SAP 505 World Championship, Hamilton Island, Queensland, Final day.
With one race to sail Wolfgang Hunger and Julien Kleiner (GER), the reigning champions, held a three-point advantage over Mike Holt/Carl Smit (USA), with a drop in place.
Hunger and Kleiner, lighter in weight than their foes, were hoping for medium to light airs, while Holt said 'bring on the big breeze.'
At the final gun, Wolfgang Hunger and Julien Kleiner (GER), the reigning champions, had taken out the 2011 SAP 505 World Championship.
It was Hunger’s fifth 505 world title win (he also owns two 470 world titles) and Kleiner’s second 505 title (both with Hunger).
It was also the second time Holt and Smit have had to play bridesmaid. 'I have no choice but to go to the Worlds in La Rochelle next year – I’m hooked,' Holt said.
An outside chance for the title, South Australians Sandy Higgins/Paul Marsh scored their worst result today, a ninth, but were able to maintain their third place overall of yesterday to finish the SAP 505 World Championship in third place. The much crowned sailors last won the Nationals 2009, with second places in 2006 and 2008.
To make up for today’s disappointment, Higgins/Marsh won the 505 Australian Championship, sailed in conjunction with the Worlds. Their nearest rivals were Moth world champion and double 49er world champion, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in ninth place and 35 points in arrears. The two will now return to their 49er Olympic campaign.
Going into the final race, all eyes were on Wolfgang Hunger and Julien Kleiner (GER), the reigning champions, and Mike Holt/Carl Smit (USA).
Both pairs knew what they had to do to claim the crown. And while Americans Howie Hamlin/Andy Zinn led the race early on, and won the race by a country mile, attention was focused on the top two.
When the remaining 69 of the 87-boat fleet hit the water, winds were 15 plus knots and a front came through just as Kevin Wilson and his crew were about to start the race. Wilson abandoned at the last moment and waited out the front.
What was left were big seas and big swell, a changing tide and pressure that was as inconsistent as you could get. There were big lulls at some marks and up to 20 knots at others, but mostly it was around 12-15 in between – so conditions were not clear cut.
Hunger: 'We got a very good start and tacked on Michael (Holt) but we did it too late, so we went around in the top three at the first mark. From there, we were in front of them, then they were in front of us and so on.
As the race wore on, Hamlin//Zinn extended, then there was Holt, the 'fast Danes' Jan Saugmann and Morten Ramsbaek (the 2007 505 World’s winners) and Hunger with a group in tow. Positions were changing depending on the tactics employed, but not by much. The race behind Hamlin was on!
The gaps were quite big between the top four, but the latter three compressed down the last run and there was not enough breeze and no competitors in their midst for Holt/Smit to make any inroads.
The rest of the fleet was so far behind the top four, it was almost as if they were in a different race. Holt needed to put four boats between him and Hunger and while there were chances early on, all that changed. So up the final beat, Holt/Smit tried to sail the Germans back into the fleet. It had its effect, but a bit late.
A match race of sorts, there was a lot of shouting about rules between the two. Everyone watching was spellbound by what unfolded. Holt pinned Hunger, who was getting frustrated, as tack upon tack ensued almost the whole way to the finish line.
In the process, the fast Danes sailed through to second behind Hamilin/Zinn, America’s Cup sailors Luke Molloy/Jim Turner were an impressive third having been out of small boats for a while, Hunger/Kleiner were sixth and Holt/Smit seventh – just seconds between them after Hunger finally escaped the clutches of Holt.
Hunger said ashore this afternoon: 'We were in a good position early, but we were stuck with a group and the three in front of us were sailing in clean air.'
Kleiner breaks in: 'We just got on a wave and surfed away a bit and then more waves came and we surfed away from the pack and started to catch up with the Danish and Mike. We were on the reach and we looked behind, and those boats were still under spinnaker.'
Kleiner said he had never seen the tactics Holt/Smit employed on the final beat in 505 competition before. 'I have never seen it happen in the 505,' he said amazed.
Hunger was not impressed with Holt’s tactics up the final beat 'I don’t understand wanting to win so much. I don’t do this to win, I sail always to see what more I can get out of the boat and do with the boat; that is what is important to me.' The statement seems at odds with the seven world titles he has amassed in two classes.
For Holt, his and Smit’s ambitions were cut and dried: 'The game plan was to win the race and to win the Worlds. When we saw the situation as it developed, we tried to sail him back into the fleet, because we knew we couldn’t catch Howie (Hamlin).
'The pressure was very up and down, but shifts were only small – 10 degrees – so there were no big gains to be made with those,' Smit said.
'We raced a good regatta, but they (the Germans) were better,' Holt acknowledged.
'Today we didn’t sail as fast, but we sailed well, although we were a bit conservative. We were hoping for more breeze,' Smit said.
Former 18ft skiff champions and regular 505 sailors, Howie Hamlin and Andy Zinn, placed fourth overall, the same place they finished at the 2010 SAP 505 Worlds. Hamlin is an incredible ambassador and competitor in skiff and dinghy sailing. He has scored at least five previous second places and a third 505 Worlds.
The best placed woman in the fleet was Meike Schomaker with crew Holger Jess, the German 505 supplier. Jess previously won the 505 Worlds with Hunger in 2005, 2003 and 2001.
It was also a milestone to have a Hong Kong entry back at the Worlds; it’s been 27 years in between and by the same crew who represented at Hamilton Island; Laurence Mead, and his skipper Mark Thornburrow, who contested 28 years ago.
The SAP 505 World Championship was a shortened seven-race series. Race Officer Kevin Wilson had to abandon racing for three days after the opening day, because of exceptionally heavy winds and big seas accompanied by incessant downpours of rain that only stopped shortly after the final race started today.
Wilson did a remarkable job in trying circumstances, as he and his twin brother Ross always do. We need to clone these two guys, or have them train others; otherwise major Australian regattas will be in trouble when they eventually retire.
Wilson had a great group of volunteers on the water, and there were just as many onshore. What would our sport do without these people?
Hamilton Island was not at its weather-best, normally it is sunshine and more sunshine and great breezes. At least we got some good breeze and the Island hospitality was at its usual best.
The 2012 SAP 505 World Championship will be held in La Rochelle, France, from 17-27 July. Provisional top 10 places with one drop:
Rank Country HelmName CrewName Boat R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 Nett
1 GER Wolfgang Hunger Julien Kleiner 1 1 3 (15) 4 2 6 17
2 USA Mike Holt Carl Smit 3 6 1 3 6 1 (7) 20
3 AUS Sandy Higgins Paul Marsh 2 7 5 1 3 7 (9) 25
4 USA Howie Hamlin Andy Zinn 4 (10) 6 4 8 3 1 26
5 GBR Luke Molloy Jim Turner 14 11 2 5 5 (86 DNF) 3 40
6 USA Ted Conrads Brian Haines 7 2 10 2 9 11 (15) 41
7 DEN Jan Saugmann Morten Ramsbaek (86 DNF) 9 17 16 1 4 2 49
8 GBR Ian Pinnell Charles Dwyer 8 13 8 10 (86 DNF) 5 5 49
9th AUS Nathan Outteridge Iain Jensen 9 3 7 8 11 (22) 22 60
10th USA Mike Martin Geoff Ewenson (23) 4 22 9 10 8 8 61