Thursday, 16 July 2009
Close racing on day 5 of the ladies Laser Radial Europeans. Image copyright Per Heegaard.
by Johanne Rosenquist
First day of the Gold Fleet Finals in the European Laser Radial Championship in Denmark, and it was a tough day for nearly everyone. There have been massive changes on the leaderboard in Charlottelund, the only constant being the regatta leader, Paige Railey.
Going into today’s Finals racing, the American held the lead by a slender point. But her closest rivals - Sarah Steyaert of France and Charlotte Dobson of Great Britain - suffered bad two bad races. Steyaert, the reigning World Champion, fell foul of the black flag rule for breaking the start in the first race, and followed up with a 24th in the next. This has relegated her to 10th overall.
Now an impressive 17.5 points ahead, Railey’s new closest rivals are Tina Mihelic of Croatia who won her third race of the week today, followed by Norway’s Cathrine Gjerpen who is currently far exceeding her pre-regatta hopes of scoring inside the top 15 in this high-quality 96-boat fleet.
The first attempted race of the day lasted for almost an hour and a half before the race committee put the sailors out of their go-slow misery. The four different Radial fleets (two women, two men’s divisions, totalling 166 competitors) were barely making progress against the current. Evi van Acker of Belgium was the early leader in the Gold Fleet, but was nowhere to be seen at the second windward mark. None of the early top 10 managed to stay there, as some of the backmarkers found different breeze to move into the front of the pack. Abandoning the race was a wise move.
After moving the race course much closer to Skovshoved Harbour, the race committee found much better breeze in which to hold the two heats, with the sailors now enjoying moderate conditions that gusted up to 12 knots.
Tina Mihelic won the first race, while some of the other leading contenders were having a shocker. Railey was one of them. While the boats that went right towards the shore were having a lovely time, Railey kept on looking for alternatives. Asked what she learned from today, she said: “Bang the right corner. Current was such a big difference. I didn’t think it would matter that much and I kept digging away to the left and it just didn’t work. I started getting a little annoyed. I was so far behind anyway I thought, what can I do? So I’ve finally had a bad one, but it is only one bad race from the eight we’ve done, so I’ll wipe it away from my memory and move on.”
After that harsh lesson in the first race, the fleet was much more clued into the right side of the course. After finishing 3rd from the back of the 48-boat Gold Fleet in the first heat, Railey came 3rd from the front this time. Another American Sarah Lihan led for much of the race until she was given a penalty by the Jury for excessive kinetics on the final run, but she held on for 4th across the line, very close behind Railey. “I had a really, really ugly first race,” said Lihan. “But I was frustrated enough that it fuelled my anger for the second race. There seemed to be a lot less current on the right so I just decided to start at the boat, and tacked. And it worked!”
Marit Bouwmeester had one good one, one bad one, which she agreed was not the right way round to do it. Better to get your bad one out the way early, but she scored 6th followed by a 38. “Yeah, you have a better feeling on the shore,” she laughed ruefully. Still, the Dutch sailor is still in 8th place, with points very close up to 2nd place overall.
Danish sailor Alberte Lindberg had great speed in the breezier conditions this afternoon to win the race, and she moves up to 12th overall. Second across the line this afternoon was Evi Van Acker, who was philosophical about her yo-yo performance this week. Today I continued my rhythm of good-bad-good-bad,” said the Belgian, who scored 28,2. The 28th should have been a lot better, said Van Acker. “I had a really good start at the pin end, I crossed the fleet, but tacked too soon by 100m and lost 25 boats just like that. Very difficult sailing. It’s going to make it interesting for tomorrow. Almost everyone has had a bad race now.”
Even Railey is not immune. The 45th from today’s early race hangs over her, and her apparently comfortable lead is really not as comfortable as it appears. In the Men’s fleet, Zemke Wojciech of Poland continues to string together successive race wins to lead comfortably from Michail Aristeidis of Greece.
Laser Radial Europeans