Saturday, 18 July 2009

Three Gold Medals And French Volvo Trophy Success Secured On Penultimate Day Of 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship

Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze securing Gold for Brazil in the Girls 420 class at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2009 in Buzios, Brazil. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Sophie Luther

The host nation Brazil, along with Hong Kong and New Zealand all secured gold medals whilst France is uncatchable in the Volvo Trophy standings following a bright and breezy day six at the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Buzios.

Brazilian Girl’s 420 crew Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, Hong Kong windsurfer Hei Mei Chan and Laser Radial star Sam Meech of New Zealand have all established unbeatable leads with one race day remaining in Buzios. In contrast, the battle for gold is set to go down to the wire in four other events, with just one race to go in Buzios tomorrow. Australia, France, Great Britain and Singapore currently hold the top spots. In the contest for the best-nation prize, France has secured the Volvo Trophy for the 10th time.

The first of the three gold medals secured today was the Girl’s Windsurfer – RS:X event, with three races held in bright and breezy conditions, totally in contrast to yesterday’s grey skies and total absence of wind. Hei Mei Chan of Hong Kong is crowned 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion after a near-faultless display in Buzios this week.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Chan, explaining that today’s windy conditions were exactly what she had been hoping for after an intensive spell in Europe this season training and racing with, amongst others, last year’s winner and five-time Youth Worlds medallist Laura Linares (ITA). “I learnt from last year that my board speed in strong winds wasn’t that good so I’ve put a lot of effort in on that this year.”

In today’s first race Chan had a crash early on but took her penalty and fought back strongly to beat Britain’s Izzy Hamilton to the line. It was another Hong Kong, Great Britain one-two in the next race and in the day’s final race, knowing gold was within her grasp, Chan concentrated on staying out of trouble and sailing conservatively, but still came away with second place.

Chan is competing in her fifth and final Youth Worlds and at last has the medal she was so desperately seeking, especially after finishing fourth in Århus last year. “I’ve learned a lot from each year,” she says. “It’s this is the regatta that has motivated me to put more effort into training and never be too proud of myself if I do well in my own nation, because I know there’s the whole world out there to compete against.”

In the battle for the remaining medals, Hamilton of Great Britain is one point ahead of France’s Leonore Bosch, with these two uncatchable by the rest of the fleet.

A single point also separates to the two leaders at the top of the Boy’s Windsurfer fleet. Joseph Gueguen (FRA) holds the top spot after an eighth and two race wins today. Just behind is reigning champion Michalis Malekkides of Cyprus. Buzios local Jorge Renato do Amaral Silva lies in third place, just four points off the lead. It should be a thrilling final race, with just eight points covering the top six.

“All of the guys are close,” says the defending champ Malekkides looking ahead to tomorrow’s final race. “I will give everything. I’ll try my best, give all of my power and if I’m lucky…”

Alexandra Maloney and Bianca Bacher representing New Zealand in the Girls 420 class at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2009 in Buzios, Brazil. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

In the 420 fleets there was delight for the home support and in particular for Volvo Ocean Race winner and Olympic legend Torben Grael (BRA), as his daughter Martine Grael and crew Kahena Kunze (BRA) secured overall victory in the Girl’s fleet. The Brazilians started the day perfectly, converting a great start into a race win in the first race and then following that up with two second place finishes to put them out of reach of the competition.

“It’s a dream,” says Kunze of their gold medal success, with Grael adding, “It’s been my main goal now for the last year and it’s great to have accomplished it.” Along with the New Zealand crew, the two Brazilians excelled in today’s breezier conditions. “We’ve been waiting for this wind for the whole championship and finally it came today!” Grael says. Behind the Brazilians the Italian crew of Camilla Marino and Claudia Soricelli are secure in the silver medal spot, whilst any of the next six crews from the USA, Singapore, New Zealand, Spain, Aust ralia and Great Britain are in with a genuine change of winning bronze.

The 420 Boys class at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2009 in Buzios, Brazil. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Philip Sparks and Ben Gratton (GBR) had a great day in the Boy’s 420 fleet, with a second and two firsts giving them a 13-point cushion going into the final race tomorrow. However the Brits look like they’ll have to work hard to hold on to their top spot as they’re holding a much higher discard than the chasing teams of Gabriel Skoczek and Thibaut Soler (FRA) and Benjamín Grez and Carlos Vergara (CHI).

Emphatic is the only way to describe New Zealander Sam Meech’s victory in the Boy’s Laser Radial fleet. Principally a Laser Standard sailor, for the past month Meech has been focussing on the Radial to prepare for this championship, training with Kiwi Olympic campaigner Sara Winther. After winning bronze in Århus last year, he has runaway with the competition this year. Today he played the starts very safely, but still came away with two wins and a second place. “Great conditions for me out there today – it was just beautiful,” he says, adding he was looking forward to more of the same in tomorrow’s final race.

Behind him, there was lots of chopping and changing amongst the rest of the fleet. Tomás Pellejero of Argentina jumps up to second overall with 6, 4, 3 scores today, with Francesco Marrai of Italy leading a close battle for third.

Unlike the Boy’s fleet, the Laser Radial Girl’s is heading for a close finish. Elizabeth Yin of Singapore holds on the overall lead on 23 points, but Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) is just six points behind her in second after performing strongly in today’s “really cool conditions”. Isabella Bertold (CAN) completes the top three on 36 points.

Both Mathilde De Kerangat (FRA) and Heidi Tenkanen (FIN) were extremely fast in today’s breezier conditions but suffered a major setback when they were caught over the line early in the second race.

James Turner and Marcus Hansen representing New Zealand in the Hobie 16 Open Multihull class at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2009 in Buzios, Brazil. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Closest of all seven events is the battle in the Multihull - Hobie 16. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) returned to the top of the leaderboard after today’s three races, although Francesco Porro and Luca Marsaglia of Italy are tied on points with the Aussies. The defending champions from France, brothers Romain and Valentin Bellet, were the standout performers today and with two wins and a second putting them back in gold medal contention, just three points off first overall. It’s all set to be a nail-biting final race tomorrow.

“I’m bit nervous, but looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll get some sleep tonight!” says Darmanin. “Today we had a good day but the French had a better day - tomorrow’s going to be a really good competition.”

It wasn’t just a good day for the French Hobie 16 crew, but for the entire team, who posted another strong set of results right across the board to put themselves in an unbeatable position in the Volvo Trophy standings. At tomorrow night’s Closing Ceremony, the French will lift the prize for the best-performing nation at the championship for a record 10th time. Great Britain lies second in the standings, just ahead of Italy, with the host nation Brazil in fourth place.

Tomorrow one final race is schedule for each of the seven events of the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship. The scheduled start time is 11:00 local (14:00 UTC).

Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships

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