AARHUS, D.K. (August 6, 2018) — The 2018 Hempel Sailing World Championships has hit the city of Aarhus with full force. Opening ceremonies completed on August 2 herded 1,400 sailors, representing 85 nations to the city center with live performances and country presentations.
August 2 also marked the first official day of racing for the multi-class event. With 10 Olympic classes and two kiteboarding classes all converging into one event, the sheer size and magnitude of these World Championships rivals three-times the size of the Rio Olympic Games Sailing Event. Orchestrating racing means the race committee has staggered start days, as well as times per class, deploying two new classes into each daily lineup spread across over nine courses straddling a bustling ferry channel. The Finns, Men’s and Women’s 470s started their World Championships in a less than desirable forecast with oscillating breezes that at one point, during the Men’s 470 race concluded in a 180 degree shift. Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.), European Champions in the 2015 Aarhus event felt the burden of this shift, dropping from 10th to 27th in a moment’s notice.
“We were the victim of a fleet inversion on the last down wind. As an athlete, you need to deal with whatever conditions are in front of you, but on the same note, we definitely were frustrated with how the race was managed in those conditions, especially on the first day of the event,” said Stu McNay.
McNay and Hughes came back on Day 2 with fresh perspectives, a bit of drive to over perform, and a heaping side of perfectionism as qualification rounds mean only one race can be dropped, prior to fleet splits. A 1st,12th,1st on Day 3, then a 12th, 9th, mean they are obviously capable, yet as mentioned before, they are approaching this regatta without pretense.
The Finn class saw struggles as well, but 22 year old Luke Muller (Fort Pierce, Fla.), seemed to have found his way producing two straight bullets within the Blue fleet on Day 2. Day 3 saw less than stellar performances, but Muller and Olympic Bronze Medalist Caleb Paine, both newly appointed team members of the AC 36 Team American Magic, understand this is part of the process. As their veteran coach Luther Carpenter says, “In such a long regatta, a 17 or a 12 might not seem great, but in actuality, it isn’t that bad.”
Two-time Olympian Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), came into this World Championship with an extremely mature attitude:“You’d be lying if you say you didn’t get nervous before a World Championship. I’ve tried to keep a mentality that centers on the fight.” Railey’s mentality translated to a 2nd and a 1st place finish on Day 2, and a top ten scorecard thereafter.
“No matter where I am on the race course, I’m not going to give up [because]— you just can’t. Centering [my mind] on the fact that it’s not about the results in this moment, it’s about how can I be the best athlete in this moment. When I was younger, I focused more on the end, and now I just focus on the task at hand,” remarks Railey.
Erika Reineke (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who had a 2nd place podium finish at the 2017 Aarhus Sailing Week Test Event, is taking a bit longer to find her groove, though her Day 4 performance of a 7th and a 3rd prove she is putting in the work. Haddon Hughes, who placed fifth at the same event, has chipped away garnering some top ten finishes, yet also feeling tried by the geographical venue.
Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.), who did not place in the top quarter in the 2017 Test event, came back for redemption. Buckingham has placed solidly in the top ten, with his lowest score only being a ninth until Day 4. “The expectation for this event is to put together a year’s worth of work since last year’s Worlds. It’s going to be a very accurate depiction of where I’m at relative to the fleet. Everyone is at his best here.” US Sailing Team member Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.) came out strong with a second place finish to start his series, but Day 3 errors caused a major drop in Race 3. Barnard came back with a punch in Race 4 with a fourth place finish, and a steadier Day 4 bringing him ahead of countrymen and fellow Newport Beach sailor Buckingham.
USA athletes Nevin Snow (San Diego, Calif.) and Mac Agnese (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who have been campaigning together since 2017, felt the adrenaline of competing in their first multi-class World Championships on the Stadium course, setting an impressive tone with a third place finish right out of the gate to start their series.
US Sailing Team athletes Judge Ryan (San Diego, Calif.) and Hans Henken (Coronado, Calif.) kept themselves within the top 20 for Day 3, just behind Andrew Mollerus (Larchmont, N.Y.) and Ian MacDiarmid (Delray Beach, Fla.). Yet Day 4 seemed to have gotten the best of the USA 49er squad, resulting in a few capsizes and less than stellar results after many were leading races into the day. Coach Mark Asquith notes he’s not thrilled about the teams finishes, but looks into the days ahead with hope; “They all have the speed, and they can get amongst the top of the fleet, but the third leg presents unnecessary errors for a lot of them. Gold fleet is not unattainable, and I’m hopeful they can achieve this,” said Mark Asquith.
Test Event podium finishers Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) have spent two months plus training in Europe, helping aid their climbing success. First day jitters came, as expected with varying scores leading into Day 4, vying for consistency to slowly appear. It’s very apparent by their coach, 2015 49er FX World Champion Giulia Conte, who noted, “They know what to do, they just need to confidently remember that.”
Rio Olympians Bora Gulari (Detroit, Mich.) and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.) [Olympians in the Nacra 17 and 49erFX, respectively] just may have been the most eager to start this regatta after a severe injury to helmsman, Gulari, prior to the Nacra 17 World Championships in Grand La Motte, France. Scutt also suffered a delaying injury during a training camp in Argentina. Both have worked extremely hard for the past year to rebuild the work they established in better health.
“It’s still early days for us given our injuries, so if we can walk away feeling like we sailed well at a big event, then that’s the next step for us. Qualifying the country is the results goal, but to achieve this you need to focus on the little things in the process,” said Scutt.
The 18-22 knots across the race course tested and tried the four USA Nacras. US Sailing Team members Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Louisa Chafee (Warwick, R.I.) started strong with a well-earned fourth, yet suffered a mast break after Race 2 while trying to edge into sixth place on the finish causing a retirement from Race 3. Partners Sarah Newberry (Biscayne Park, Fla.) and David Liebenberg (Livermore, Calif.) made an impressive start to their series by posting a 2nd,11th, and 8th score line. They both agree they are feeling in sync with their sailing.
The RS:X squad, incuding recent Youth World Champion Geronimo Nores (Miami, Fla.), and Rio Olympian Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.), displayed mid-fleet results: “We have a young squad of males, and my hopes for Geronimo [specifically] is to keep developing his good material that he’s built. This is his third competition in Europe, and first at an open Worlds, so we aim to have him in the Gold fleet — and after today, we are happy with where he is,” states RS:X Coach Yaniv Meir after their series start.
Day 4 breeze had turned on during the late afternoon start on the kite course, which lies just east of the International Danish Sailing Center. Daniela Moroz (Lafayette, Calif.) has completely set the caliber of racing finishing with a strong 2,1,1. This is no surprise for US Sailing’s 2017 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.
Malcolm Page and support staff are in complete business mode, creating a true Olympic environment for the athletes from coordinating team physiotherapist sessions, sports psychology sessions, team house down time, and one-on-one coaching.
After a dishearteningly long and weak winded Day 5, the sailors look forward in hopes to better breeze during the gold and silver splits for each of the 12 classes. Medal racing begins on Thursday, August 9 for Finns and Men’s & Women’s 470s.
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