470 European Championships 2011. Anticipating light winds tomorrow, the Race Committee decided to run three races for each of the 470 fleets on day five, which means that there is now only one race to be held on Thursday to determine the top 10 boats going through to the 470 Men and 470 Women Medal Races on Friday.
470 Mens (JPN4396) - Open Europeans 2011
Continuing to sail in a league of their own and in first overall are the world #1 team Mat Belcher/Malcolm Page of Australia who delivered another race win today, to make it five wins from the eleven races so far. Anticipating Thursday's race 12, Page commented, 'Looking at the prediction it is meant to be light winds. I think we will just concentrate on ourselves and sail that race. We said coming into this regatta that we are not going to focus on results, but just focus on performance so we will just keep that plan. We will not go out to take out anybody to maximise our points. We will just sail ourselves.'
Belcher continued, 'The great thing about the class is that we have very strong competition. Two races to go and plenty can happen, which has been proven at past events.'
Behind them in second overall and chasing hard are the world ranked number four pairing of Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell (GBR) who have been steadily climbing up the leaderboard, as Page acknowledged, 'They are very, very good sailors. They are pushing us a lot and are one of the main contenders. This week they have sailed very well and we will see how things go tomorrow.'
470 Mens (GBR844) - Open Europeans 2011
The first Championship Patience/Bithell competed at together was the 2009 470 World Championships, where they claimed the silver medal. Patience puts their success down to three key ingredients, 'Enjoyment, friendship and respect. I think there is so much respect and we are very good at different things and so together we make a strong mutual partnership. We had been racing against each other for years, so we know each other well and we just have a good time together.'
Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO) move up into third overall after a safe showing of 11,6,7 and position themselves safely to progress through to the Medal Race. The points margins in the 470 Men's fleet is a bit closer than in the 470 Women, so more teams already know they are guaranteed a place in Friday's Medal Race. For these teams, the objective in race 12 will be to achieve a result to put themselves in the best possible position for Friday.
Defending European Champions, Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) are going to have their work cut out to even make it through to the Medal Race. Despite coming second in race 11, they are sitting on 103 points and even a race win tomorrow will not guarantee qualifying to the top ten. They can only hope that some of the teams currently ahead of them have a disastrous day.
The same three teams head up the 470 Women fleet – with Spain in first, Brazil in second and Denmark in third. These three have yet again extended their lead over the rest of the fleet and today's performances have guaranteed them all qualification through to Friday's Medal Race and a shot at the Championships title, regardless of where they finish in tomorrow's race 12.
470 Womens (ESP 696) - Open Europeans 2011
However, they are the only ones assured of that privilege, due to the massive points margin between them and the rest of the fleet. After the third placed Henriette Koch/Lene Sommer (DEN), there is a 20 point margin to the next team in fourth place. Outside of these top three, none of the other teams currently in the top 10 are assured of still being there after race 12 tomorrow – where there is all to gain and equally all to lose.
The battle at the front of the 470 women swung back in favour of world number eleven team Tara Pacheco/Berta Betanzos (ESP) after race 10 when they moved into the overall lead ahead of Brazil's Fernanda Oliveira/Ana Luisa Barbachan. These two teams are familiar with each other's racing styles as they train together and are clearly enjoying the rivalry. Catching up with a smiling Betanzos as she put their boat away after racing, 'It has been a hard day because it has been windy and three races and also we wanted to race well, so we did all the best we could and it is tiring.'
Sailing brilliantly in Helsinki are world ranked number five team Koch/Sommer (DEN), who seem to have pumped their sailing up to another level over recent months. Their worst case scenario tomorrow in terms of points accumulation is 16 points, so they know that the lowest position on the leader board they will be going into the Medal Race on Friday is third overall.
'The plan is just to go out, make a good start and see what happens because it is really hard to predict what is going to happen in a race. So you just have to make sure you don't make big mistakes and that is what has got us so far already. So we will stick to that plan,' Koch reflected on the objective for race 12. 'We were fifth last year at the Europeans and hopefully it's going to be even better this year.'
Confirming their improvement in form, Sommer said, 'I think we have got more mature. We don't have big weaknesses. We are all round in all conditions. In the last six months our speed has definitely got better upwind and we are superfast downwind. It is down to time on the water and speed testing over and over again. We have been very detailed, measured everything and made sure we know what is going on. Hard work.'
The world number four ranked team Erin Maxwell/Isabelle Kinsolving-Farrar have secured their best racing day and move up to ninth on the leader board, up three places from where they were yesterday. Crucial for them was securing a third place in race 11, their best result of the series so far. 'We had seen the right pay in both of the first two races so we figured we would go right and we did. We started late at the start and were the furthest right boat going upwind and were first at the windward mark.
On our second lap the breeze dropped dramatically and filled in from the left, so we got passed by a couple of people, but we were really happy with it,' explained Kinsolving-Farrar. They finished just ahead of their American team mates Amanda Clark/Sarah Chin, who are clearly nudging them. Kinsolving-Farrar continued, 'Amanda and Sarah are sailing really well and we are thrilled to be pushed. It is going to make hopefully us, but whoever qualifies for the Olympics, that much better.'
And on their plan for Thursday's race 12, Maxwell added, 'We want to get a good start and have a good race – nothing too tricky. Just race well, nothing too special.'
When you look at the results so far for this series the 11 race wins are shared amongst nine different teams from eight different nations, really demonstrating the depth of talent in the 470 Women fleet.
470 Womens (BR177) - Open Europeans 2011
Racing on Thursday will get underway at 1155 hours with the 470 Women starting first, followed by 470 Men Gold and 470 Men Silver.
Open Europeans website