On a tense final day, defending 470 World Champions Lara Vadlau/Jola Ogar (AUT) and Mat Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS) cleaned up in the double-points Medal Race to secure the gold medals.
Continuing the light wind theme that has dominated throughout the 470 World Championship, the breeze hovered just above 8 knots. Enough to allow pumping, making it an intensively physical 25 minute windward/leeward race for each fleet.
Going into today’s Medal Race there was far greater certainty of the outcome in the 470 Women, than the 470 Men. Ultimately it was gold to Lara Vadlau/Jola Ogar (AUT), silver to Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark (GBR) and bronze to Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance (FRA).
For series leaders Vadlau/Ogar, the tipping point to victory came yesterday. Whilst other gold medal contenders were eating points, the Austrians scored a 1,3 to take them to the end game, only needing one boat behind them in the medal race to secure gold.
“Yesterday was a fantastic day and we made a fantastic job, keeping it simple,” explained Vadlau.
In the Medal Race,the worst case would be if second placed Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark (GBR) won the race and the Austrians finished last, then gold would transfer to the British – an unlikely scenario by anyone’s prediction. Unbelievably that is exactly the situation they found themselves in during the first downwind as Vadlau explained.
“I had since yesterday such a feeling. When people said come on it’s done, don’t worry, I mean 18 points, its all done, I was thinking that anything could happen. You never know in sailing and I saw that today in the first downwind today when we were last and the Brits were first. I thought I knew it, and then I said to myself, Lara now you have to press the button to push forwards and get some boats. But sailing is sailing and you never know or can be really sure.
“It is really special," grinned Vadlau. “We didn’t come here to defend our title as I had a really bad year with injury, and then we had not a really good boat and we had to fight back all the time. And then with all the hard work, it pays off. It feels amazing."
Since partnering up after the 2012 Olympics and going through the process of securing Ogar’s nationality from Polish to Austrian, the pair have been on an upwards path.
“I think this is for us as a surprise. We knew we were well prepared before the Championship and could fight for the medal, but getting gold we knew we had to sail brilliantly," said Ogar. "Our new coach has enabled us to put our improvement to a really high level. We put all our power to gain upwind and downwind and we just fought to the end, pumping like hell to gain. It’s hard to express what I feel inside. When you cross the line and win, it is just unbelievably nice. Second time for us is huge," she finished.
Great Britain’s Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark, the 2012 Olympic silver medallists, had a mountain to climb today. They had to win the Medal Race to have any hope of overturning the Austrians. Sailing an unbelievable upwind, they had the lead by mark 1, extending throughout the next three legs to win by around half a minute.
“We really wanted to come out and have a strategy and execute that strategy well, which we did, and it turned out to be the right one,“ said Mills. “It is super nice to execute a medal race how you want to and it is quite a high pressure situation. Even though we were guaranteed a medal there is still that glimmer of hope for gold and obviously you want to hang onto silver, so it is always stressful. It was a super exciting race.
“It was tight around the first mark, we just got around ahead and then sailed a good couple of shifts downwind to extend a bit more. One of the leeward marks was a bit biased, so we went to that and the wind was oscillating quite regularly, so as soon you are ahead and you are leading into shifts it is a lot easier. Whereas everyone behind is battling for lanes and battling for shifts. Its much easier once you have your nose out ahead, to stay out ahead.”
On the first downwind there was a tiny chink in the Austrian’s armour, as Clark continued, “We were having a discussion downwind about what to do, and whether to go defensive on the French, when Hannah said ‘hang on, the Austrians are near the back'. So we had a brief flicker of hope, but the Austrians sailed a great race and got quite a lot of boats back. Hats off to the Austrians, they have sailed an amazing week and then yesterday they absolutely nailed it."
On the road to Rio, a podium finish is a superb benchmark of performance. “Winning a Worlds medal is cool, really, really cool," acknowledged Mills. "It is huge for us and it is nice to take stock after a long season and appreciate how well we have done and the ground we have made, yet still realise there is a long way to go for us as a team. We have big improvements to make in the next 10 months, but you have to celebrate along the way for sure.”
Marking a career best performance, Camille Lecointre/Helene Defance sealed bronze after a 7th in the medal race.
“It was a hard week with a lot of ups and downs,” said Lecointre. “The medal race was a bit different than usual because there were a lot of points between the boats, so it was a bit more relaxed, but there is always a risk. So when we saw the British were first, we had to control the Kiwis to secure bronze. We felt we didn’t sail so well, but we did the job, so it is just great.”
“The first Worlds we did together before was Santander and we finished fourth, so it is an improvement. This is all positive and I am glad because we are getting better and that’s good. We are improving and this results show it,” commented Defrance.
“I am really happy and I don’t know how to describe it. It is something I have been looking for. A podium at the Worlds is great, and next year we will have the goal to win it. This year having a medal, for me, is something I have thought about for many years since I have first started.”
“It feels much better than when you finish fourth," chipped inLecointre, referring to her results from the 2014 and 2013 Worlds. “Here we were really focused and managed well. The time between the Rio Test Event and here, we trained and we rested a bit to ensure we had good energy here.”
With the medals wrapped up at the front of the fleet, further back it was all about whether Australia or Spain would claim the final ticket on offer at the Worlds to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Carrie Smith/Jamie Ryan (AUS) went into the Medal Race carrying the points advantage for Olympic qualification, and a 6th place finished confirmed the spot over Spain's Marina Gallego/Fatima Reyes.
Smith/Ryan’s performance here has marked an impressive return to World Class competition after injury has forced them off the race track since the 2014 ISAF Worlds.
“It’s been a tough year for us this year healthwise, so for us to come and do this is pretty special. We have been out of the boat most of the year and this just proves what you can do,” said Smith.
The three nations securing their place (subject to ISAF ratification) to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are Poland, Germany and Australia.
470 Women – Final Top 10
1. Lara Vadlau/Jolanta Ogar (AUT 431) - 43 pts
2. Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark (GBR 118) - 55 pts
3. Camille Lecointre/Helene Defrance (FRA 9) - 79 pts
4. Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (NZL 75) - 85 pts
5. Afrodite Kyranakou/Anneloes Van Veen (NED 216) - 101 pts
6. Agnieszka Skrzypulec/Irmina Mrozek Gliszczynska (POL 11) - 105 pts
7. Anne Haeger/Briana Provancha (USA 1712) - 111 pts
8. Annika Bochmann/Marlene Steinherr (GER 72) - 128 pts
9. Carrie Smith/Jaime Ryan (AUS 99) - 145 pts
10. Marina Gallego/Fatima Reyes (ESP 33) - 160 pts
With just 1 point separating the first and second placed teams, Mat Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS) and Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO), the job on the race track was simple. Having traded places throughout the preceding 11 races, in a fitting end to the Championship, whoever finished ahead would win. But equally, they couldn't get caught in their own two-boat battle, as they might just as easily be off the podium.
There was no fear of that as the Australians hurtled off the start line, taking the lead at the first mark, with Croatia right behind by the first downwind. Heading back upwind, Spain’s Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp took over the lead, with the Aussies and Croatians settling into lanes behind, with Belcher/Ryan staying ahead to finish in 4th - enough for them to take gold.
“It’s a World Championship and everyone’s looking to come out and win,” commented Belcher. “We started the Championship really well. Sometimes it just really goes your way and we had three wins, but sort of midway the wheels fell off a bit. The conditions are so difficult and we made it quite tough on ourselves. It’s a real credit to the Croatian team and to the others how close this Championship was. I guess we are really proud to be able to come back to the front and put together a solid final series after our first day of results. To come away with a win here is pretty special. It was close and a nice battle.”
The gold medal marks their third successive victory as a team, and Belcher’s sixth 470 World Championship title in a row.
“It just shows how great our system is,” said Belcher, “and the effort everyone is putting in. It’s also about keeping in the right mind state to be able to perform at this level. Today was just as much physcological as performance. We tried to get the first cross and succeeded in that. It’s a special feeling to defend your Championship title.”
Former Optimist World Champion Fantela has stood on the 470 World Championship podium time and time again over the eleven 470 World Championships contested with crew Igor Marenic. Since winning the 470 World title in 2009, the Croatians have added three bronze and one silver medal to their trophy cabinet – with 2015 marking their second silver.
“It is something that we are really proud of,” acknowledged Fantela. “Somehow at the Worlds we always do really well, we are always focused and always on form. This year and last we got second behind the Australians, and this year was really, really close. So it means we are in a good way, and hopefully come Rio we will do the same stuff.”
Talking through the race, Fantela added, “It was really tense and I really enjoyed it. Sailing is all about the Medal Race now. We were close, so who finished first would win, but also Russia and the Swedish had theoretical chances. We stayed calm until the start, and then the Australians attacked and we defended. They were ahead, but we caught on the downwind, and in the second upwind we made a good tactical decision to tack left. But then we made a mistake when they tacked and we didn’t stay close to them, and that was when we lost our chance for the title. These are usually our toughest conditions, so I am really happy we managed to pull it off.”
“This means a lot but we are trying not to put any pressure on,” continued Marenic. “We just try to sail every regatta like it is a Worlds or an Olympics, so we are 100% in every regatta and that is how we sail. So we will do the same next year at the Worlds, Europeans and of course the Olympics.”
Russia’s Pavel Sozyskin/Denis Gribanov made sailing history today, by becoming the first Russian team ever to win a medal at a 470 World Championship. The pair sailed a superb series, finished the medal race in third, and easily claimed bronze, to mark a career best result.
“This year we have worked really hard,” said Gribanov, also making reference to the bronze medal they secured at the 470 Europeans in June 2015. “We have trained a lot and we have shown we can do it and believed what we can do.”
The team are heading straight back to Russia to compete in the 470 National Championships, and work towards securing their national qualification to Rio 2016.
In a repeat of the scorecard at last year’s Worlds, the Medal Race win went to Spain’s Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp. Four years after they competed in their first 470 World Championship, the fourth place finish marks their best ever result.
“We knew the only way we could get bronze was to win the medal race and then wait for the mistake of the others,” explained Xammar. “The points were really close and we did it. We had a good start and sailed well.”
The six nations securing their place (subject to ISAF ratification) to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are Finland, Germany, Argentina, Turkey, South Africa and Israel.
470 Men – Final Top 10
1. Mathew Belcher/Will Ryan (AUS 11) - 57 pts
2. Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic (CRO 83) - 62 pts
3. Pavel Sozykin/Denis Gribanov (RUS 5) - 69 pts
4. Jordi Xammar/Joan Herp (ESP 44) - 73 pts
5. Joonas Lindgren/Niklas Lindgren (FIN 7) - 77 pts
6. Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE 349) - 83 pts
7. Onán Barreiros Rodríguez/Juan Curbelo Cabrera (ESP 9) - 85 pts
8. Carl-Fredrik Fock/Marcus Dackhammar (SWE 350) - 90 pts
9. Ferdinand Gerz/Oliver Szymanski (GER 10) - 94 pts
10. Luke Patience/Elliot Willis (GBR 868) - 110 pts
Up next on the 470 Championship programme will be the 2016 470 World Championship in San Isidro, Argentina from 20-17 February 2016, followed by the 2016 470 European Championship in Palma, Mallorca from 5-12 April 2016.
Rio 2016 Olympic Qualification
The 2015 470 World Championships was an Olympic Qualification event for the Rio 2016 Olympics, with 6 nation places on offer in the 470 Men and 3 in the 470 Women. Find out more about qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and details of nations already qualified.
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