by John Friend
Eurosaf High Performance Grand Prix was held on the Mar Menor, the 170sqkm salt water lagoon in the Murcia region of southern Spain.
EUROSAF High Performance Grand Prix 2011 - final day
The sun came up over the Murcia region of Spain’s Mar Menor today, Sunday 16th October, but was obscured by cloud cover. By the deadline of 1400 local time, the wind had failed to stabilise enough for racing to be held. Because of this, yesterday’s results stand.
The closest finish was in the men’s Kite Cross World Championship where Americans Damien LeRoy and Bryan Lake were tied on points, after Lake had drawn level at the close of play yesterday. Ultimately LeRoy took the championship title, being ahead on count-back.
'It was a great week,' said LeRoy. 'We had light winds, but we got a lot of races in and there was quite a battle between Bryan and myself. I can’t complain – my first world championship win, that is incredible.' LeRoy’s best result previously was second at the Course World Championship last year. 'I had a great time,' he added. 'It is a beautiful place. We got a little unlucky with the winds. This place can blow really hard. It is an ideal place to race, for sure.'
The Eurosaf High Performance Grand Prix included the first ever Kite Cross World Championship. The organisers, however, were experimenting with the course formats and also the rules, which have still to be finalised. 'I think it is a good start,' said LeRoy. 'We did some tests with different courses in different heats, but what is unique is that we can race in 6-10 knots which is what will help our sport grow and possibly get it into the Olympics.'
Undisputed winner of the women’s Kite Cross World title was France’s Caroline Adrien. Coming from Brest in northwest France, Adrien sailed a perfect series with the exception of the final race yesterday that saw the entire women’s fleet line up. In that race she was beaten by Germany’s Kristin Boese. 'It is a very good competition,' said Adrien, who was also the Professional Kiteboard Riders Association World Tour winner this year. 'It is a little bit light but it is technical and I am happy.'
Adrien hopes greatly that kiteboarding will be included in the Olympic Games for Rio 2016. 'That is my first objective and I stand by for the decision,' she says.
While Adrien’s scoreline was near perfect, Spanish sailor Enrique Cornejo’s results were flawless, posting six bullets in the competition between the A-Class catamarans. However there was disruption to the rest of the podium as two discards came into play today. This saw Mickey Todd elevated to second overall, Spain’s Abdon Ibañez taking third with France’s Thomas Gaveriaux unfortunately dropping off the podium.
For Cornejo, who comes from Barcelona and is considered number two in the Spanish A-Class fleet, this was the first time he had achieved a perfect scoreline in 18 years of racing the singlehanded catamaran. He said he enjoyed sailing alongside the F18s, 29erXXs and kiteboards.
With eight bullets in nine races, double Olympic medallist Mitch Booth and Miguel Perez dominated the F18 catamaran to finish ahead of Michael ten Bokun/Enrique Ortiz with Marc Verdaguer/Alberto Torner third.
'It is great to see this style of event gaining momentum,' said Booth of the Eurosaf High Performance Grand Prix. 'It is attracting the youth, which is something you don’t see so much in other events, particularly in Olympic sailing where it is the seasoned campaigners who are always at events.' Also competing in the F18 this week was Booth’s 14-year-old son Jordi, who finished fifth sailing with Sergio Cadenas.
'We talked about taking some of the ideas and experimental courses such as the ones we used in the Volvo Champions Race, which were a huge success: shorter courses, very very close to the dock, downwind starts, a couple of speed runs - we tried this two lane speed course where you went down the course and took the gate and then came back and finished on the opposite side, so you had to cross over.' In general Booth says it is about getting both competitors and spectators enthusiastic about sailing. 'It is all moving towards more fun, more entertainment, a more spectator-friendly style of racing. We are happy to support it,' he concluded.
With four bullets in nine races and only finishing off the podium twice, the 29erXX series belonged to Danes Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen. France’s Kévin Fischer and Marion Leprunier ended up second with the Danish/Dutch crew of Lin Cenholt and Kaj Böcker third.
'We had very good boat speed, we were very fast upwind and I think that is the reason,' said Olsen of why they won. 'If you were in the lead at the top mark it was easy.' The Danes have also used the excellent facility at the Centro de Alto Rendimento Infanta Cristina three times in the past for winter training, so they had past experience of the Mar Menor. 'We also have a very good set up for the mast,' her helm added. 'We don’t know why it is good, but I think that is the reason we are so fast upwind.' Certainly coming from Denmark’s Aarhus Sailing Club, where there is a strong 49er squad including Beijing gold medallist Jonas Warrer, helped as they regularly advise the girls on their boat set-up.
The 29erXX class was particularly experimental in trying out new course formats this week. Nielsen said she particularly liked the slalom courses but felt that the Seiko Speed Challenge was unfair because running it one boat at a time, the wind varied between runs.
Organiser of the Eurosaf High Performance Grand Prix Rafa González said he was happy with how this first event had gone, even though at the start of the event he had been nervous about a potential lack of wind. He confirmed that both Eurosaf and the Murcia government have agreed to hold the event again in 2012, however he has yet to finalise a date. All the classes that came this year have been invited back for 2012 and the kiteboards have suggested that one of their European championships be held in conjunction with the event next year.
'I would very much like to thank Region de Murcia and the Municipality of Los Alcazares, Nautivela and Magic Marine' said González, all of whom supported the event.
Marco Predieri, President of Eurosaf, added: 'Just another regatta was not what we wanted. In association with the Region de Murcia and the Real Federacion Española de Vela, Eurosaf were very excited to have the opportunity of organising a new type of sailing event, from which the High Performance Grand Prix was created. This is something very different for the sailing world. We have brought together diverse sailing disciplines in kiteboarding, foiling, multihulls and skiffs, and created a single competition for these very different branches of the sport of sailing. The event has met all our expectations and more, and we look forward to organising it again in 2012, back here in Murcia.'