Iker Martinez / Xabier Fernandez (ESP) 2008 49er World Championships Sorrento YC
Athens Gold medallists and 2006 world champions Iker Martinez/Xabier Fernandez from Spain took the Gold fleet lead on the first day of the Final series at Sail Melbourne today lead of the series.
Big shifts and fluky winds at the Sorrento Couta Sailing Club hosted 49er World Championship shook the fleet.
Britain's Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes stared the day with a second place behind Ben Austin and Nathan Outteridge (AUS) but then finished 23rd in the second race and a ninth in the final race, to finish in overall sixth for the day
'It was a hard day today. We’ve gone well up until now. It was tricky and fluky wind. It’s not the end of the world though, it’s a long regatta. It seemed impossible to predict the wind today, but it’s the same for everyone here,' said reigning world champion skipper Steve Morrison (GBR), adding: 'but the event and the sailing have been great.'
Mark Asquith and Paul Campbell-James also suffered, finishing in double figures in all three races, they are 13th overall, a couple of points ahead of Alex Hopson and Dave Evans in 14th.
Starting this morning, the 81-boat fleet was split into Gold, Silver and Bronze groups, the top 25 competitors racing in the nine-race Final series for the Championship title, so all were on their toes. While some are purely concentrating on winning the world title, for others it’s the important job of qualifying their nation or themselves for the 2008 Beijing Games.
It was a frustrating day for all, as the land breeze fought the sea breeze, the competitors fought both, and few won.
'Every race we had there were major wind shifts. We would have been better off waiting for the sea breeze to fill in this afternoon,' said Outteridge who was at the top of the leaderboard last night.
'It was all happening out there today. Normally you would get an oscillating breeze, but today the wind did things I’ve never seen before,' he said.
'The Brits (world champs Stevie Morrison/Ben Rhodes) were leading the first race and we passed them up the second beat. We had a major lead, but the breeze died out and the rest of the fleet caught us up, but we still won, which was great.'
He and Ben Austin were not so fortunate in the proceeding two races. Outteridge: 'We got off the start well in the second race and lifted up the left corner, but then the breeze went right and kept going. We nearly set a spinnaker going up the work! The breeze was anywhere between 3-13 knots and shifty. We finished 13th.'
'In the third race, we had an OK start, went well up the first beat, then missed a massive shift. We kept trying to fight our way back to the top, but copped a big 30 degree shift, and back we went. We worked our way up a bit, but finished 16th.
'We could have finished in the top 10 in the last two races, but the shifts made it impossible. Having said that, we’re doing much better at this regatta than we’ve done at any other major event, so you can’t knock that,' Outteridge said.
Athens silver medallist Rodion Luka (UKR) told: 'It was probably the most difficult day in terms of weather conditions. The other three days were much more stable. Today there were big lulls and gusts, so you really had to plan in advance.
'Some people risked a lot and gained heaps out of it; we were probably too conservative. It’s really important to look around and see what’s happening outside the boat,' Luka said.
Athens Olympian Pietro Sibello agreed: 'The wind was very shifty and it was hard to pick the shift and stay in front. We had a medium day. We were second at one top mark, but finished 14th.'
However, Andre Fonseca/Rodrigo Duarte (BRA), Frode Bovim/Christopher Gundersen (NOR) and Kalle Torlan/Jonas Lindberg (FIN) are just happy to be in the Gold fleet. Making the top 25 cut, they qualify their countries for the Beijing Games. Two others will qualify from the Silver fleet.
Results are provisional pending protests. The Sail Melbourne ISAF Grade 1 event continues tomorrow.