Thursday, 9 July 2009

Rolex Baltic Week - Star Europeans: Triple-whammy of Stars tied at the top

Star fleet starting a race at the 2009 Europeans. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

by Andreas Kling

The 2009 Star European Championships at Rolex Baltic Week were always going to be a tightly fought contest, but after two days of racing the leader board is tied three ways, with all three 2008 Olympic medalists scoring one race win apiece and equal nine points. The "golden boys" from Qingdao last year, Iain Percy/Andrew Simpson from Great Britain are at the top followed by Swedes Fredrik Loof/Johan Tillander and Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada from Brazil. Germany's rising stars Johannes Babendererde and Timo Jacobs are ranked fourth with twelve points behind the trio.

For the second day of racing the Kiel Fjord yet again produced gusty west-south-westerly conditions which caused some gear damage on Tuesday (7 July). Although the skies were dotted with clouds, there were thankfully no signs of the thunderstorms which arrived the day before. Racing on a two-lap windward-leeward course for the day's opener, first victory went to Percy/Simpson. After a close downwind duel with rivals Scheidt/Prada, which saw Scheidt yellow-flagged by the on-the-water jury, the Olympic gold medalists added a win to the second place on the first day to top the leader board.

ROBERT SCHEIDT and BRUNO PRADA scored a bullet in race 3 of the Star Class Europeans. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

Behind them the Greek team of Emilios Papathansiou and Karnoutsos Apostolos took second. However, the Greek duo failed to complete the opening race on Monday and fell foul of the Black Flag in Tuesday's second, leaving them with two 88-point scores and plunging them down the overall results to 61st position. Fellow Qingdao Olympic medalist Fredrik Loof showed consistency in shifty conditions to take third, Scheidt held onto fourth after completing his 720 penalty turns, whilst fifth went to Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube (USA).

For the second race of the day Scheidt and Prada didn't put a foot wrong to take the gun, finishing first ahead of Babendererde and Jacobs, who gave the world number one a good challenge until the final leg. Third went to Alberto Barovier and Nando Colaninno (ITA), who had not previously troubled the top 15 at this year's Rolex Baltic Week - proving that the 86-boat fleet is packed with contenders who could upset the established order. In fourth place were Juan Kouyoumdjian and Alejandro Colla (ARG). The renowned yacht designer helped create the latest Mader-built Star which was sailed to Olympic gold last year by Percy/Simpson in Qingdao. In the third Rolex Baltic Week race Kouyoumdjian was followed home by Loof in fifth and Percy in sixth.

After two days of racing this leaves all three Olympians - Percy, Loof and Scheidt - tied at the top on 9 points apiece. With one win and one second place to count, it is Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) who top the leaderboard overnight. Percy was pleased with his win today, but admitted that they the shifting conditions at the Rolex Baltic Cup were still a challenge.

Percy said: "We were in a hard position fight with Robert Scheidt on the downwind finish leg, but he got a yellow flag (720) and we won safely at the end. But in the last race we should have finished third. We lost three boats on the last 100 meters before the line. It was very tricky, shifty and gusty winds, and we got the tactics totally wrong. This was pretty frustrating. We still need to improve."

Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (Brazil), third, with Fredrik Loof and Johan Tillander, fourth, in the second race of the Star Class European Championship 2009. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

In second overall is Fredrik Loof, sailing his first event with Johan Tillander. Loof commented: "I'm happy all in all to be with the top runners again with my new crew. We need to be a little more aggressive at the start. Our upwind speed is okay and the downwind speed is already excellent. But it is still a long way to go at the Rolex Baltic Week with five races to go."

Robert Scheidt added: "We lost three boats when we got the penalty by the on-water jury. The decision was okay but didn't make us happy at all. The second race was easy at the end when the two young Germans [Babendererde/Jacobs] stopped attacking us to cover their second place. Before that they were only 30 meters behind us. Scoring a bullet is still a nice feeling in such a competitive fleet."

Those young Germans - Babendererde and Jacobs - are currently lying in fourth overall after some determined sailing in Tueday's second race. Timo Jacobs commented: "We were almost leading at the first mark in race two, but misjudged the tactics on the downwind leg totally, ending up 20th or so at the gate. But we fought back boat by boat into the top 10 again. On the last beat to the finish in race 3 we had five boats close behind us. Then we decided to better cover them instead of attacking Scheidt for the bullet."

The international top 10 is made up of Mark Mendelblatt/Mark Strube (USA) in 5th, Flavio Marazzi/Enrico de Maria (SUI) in 6th, Robert Stanjek/Markus Koy (GER) in 7th, Kunio Suzuki/Wada Daichi (JPN) in 8th, Silvio Santoni/Fabio Toccoli (ITA) in 9th and John Gimson/Ed Grieg (GBR) in 10th.

Hamish Pepper and Craig Monk (NZL) with Peter O'Leary and Tom Goodbody (IRL) at the 2009 Star European Championships. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

Wednesday's (8 July) racing is scheduled to begin at 12.00 hrs (local time), with two races - the discard will come into force after five races have been completed.

Results after the second day of the 2009 Rolex Baltic Week / Star Class European Championship
1 Iain Percy/Andrew Simpson (Great Britain) 9 points
2 Fredrik Loof/Johan Tillander (Sweden) 9
3 Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (Brasil) 9
4 Johannes Babendererde/Timo Jacobs (Germany) 21
5 Mark Mendelblatt/Mark Strube (USA) 25
6 Flavio Marazzi/Enrico de Maria (Schwitzerland) 27
7 Robert Stanjek/Markus Koy (Germany) 30
8 Kunio Suzuki/Wada Daichi (Japan) 40

Rolex Baltic Week

No comments: