by Andrew Gough
Queensland Sailing Team and Australian Youth Team members Angus Galloway and Alexander Gough have taken gold for Australia over night at the Junior 420 & 470 European Championships held in Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
One of the largest 420 regattas to take place this year internationally, the Junior Europeans were a bench mark for the best youth sailors in the world. With a 101 boat entry list from 21 nations in the 420 class, Queensland sailors Galloway and Gough carried their success of a bronze medal from the ISAF Youth Worlds in Croatia into the championships, to find themselves battling new opponents for a position on the podium.
The regatta was decided on the final two days of racing here in Belgium. Coming into the second last day the Aussie team had a battle on their hands. A grey day with light drizzle soon turned to sun and a light breeze of 8-10 knots filled in for racing. However, the strong current and light breeze from almost the same direction made it a challenge for the Race Committee to set the course. The first attempt at race 9 for the Gold fleet got underway and the leading pack were just over half a minute away from mark 1 when the time limit expired and the race had to be abandoned. Another start for race 9 and again the leading pack were almost at mark 1 when the race was again abandoned, but this time due to the unstable nature of the breeze.
Finally race 9 got underway, Galloway and Gough made a call to punch off the pin and head left. Gough said, 'I guess we kind of thought at the start we liked the left and kind of planned our race around it. And then with thirty seconds to go there was no-one on the pin end and we cranked up and then tacked when we thought would be the best time, we kept to our plan with that pressure on the left.' It wasn’t long until the boys boat speed and trim had them crossing the fleet early up the first work.
They arrived at the windward mark significantly ahead and from then on continued to extend, claiming their fourth race win of the series and with it leap into first overall on the leaderboard. Delivering a mental blow to their french opponents in second by a single point, the battle for a series win would be decided in the final days racing.
Pre race Gough spoke about their plans coming into the final day. 'We are going to do what we always do, keep it simple, keep the boat flat, everything we have trained day in day out with Aidz (Adrian Finglas – Queensland High Performance Coach), depending on the points sitution coming into the second race we will decide what has to be done.'
Coming into the last race the breeze was light and the European teams had that speed edge on the young Australians. Coming off the line the guys struggled under the pressure from the French and Greeks but held inside the top 15 by the windward mark. Ending the race the Australians knew they had the points difference and had already beaten the French, so kept a level head as they watched the French cross ahead of them, in the very final race.
Winning the final race were Greek brothers Alexander and George Kavas past European Champions. The French pair of Guillaume Pirouelle and Valentin Sipan crossed in 11th and Galloway and Gough finished in 25th.
The drama of the final race was no problem for the Australians dropping this result, finishing with an extremely narrow one point lead over Pirouelle and Sipan to walk away with the Gold medal for 2011.
Galloway commented post race, 'It feels great to finish with the win, we have worked hard at home, had a lot of support from our sponsors Gill, Queensland Academy of Sport, Donaghy’s and our family of course.' Gough continued to say, ' We couldn’t of asked for a better way to finish the regatta, its been an amazing journey in Europe this year.'
The Queenslanders now fly out of Belgium and home to Brisbane, where family and friends wait to congratulate them as they settle back into training and what some might call a more normal life.