Oft recited at sailing regattas is the mantra; ‘You can’t win on the first day but you sure can lose’, so a little nervousness on day one of every regatta. Today was no different for the sailors from 32 countries, 59 women’s crew and 72 men’s crew racing at the 2017 470 Worlds on the Bay of Thessaloniki, abeam of Greece’s second largest city.
Three races for both men and women’s fleets. A postcard day, cloudless day, 33 degrees at the Nautical Club of Thessaloniki, but cooler on the water with a 14-knot sea breeze.
Now looking towards Tokyo 2020, after their Olympic Silver medal in Rio, dual Olympic medalists Mat Belcher, Rio 2016 Olympic crew Will Ryan and coach Victor Kovalenko have recast their racing program, reducing the number of international regattas and increasing the amount of training time in Australia. As a result, each regatta now assumes more importance.
Belcher won six Olympic class 470 world championships in a row, the last three with Will Ryan in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and ahead of Rio 2016 they were looking for a seventh title in San Isidro Argentina. But by their standards, the 2016 World Championship was a Day One disaster. Thirty third after the first day, the Australia duo sailed back into the series to take a bronze medal.
Three races today, Swedes Anton Dahlberg (a triple Olympian) from Beijing onwards and Fredrik Bergstrom who joined him in London had the best overall result with a first, second and first. Belcher and Ryan sailed conservatively with a fourth, fourth and first, taking second overall, thirty-one places better than their last World’s first day.
The Cinar brothers from Turkey are third, American’s McNay and Hughes, who were fourth in Rio 2016 in fourth place, Mantis and Kaglialis, the Greek duo are fifth and Bargehr and Mahr (AUT) sixth. Fellow Australians Chris Charlwood and Josh Dawson with an 11th, 10th and 10th are 22nd.
After racing today Belcher commented ‘This is a key event for us, on the Tokyo trail. We sailed here for a week, really checking the conditions. Today was a tricky day on very tricky waters. More than at many venues, starting is very critical here and trying to get yourself in position for the top mark is extremely important, as the opportunities to come back on the downwind are really limited. Today was a great day for us but it’s going to be a really long week.’
Will Ryan expanded ’Good breeze, up to 14 knots, but that might be the strongest day we have all week. The pressure was up and down, so we were happy with two fourths and then the last race we won.
‘We were well positioned, halfway up the first upwind and then it started to go a little bit funky and we were disadvantaged but at the end it came back. We were side by side with the Americans around the top mark but we just managed to squeeze ahead on the downwind and hold from there.
‘But by comparison with the water weed in Argentina, which required boats to stop and clear their rudders time after time, (as often as 20 times in a race), it was a dream.’
Victor Kovalenko summed up ‘They did a fantastic job today, I am very proud to be their coach. A much better day than the first day of the Argentina Worlds.’
In the 470 Women’s fleet it was a perfect day for Britain’s Hannah Mills and Eilidh McInytre, leading the Women’s fleet overall with three bullets. In second place, the Slovenia’s Mirak and Macarol with China’s Wang and Gao in third.
A slow start from the Australian women with Nia Jerwood and Monique De Vries scoring a 14th, 11th and seventh placing them 25th while Rio Olympians Carrie Smith and Jamie Ryan with a pair of 16s and seventh are 29th. Dana Tavener and Katherine Shannon with a 25th, 27th and 17th are 48th. Shelley White and Amelia Catt with a 28th, 21st and 24th are 53rdoverall.
Jaime Ryan said ‘It was a tricky day for us today, a lot of fighting back through the fleet as we're still finding our form after a lot of time out of the boat and some ups and down in our preparation! That said we're happy to have improved each race and ready to fight for some more improvements tomorrow to cement our place in Gold fleet’
There are two more races in the qualifying series, then the fleets will be split into Gold and Silver for another six races, finishing on Friday. On Saturday, the top 10 from both Men and Womens Gold fleets will sail in the double points medal races.
Australian Sailing Team (AST) & Squad (ASS) at 470 Worlds 2017 Thessaloniki
Men’s Two Person Dinghy - 470M
Mat Belcher (QAS) and Will Ryan (QAS) (AST): 2nd, (4),4,1
Chris Charlwood (WAIS) and Joshua Dawson (NSWIS): 22nd, (11),10,10
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470W
Nia Jerwood (WAIS) and Monique De Vries (WAIS): 23rd, (13),11,6
Carrie Smith (WAIS) and Jaime Ryan (NSWIS) (AST): 28th, (16),15,7
Dana Tavener (NSWIS) and Katherine Shannon (NSWIS): 47th, 23,(27),16
Shellee White (QAS) and Amelia Catt (TIS): 50th, (28),20,24
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RESULTS here: http://2017worlds.470.org/en/default/races/race