by Henrik Møhl
A shallow, slow moving depression crossing western Scandinavia, made for a challenging opening day at the RS:X World Championships in Kerteminde, Denmark. While one race was sailed for the Men’s Yellow fleet in the morning, everyone was then returned to shore and it wasn’t until mid-afternoon after a rain squall had passed through, that racing could continue. Two races have now been completed for each of the 60 strong Men’s fleets, but none for the Women’s.
Greece’s Byron Kokalanis won the opening yellow fleet race in the morning, held in 9 knot southwesterly winds, just enough to get the RS: X windsurfers planing on the reaches. “In the first race the first upwind was really good. That’s how I managed to stay in the lead,” recounted the 25 year old. He hung on to first for the remainder of the race, including the mini slalom that is the unique feature at the end of all RS:X courses.
Come the afternoon the second race of the day for the yellow fleet began in marginal conditions - just three knots. This built on the second beat, as it shifted hard right causing those on this side of the course to come out smelling of roses. The race was won by China’s Fang Zhennan ahead of Poland’s Przemyslaw Miarczynski. But leading the yellow fleet after two races is Israel’s Shahar Zubari who posted a second in race one and a third in race two. Zubari is the present European champion and won Olympic bronze two years ago making him of a hero at home, as he was Israel’s only athlete to return from Beijing with a medal.
“It was a hard race,” said Zubari of today’s opening round. “The wind was really shifty. I had a bad start but with a bit of thinking ahead, I managed to finish second, so basically I am happy.”
Zubari arrived in Kerteminde only six days before the start of this World Championships. “It is a bit cold compared to Israel, but so far so good,” he says. “We had 40 knots last week - it was crazy fun conditions. So to go sailing when the wind has dropped a bit - I like it that way. The forecast for this week looks good – everything, light winds, strong winds and marginal... it will be interesting.”
The class act of the day in the Blue fleet was Poland’s Piotr Myszka, leading the Men’s regatta overall having scored a 2-1 today. The Pole is followed by Zubari with Beijing Gold medallist Tom Ashley third after posting a 1-5. “I was leading the last one and then made a bad call on the second upwind which didn’t go my way,” said Ashley. “But it was really, really close racing and was really good.”
The lanky New Zealander led from start to finish of this afternoon’s first race and led race two up until the second beat when he chose the wrong side of the course.
Ashley is enthusiastic about Kerteminde, which is terms of its climate and pastoral surroundings in some ways ressembles New Zealand. “It is a great venue. The town is cool and the conditions are varied - which are good. We had 40 knots for two days here last week. I went out one of the days. So it is a really good venue here.”
Although she was unable to sail today, this regatta sees Italian Olympic windsurfing legend Alessandra Sensini make her third return to competition since winning her fourth Olympic medal in Beijing - a silver to go with her gold from Sydney and bronzes from both Atlanta and Athens. “Every time you win its gets more difficult, because you have to reinvent yourself in a way again and find good motivation and power – it is not always very easy,” she says.
Taking some time off after the last Olympiad, Sensini won the Princesa Sofia trophy at the start of the season and then competed in the Europeans, but admits that she hasn’t trained as much as she would have liked since, due to family problems. “I haven’t arrived at this championship how I wanted,” she admits.
Of the venue she says this is her first time here for many years: “Denmark has a good sailing tradition, and I believe the conditions on the water are really good and it is a nice place to sail. It is a pity that we never have enough time to see more, like I would like to see Copenhagen – but I don’t know if I’ll have time.”
While Sensini, 40, is into her sixth Olympic campaign, she is very aware that she faces powerful and younger competition even within the Italian camp. “We have the trials, three races next year, so it will be a big competition between me, Flavia [Tartaglini] and Laura [Linares]. They are much younger than me and they are growing very fast and very well. So it is going to be tough.”
The forecast for day two of competition is looking more promising with the wind going through a 180deg shift into the northeast overnight and building to 15 knots with gusts into the 20s. Photographers and competitors alike are licking their lips.