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470 European Championship in San Remo, Italy - Overall

by Andy Rice 20 May 11:30 PDT 14-20 May 2023

Anton Dahlberg and Lovisa Karlsson (SWE) have won the 470 European Championship by a single point after a tense Medal Race in San Remo, Italy.

The points were so close that it took a few minutes before anyone could be sure of who had won. Eventually the cheer went up from the Swedish boat as Dahlberg and Karlsson realised they had successfully defended the European title they won in Turkey eight months earlier. Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort (GER) took silver and Hippolyte Machetti and Aloïse Retornaz (FRA) had to settle for bronze.

The conditions for the two-lap course were not at all straightforward. The wind was gusting and swirling off the Italian cliffs, never consistent, always patchy, varying between 8 to 14 knots. The unpredictable breeze made it very hard to defend a lead but offered up opportunities to attack.

Machetti and Retornaz sailed a brilliant race, pumping and working the boat to great effect down the first run to move into the lead ahead of Japan. The breeze continued to prove unreliable and fickle. But the French sailed a very good final windward leg to extend their lead a little more, to around 40 metres. As the positions stood, with Sweden and Germany battling away in the back half of the pack, gold would go to France who had started the day in third.

Having profited from gybing out to sea on the first downwind, the leading French did the same again. However, their teammates who had moved up to second at the final windward leg, Camille Lecointre and Jérémie Mion (FRA), did a straight set on starboard gybe. It proved to be the better decision.

When the two French converged towards the bottom gate for the last sprint reach to the finish, they were neck and neck. Machetti/ Retornaz had the inside line at the mark, but turning on to the reach they were judged by the umpires to have not kept clear of Lecointre/ Mion who luffed their rivals and scorched across the finish line in first place. Forced to take down the spinnaker and execute a 360 degree turn, Machetti and Retornaz relinquished their hard-won lead and by the time they had got going again they slipped to fourth place across the finish.

It was a horrible way for the French to conclude what had otherwise been a well-sailed race, and it opened the door for Sweden and Germany to overtake them in the standings. Dahlberg and Karlsson reached across the line in seventh place, immediately behind the Germans. Carrying a 3-point advantage going into the race, at least the Swedes knew they had beaten Diesch and Markfort.

As to the gold however, for some agonising minutes the Swedish boat waited silently before the official points were eventually confirmed. Never one to disguise his emotions, Dahlberg was ecstatic, punching the damp air in sunny delight. "We were lucky but we feel so happy," he grinned. "The French dropped some important points in the end which was unfortunate for them, but it was enough to make the small difference in our favour. It's such a relief to defend our European Championship."

Karlsson paid tribute to the Germans and the French they had just beaten. "It's an honour to race against them, we had to fight really hard all week and the standard in the fleet is going up all the time," she said.

Anna Markfort had few regrets, even if she and Diesch had missed gold by such a small margin. "If you'd have offered us a silver medal at the European Championships at the start of the week, we'd have grabbed it," she said. "I'm exhausted, physically, mentally, everything! We've pushed ourselves all week and we're really pleased with how we've sailed."

At the prize-giving later in the afternoon Machetti was still hurting at the missed opportunity in the Medal Race, just those final 100 metres of the reach to get the gold. "But I'm still happy we came away with a medal, a bronze, when so many boats were in contention. It was a learning experience, a tough one, but we're getting better and a medal this week is a sign of moving in the right direction."

International 470 Class president Dimitris Dimou paid tribute to Yacht Club San Remo and Marina degli Aregai for hosting such a successful event. "I can't think of a better venue for celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 470," he said. "We have seen perfect 470 weather this week, tough conditions that most boats would not be able to handle, and the sailors have fought hard and fair for the whole week."

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