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SSL Gold Cup Qualifying Series Round 3 - Portuguese and Czechs rise to the top

by SSL Gold Cup 12 Jun 10:11 PDT 9-12 June 2022

SSL Team Portugal take victory in a gripping race to navigate their way to Bahrain. SSL Team Czech Republic edge out SSL Team Bulgaria and SSL Turkiye in a dramatic final leg to take second place in the race and in the overall standings.

Lining up before the start, all four European teams were still dreaming of a ticket to Bahrain. With double points available on 'Golden Day', SSL Team Czech Republic, SSL Team Bulgaria and SSL Team Portugal each knew that a top two finish in today's race would be enough to take them to the Finals.

Yavor Kolev's Bulgarian Lions made an aggressive start, taking the race to their rivals and leading around the first mark. But, like the group table, there was little to separate them from the chasing pack.

The Czechs squeeze in

As the battle intensified in challenging conditions, SSL Team Portugal and the Czechs traded places several times behind Kolev's team, who still led the field at the turn at Mark 3.

For SSL Team Turkiye, the equation was simple - to qualify they had to win today's race. Despite rounding Mark 3 in last place, they were still well in contention only 40" behind the Lions in front.

The stage was set for a thrilling final leg, and did not disappoint. Driven on by the lure of the approaching finish line, the teams went for glory. SSL Team Portgual, SSL Team Bulgaria and the Czechs all took turns to lead, the latter having made light of an earlier mistake hoisting their spinnaker.

SSL Team Portugal eventually punched ahead, closing out victory and sparking jubilant scenes on the Navigator's boat. Behind, Ondrej Tepley's Czechs benefitted from taking the middle line through the course to squeeze home in 2nd to deny the chasing Lions and Young Turks a place in the Finals.

Quotes

Joao Rodrigues - SSL Team Portugal Captain and coach: "My team made an excellent effort, we gain the momentum in the last lap, we had the patience to wait for their chance and it happened just at the end of the second upwind, and then the downwind was just nerve-racking for us watching from the spectator boat. Congratulations to my team, very good team work, I am very proud of them to be honest".

Ondra Teply - SSL Team Czech Republic Captain: "What an unbelievable week, I could have never imagine it could be so stressful and tight, but it was good. We were leading for the first three days, then we made a little more interesting yesterday as we finished last in two races, and today with the double points and the teams all so close anything was possible. Luckily we took the right decision on the top mark, we gybed and it paid off so we are going to Bahrain".

Group 5: Peru and Chile march on

SSL Team Peru clinched a dramatic win late on to seal qualification and top the group. SSL Team Chile's 2nd place sees them join the Paracas Warriors in Bahrain.

In a group that has served up tense racing and tight battles throughout this week, the South Americans' final race was no exception.

For SSL Team Venezuela, with no possible route to qualification, today was about trying to bow out of the competition on a high. Los Caciques meant business from the start, leading the fleet around Mark 1. Almost stalling after a mistake during the second leg, they recovered and approaching the finish line, looked favourites to take an elusive first win.

But the Paracas Warriors of Peru were not interested in second, and found the wind they needed at the right time to snatch their third win in a row.

With the Venezuelans and Peruvians dominant up front, SSL Team Chile and La Celeste of Uruguay spent much of the first leg locked in a tight battle for the last remaining qualifying spot. The two rivals tacked back and forth, attacking and defending, but SSL Team Chile, led by Pablo Lorca always seemed to have the edge. The Finis Terrae Sailors took control on the second leg and never looked back. Crossing the finish line in 3rd place they burst into wild celebrations, their place in Bahrain secured.

SSL Team Uruguay, so impressive on the opening day, will wonder how they have missed out.

Quotes

Stefano Peschiera, Captain of SSL Team Peru: "I am extremely proud of my team as they represented their country. We showed already yesterday we could come back strong. And today, we showed we have nerves of steel. We gave a good battle on the water. We kept fighting until the end. It was not the best of starts but it did not leave us out of the race. We saw there was an opportunity on the right side with a pressure right away and then after that we were able to control the fleet. We did some small mistakes on Mark 3, but we had enough margin that allowed us to keep our position.

At the end, winning the race was incredible. We did not think we could catch up with Venezuela and then our tactician on the downwind Leg 4 did an amazing job. The team did a great job to make our boat go fast which is super tricky in these conditions.

This qualification means the world to Peru. We are extremely proud to have achieved this. We set a precedent and we hope people will be more motivated to come sailing and admire our heroes who proved themselves today.

Pablo Lorca, Captain of SSL Team Chile: "We are very happy, fortunately we finished the day as we had hoped, qualifying for the Final Series. It was a tough day, super light wind conditions, but we managed the race in the correct way, we covered the Uruguayan team and finally we finished second and we are going to Bahrain".

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