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RS:X class at Sailing Worlds Aarhus 2018: A day of comebacks as competition narrows down

by Bas Edmonds, RS:X Class 7 Aug 2018 19:22 PDT 2-12 August 2018
RS:X - Hempel Sailing World Championships - Aarhus, Denmark - August 2018 © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy / Aarhus 2018

Aarhus, Denmark, presented a hot day and light winds, perfect for a day of hot competition where the 86 men and 62 women competing in the 2018 Sailing World Championships battled for every painstaking place before the fleet crucially splits into Gold and Silver at the end of today. From here on in, it is the top men and women in the world facing off against each other for a place in Sunday's top ten medal race.

The men took to the waters first, having effectively had a rest day as they sat ashore all of Monday waiting for the wind. With such a contrast in conditions from the first three races where the big wind specialists dominated the day, today would be a chance for the light wind sailors to show off their stamina and skills.

Leading that charge was Great Britain's Kieran Martin Holmes who scored the day's best results with 6, 1, 1 to climb up to 5th overall. Ofek Elimeleh from Israel also put a bad day behind him to score 1, 5, 4 and redeem himself up to 13th overall.

However, at the head of the leader board is Poland's Pawel Tarnowski who despite a 26th place in the second race of today, has managed to squeeze out a three point lead over Dorian Van Rijsselberghe from the Netherlands. Italy's Danielle Bendetti, the overnight leader, slipped down into third place three points further back.

Given China's dominance of this fleet at last year's Worlds, only Mengfan Gao is showing any sign of the form that secured him a bronze medal at this event in 2017. On today's racing Gao said, "I really like these light wind conditions and it was very hard work today. Our Chinese team are all friends which makes training fun. I don't mind what conditions we have so long as I work hard and make some progress".

Further down the fleet is seasoned campaigner, Byron Kokkalanis from Greece, who is in the top ten after a series of consistent scores. Kokkalanis on today's racing, "It was a very hard day. It's been a long time since we had three races in such light wind conditions. And they were long races so I am very exhausted. Some good results, consistent inside the top ten so I'm very happy".

Looking ahead to gold fleet, Kokkalanis commented, "The tactics don't change much. You have to do your best to win. Everyone is stronger, I can't remember such a strong fleet so a small mistake costs lots of positions".

It was a similar story in the women's fleet when they finally got to the race course. The light wind specialists took the most of the opportunity to gain some places up the fleet. The best performer of the day was reigning Olympic Champion, France's Charline Picon who, after a slow start, lit up her title challenge with a 1, 2, 1.

Picon said, "It was really nice when we arrived at the course as it was 8-10 knots which is my favourite conditions. It was great as I had huge battles with Bryony (Shaw) and Lillian (de Geus) so it was very physical and fighting to the end."

"It is also great to have a strong squad of French sailors pushing me. I can't sleep! I have to work really hard to be ahead of them and to be the leader in the French fleet". Picons' impressive results have pushed her onto the podium going into the final series.

Leading the fleet is China's Yunxiu Lu who scored 1, 1, 7 and has a three point lead over Lillian De Geus from the Netherlands. Another sailor who is making a charge up the rankings is Bryony Shaw who scored 6, 1, 2 and sits in 7th overall – an impressive comeback given she ended the first day in the twenties.

In 12th position is local sailor Laerke Buhl-Hansen who has grown up in Aarhus and sailed here since she was ten years old. On sailing in Aarhus, "It's good to be sailing on home waters, but it's a very tricky place to sail and it's never the same here. I'm really looking forward to being on the stadium course on Friday and even when we are far away going to the course area I can hear the cheers which is amazing, we don't often get to see or hear our supporters in sailing so it's an amazing atmosphere here."

Buhl-Hansen took a year off from the RS:X following Rio, "I sailed for one year around a bit. The time off was healthy for me and I have a lot more energy to do the training and build up the hunger to get better. I must admit, I have missed the RS:X so it's been fun getting back on the board."

Racing is scheduled to continue on Thursday where the intensity will go up a notch as the battle to qualify countries for Tokyo 2020 becomes even more refined and sailor's battle to get into the all-important medal races on Sunday where the World titles will be awarded.

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