There was drama at the death at the World Cup Series Final in Santander, Spain as the Men’s Heavyweight Dinghy, Finn, Medal Race provided a tense finale.
Four new World Cup Series Champions were crowned earlier on in the day but the best of the action was in the last race of the week, the Finn, where the medals were decided on the final run.
After a beautiful, sun-baked, windy week of racing in Santander, the final day saw a light, 6-8 knot, north westerly breeze under grey skies. Although the air temperature was cool, the competitive sailing was hot and five close Medal Races, entwined with gripping and tense narratives, played out on Santander Bay.
Great Britain won the Nations Trophy, awarded to the best performing team at the World Cup Final, after they won nine medals, three of each colour. France and Brazil followed in the medal tally.
Zsombor Berecz (HUN), Ben Cornish (GBR) and Ed Wright (GBR) were all in with a shot at gold in the Finn fleet. The competitive trio all knew what they had to do to take gold and went into the race full of focus.
But the start did not go entirely to plan for Wright and Berecz. There was an individual recall which meant that the pair both had to return to the start and restart. The advantage swung the way of Cornish but his focus switched to his rivals and he looked to cover them, allowing them back into the game.
The distribution of medals was constantly changing, with the places shifting throughout. After Cornish was penalised for pumping, resulting in a penalty turn, it looked like his chance of gold had gone as Berecz and Wright took the initiative.
But late drama ensued as Berecz received a penalty of his own on the run to the finish, enabling Cornish, who had already overtaken Wright, to move into the gold medal position.
Cornish crossed the line in fifth and Berecz in seventh which put the pair level on 48 points but as the Briton had finished ahead in the Medal Race, he claimed gold. Wright sailed through in tenth to complete the podium.
‘It was a tough day. I had to catch up all the way because I went back after the start.
I managed to get back and make it a close race,” Berecz said ashore after racing.
‘Unfortunately, the jury decided our fight and I came up from first to second. I feel quite emotional about the decision.
‘Anyway, it was a good week and I am happy because this is the first medal in the World Cup Series for Hungary.”
Berecz’s disappointment was both relief and delight for Cornish, ‘There was a point in the middle of the second beat where me and Zombie [Berecz’s nickname] did a couple of fake tacks and I just gave Ed those boat lengths he needed to get in front. In hindsight, I should have stuck to both but that’s easier said than done.
‘You’ve just got to keep fighting and racing in this sort of stuff. We raced here the other day and the places change all the way to the finish line.
‘The penalty I got, then got passed on to Zombie for a similar offence. You can never give up until you’re over the line.”
Nicholas Heiner (NED) won the Finn Medal Race to finish fifth overall.
Evi van Acker (BEL) had wrapped up gold in the Women’s One Person Dinghy, Laser Radial, ahead of the final day of racing. The pressure was off the Belgium so the story shifted to the race for the silver and bronze medal.
Emma Plasschaert (BEL) and Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) occupied the podium spots heading into the Medal Race but Uruguay’s Dolores Moreira and Greece’s Vasileia Karachaliou were well within sight.
Moreira put the hammer down at the front of the fleet and streaked ahead in the Medal Race. She held the lead on the final downwind and was in silver medal position but she was penalised for pumping her sail and had to do a penalty turns. She dropped to second, her eventual finishing place, which handed the initiative to Karachaliou.
Karachaliou, winner at the American World Cup Series event, came through in fourth which gave her silver. Moreira had a nervous wait for the pack behind her to follow and with Plasschaert in eighth and Rindom in ninth, she snapped up bronze.
The Greek sailor had the biggest smile on the water after racing and commented, ‘It was a crazy day, I went into the competition to enjoy sailing and it was not easy at all. It was stressful and I did my best to remain calm and tried to make the least mistakes possible. It was difficult with the wind and currents in the bay.
‘We have had sun, wind and the good atmosphere. We had good races and on time. I have enjoyed it.”
The Laser, Men’s One Person Dinghy, Medal Race was the epitome of snakes and ladders, thanks in part to a large number of penalties applied due to sailors pumping their sail. The lead changed regularly in the race and it was a tense fight for the medals.
The leading racers received penalties but Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) did just enough to seal gold. A seventh saw him finish just two points ahead of Philipp Buhl (GER) who leapfrogged Charlie Buckingham (USA) into silver.
Bernaz looked relieved ashore after racing, commenting, ‘It was really tough today as I had a bad start. Luckily, I had enough points to retain my first so it was nice week.”
Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) lived up to their billing as one of the pre-regatta favourites in the Men’s Two Person Dinghy, 470.
The Greek racers had David Bargehr and Lukas Mahr (AUT), Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) as well as Italy’s Giacomo Ferrari and Giulio Calabro close for company all week. They sailed their way to a seventh in the Medal Race to clinch gold, ‘It was a tough race with many position changes. We tried to stay close to the American and the Austrian. We achieved that. We got nervous at the beginning but we managed to keep up with them.”
The Austrians finished third in the Medal Race to confirm silver. As for the fight for bronze, the Italians took the Medal Race win, handing them the medal as the Americans finished in fourth. The Americans received a four-point penalty after racing but this was irrelative to the overall leaderboard.
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Hannah Mills, sailing with Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) came back into the Women’s 470 with a bang, claiming a dominant gold.
Mills and McIntyre had just three days sailing together before the World Cup Final and found their groove quickly, winning five of the weeks 11 races. They finished 19 points clear of Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes van Veen (NED) whose unbeaten run in 2017 ended.
‘We knew exactly what we had to do out there today,” commented McIntyre. ‘We had a 13-point gap, we couldn’t lose. So, for us it was all about controlling the Dutch.”
Mills added, ‘It was pretty tricky, gusty and shifty so we are glad we pulled that off.”
The Dutch team held on to silver and Spain’s Silvia Mas and Patricia Cantero completed the podium.
The 2017 World Cup Series has now drawn to a close. Sailors focus will now shift to their respective class world and continental championships.
The 2017-18 World Cup Series will commence this October at a new location in Gamagori, Japan. In early 2018, the series will head to Miami, USA then Hyeres, France before a concluding final at a venue to be confirmed in June/July.
by Daniel Smith – World Sailing