At the International 2.4mR World Championship, it was seventh heaven for Sweden’s Stellan Berlin after he clinched the crown on a nail-biting final day at the Poole Yacht Club today (Friday 13 September).
Sweden’s Stellan Berlin crosses the finish line to be crowned International 2.4mR World Champion for a record seventh time
Berlin – who had won six previous World crowns and medalled at 12 of the last 13 Championships – made it a record-breaking seven Worlds’ golds as he overcame all the odds to clinch victory in the final race.
The 47-year-old from from Djursholm, just north of Stockholm, went into the 11th and last race nine points behind overall leader, Britain’s Helena Lucas, knowing he needed to beat the Brit by at least eight boats, or finish no lower than fifth if Lucas was more than eight boats behind him.
And that is exactly as the race panned out as Berlin finished second, to Lucas’ 21st meaning he wrapped up victory with Lucas settling for silver.
Lucas’ British Sailing Team teammate, Megan Pascoe, wrapped up a hard-fought bronze, capitalising on 23 Black Flag Disqualifications (BFDs) in the opening race of the day to post three good results and win her second successive Worlds bronze.
Berlin had just a three-point advantage over Pascoe heading into that final deciding race and he admits he was conscious about losing silver than winning gold.
He said: 'I was very happy and relieved when I found out I won gold! I was aware I could have still lost silver. I figured the chances of gold were so small that the primary goal was to try to keep the silver. But it turned around that there were possibilities that changed the game a little bit.
'In the second race I gambled a little bit to gain upwind and that didn’t go too well so I didn’t think I could do a lot actually. I was trying to calculate the numbers but I didn’t really know what I did in the first race so I thought the only thing I could do was do a good race and just hope that Helena was unlucky or made a mistake.
'It’s been a hard struggle all the way, and it’s been very tight at the top so I’m very happy with the outcome. For the last race we still had three sailors at the top, often it’s been two sailors and you have to match race them, which is a little different.'
Lucas understandably described herself as 'completely gutted', but as raw as missing out on gold felt in the immediate aftermath, the London 2012 gold medalist insists it had been a very productive week in terms of her campaign for Rio 2016.
With her coach, Ian Barker, finishing seventh overall, but his own medal aspirations undone by two start line disqualifications, Lucas believes they have learned a lot.
The British Sailing Team's Helena Lucas (GBR100) and Megan Pascoe (GBR98) won silver and bronze respectively - 2013 International 2.4mR World Championship
'Clutching defeat from the jaws of victory, I think is the expression,' she said. 'The last race just didn’t go right for me. All day it had been about picking a side and sticking to your guns and I found myself stuck in the middle and it was just not the place to be. I had a great start, good speed but it was almost more shifty in the middle and it was easy to get a bit lost and I think that’s what happened. I needed to stick to the gameplan I’d had for the first two races and it just didn’t go well.
'But as disappointed as I am now looking at the big picture we’re both really enthused by the results here. Ian was his own worst enemy, without his two start disqualifications and hitting a post in race five he probably would have won the event. He’s so fast and smart and that’s why he’s my coach.
'He will have learned so many lessons about what it’s like to be a 2.4mR racer that in terms of looking forward to Rio, kit, our programme, it’s all looking pretty good. He’s going to have a lot of thoughts about what is and isn’t important in 2.4mR racing.'
Pascoe overcame a nine-point overnight deficit to win her bronze. She was delighted to pick up three good, consistent scores while others around her faltered today, allowing her to leapfrog them onto the podium for the second year running.
'I knew with three races something could happen, and I knew anything could happen because I made 15 points on one guy yesterday, but it was waiting for something to happen, which luckily enough it did in the first race of the day.
'I was aware of what all those BFDs had done to the points, I had my coach Rob (Wilson) out there with me and he could tell me what was going on, and I knew third was pretty safe then, which was a nice position to go into the last race knowing.'
With many new faces emerging in the fleet this year, and competition in and around the top 10 fiercer than ever, Megan says it bodes well for the future of the class.
She added: 'Usually we have a Swedish dominance at this event, but the Finns have come back in and a couple of them have put it together this week, and it’s really nice to have had a British stronghold on the Worlds. I’ve been really involved in the UK fleet for 10 or so years and the sailors really are growing in strength. For the Poole Yacht Club to host this has been amazing too. They have done it with style.'
Next year’s World Championships will be hosted by The National Yacht Club, Toronto in Canada, home of the newly-elected class President, the double Paralympian, Bruce Millar. He admits Poole has set a standard to follow.
'This week has been a wonderful example of how the class and the organisers have worked together to make it a Worlds that people will remember and that people enjoyed. The sailing was good, and overall I think everything went to plan. This time I paid a little more attention to the details and I can take some things home with me. We are really looking forward to welcoming next year’s Worlds to Canada.'