something completely different. All through that race, if you weren’t on the right end of the shift, you couldn’t get to the next one.”
What can you say about a race day with no racing?
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie of New Zealand were the Olympic gold medal winners at the 2012 Games, They’ve been solid since, and they have a handy lead now. Today, that lead did not grow, or shrink.
“We went out and waited for breeze,” Aleh said. “It looked promising a couple of times, and then it didn’t. But the race committee has done a good job through the week, and I think they were right today to not send us off in a race that would have turned into a lottery.”
Only the 2012 silver medalists, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, could take the gold medal spot away from Aleh and Powrie, and then, given a 19-point difference, only if the Kiwis stumble badly in a way that they just have not done yet.
The battle for bronze? There are six boats within a 10-point range.
Luke Patience and Elliott Willis of Great Britain are in a position very much like that of the Women’s 470 leaders. Like them, they drifted around for a long day with no result but time lost. They too have a nice lead. They’re ahead by 15 points, and second place is the only team with a shot at them. It could happen, but it would buck the trend. Again, it’s all about the color of the medal.
That second-place team would be Australians Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, who have a 13-point lead over third and a 15-point lead over fourth. In a dream scenario for those two boats, a nightmare scenario for Belcher and Ryan, they could knock the Kiwis out of silver, or even out of the medals.
So let’s give them names.
Onan Barreiros and Juan Curbelo Cabrera of Spain are in third, two points ahead of a pair of New Zealanders, Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Wilcox, with another points gap behind them.
A striking fact about the ten boats in the Men’s 470 fleet: Ten countries are represented. In order: Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain, New Zealand Sweden, Greece, South Africa, Russia, France, Japan.
The story of a gold medal for Britain’s Giles Scott is already written, even if the story of the Medals Race is not.
And the battle for silver and bronze will be hot.
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic of Croatia lifted himself from fourth to second on Friday. “It was not so nice a day for sailing, but it was nice for me,” he said. Gaspic now has 46 points to 47 points for Ioannic Mitakis of Greece. The podium spots are their battle, with only Jake Lilley to watch out for. This rising star is another 11 points back after having his worst day of the week, but still potentially a threat.
It’s remarkable that the Finn class, identified in Olympic-speak as Men’s Heavy, completed two races. A morning start helped. From a booming 7-8 knots at the start of the first race, the breeze dropped to 3-4 knots by the end of the second.
From the Department of Useless Facts: Each race took 1:06 to go to completion.
Target time, 50 minutes.