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470 Europeans: Kiwis on verge of winning Silver in Vilamoura

by Michael Brown/Yachting NZ 6 May 16:53 PDT
New Zealand - Day 5 - Open Mens European 470 championship - Vilamoura, Portugal - May 2021 © Joao Costa Ferreira

Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox didn't really know how they would stack up heading into their first international regatta in 18 months but they will be sailing for a medal tonight (NZ time) at the 470 European Championships in Portugal.

The pair have sailed consistently well over five days of fleet racing, with all eleven results in the top 10, and they find themselves in second, eight points behind the French combination of Kevin Peponnet and Jeremie Mion going into tonight's top-10 medal race.

The Spanish and Swedes are tied in third, seven points behind the Kiwis, and there is another 10 points back to Australia's Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan who have won five world titles and an Olympic crown together.

Snow-Hansen and Willcox were eighth and fifth in their two races overnight, sailed in a shifty 10-12 knot sea breeze.

"It was a pretty solid day," Willcox said. "We sailed pretty cleanly and banked two keepers and we are in a position now going into tomorrow’s medal race where anything can happen. We have an opportunity to get any colour medal, which is exciting.

"It’s been a long 11-race series and we are happy with the way we have sailed. We have been consistent so it’s pretty exciting for us given we haven’t raced internationally for a year-and-a-half. We are really happy and excited to rip into it tomorrow."

With double points at play and only 10 boats on the race track, anything can happen but Snow-Hansen and Willcox also have their eye on the bigger picture with the Tokyo Olympics less than 12 weeks away.

They've spent plenty of time over the last 18 months working with training partners Simon Cooke and Andre Van Dam and have clearly made progress on their speed.

"It’s been really cool to have been away from the fleet and work on some weaknesses but the opportunity to see how that all stacks up has been really cool before the Olympics," Snow-Hansen said. "We are all pretty pumped with how we have been going and excited to see where we get to before the Games.

"We have got some areas of our sailing that haven’t gone as well as others. We have some focus points but we think we can plug them before the Games."

The regatta has been sailed in mostly light to moderate breezes, which has taken its toll on crews physically, especially given the closeness of racing among the world's best combinations.

"They are all top boats and it's really close points," Snow-Hansen said. "I know the crews are pretty tired after a tough week pumping on the wire.

"It has been really tight racing all week. It’s going to be one last push to get a few boat lengths. Dan has been phenomenal so we will see how it goes."

The men's medal race is scheduled to start at 12.30am tomorrow morning (NZ time) and you can watch the Live Stream. Follow the action on the water via Vilamoura Sailing / You Tube channel.

Results and standings after Day 5 of the 470 European Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal:
Men (29 boats)

1st: Kevin Peponnet / Jeremie Mion (FRA) 9 9 1 4 (13) 2 2 1 5 4 2 - 39 points
2nd: Paul Snow-Hansen / Dan Willcox (NZL) 1 (10) 6 7 1 4 4 3 8 8 5 - 47 pts
3rd: Jordi Xammar / Nicolas Rodriguez (ESP) 10 2 4 5 6 11 (12) 8 3 1 4 - 54 pts

Full results

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