The RS500 World Championships got underway on Monday 23 July with thirty seven boats taking to the water from six different countries from around the world, the furthest travelling from the United States. In true Garda style, the teams were launched at 12pm on a flat, calm lake in anticipation of the wind blowing in at 1pm…it was a slow three-mile spinnaker run to the start line, so everyone could take in the scenery before the racing began.
RS 500 World Championship
It wasn't the right day for the Ora, so the first race started in a light northerly wind with two windward-leeward laps, shortened to one and a half roundings so that the finish came at the windward mark on the second lap.
Dutch Magic Marine teams Barend Hiltermann/Max Blom (winners) and Carrie Howe/Mischa Heemskerk (second place) made the right choice sailing up the left side of the course and developed an early lead, not to be seen again by the rest of the fleet. Italian team Mauro Finazzi and Walter Bragagnini were the next in line, but an OCS meant that third place fell to female German team Wibke Wriggers and Annika Ellerbrock. The light, fluky winds saw a lot of position changes throughout the race, but it was clear to see that the Italian teams were in their element, dominating the top ten.
Perhaps the most exciting part of race one was the on-the-water proposal that came from International Class Chairman Michiel Geerling who asked his long-term girlfriend and crew Hilde van Susante to marry him with 'Will you marry me?' painted on the spinnaker. Luckily for Michiel, she said yes! So it was double celebrations off the water with numerous bottles of Prosecco being popped in the boat park. Congratulations Michiel and Hilde – a truly wonderful couple with many years of sailing happiness ahead of you!
Just as the wind completely died and everyone thought it was time to head to the club at Riva for a well-earned birra, the elusive Ora finally made her appearance and blew in strong from the south, turning the course on its head by 180° and giving the race team a job to reset the course in time to hold a race before the fans turned off.
The expected Magic Marine team domination didn't happen and it was Swedish team Johan Rook/Malin Broberg who led the fleet for the first lap, closely followed by Brits Tim Wilkins/Heather Martin, Swedes Tobias/Max Freiman and British father and son team Greg and Paul Bartlett. A massive wind shift on the second lap mixed up the order of the fleet and it was Tim/Heather who took advantage and gained a lead that they held to the end closely followed by Mauro/Walter who came through the fleet to second. Greg and Paul held on to third place – an awesome achievement for a young helm in his first RS500 championship.
Overall standings see Tim/Heather holding a slender lead just one point ahead of the favourites Barend/Max, with Carrie/Mischa in joint third position with Johan/Malin, but the lack of consistency from anyone in the fleet so far means that it’s still all to play for!