Next weekend the Men's and Women's 470 classes converge on the Hague, the Netherlands, for the start of their 2010 World Championship, sponsored by Delta Lloyd.
Taking place over 12-18 July, this year's 470 World Championships feature 123 provisional entries in the Men's division, and 65 in the Women's. Demonstrating once again the global popularity of the 470 as an Olympic class, 40 nations will be represented.
The line-up racing off The Hague features all the top contenders in the 470 class, including past World Champions and Olympic medallists. Australian Malcolm Page, Gold medallist in Beijing, returns with his new crew Matt Belcher having finished fifth at the World Championships in Denmark last year. Currently second in the world rankings the duo arrive at the Worlds on a high having most recently won the 470 Men's class at Kieler Woche. In fact Page is not the only 470 Men's Beijing Olympic medallist now with a new crew - bronze medallist, France's Nicolas Charbonnier now sails with Baptiste Meyer Dieu. They are currently eighth in the ISAF rankings having won this year's Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyeres.
Looking to defend their World Championship title will be Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic. Currently no6 in the ISAF rankings, these Croatian sailors have had a good season so far, podiuming in four of the six regattas they have competed in.
'This year we have had great results," agrees Fantela. 'We were fighting for the medal in Palma, we did bronze in Kiel and also in Medemblik. We had good preparations and training and we feel really good. Maybe 10 boats can win the Championship. So we'll go there and sail our own race and see what happens."
Also expected to be at the top of the Men's 470 will be two of the longest standing members of the class. Israel's Gideon Kliger is currently no3 in the world and in the past has come third in three World Championships in 2008, 2007 and 2006. Since the beginning of this season Kliger has been racing with a new crew in Eran Sela, but despite this they have never finished out of the top eight so far this year.
Like Kliger, the Dutch brothers Sven and Calle Coster have been in the Men's 470 for more than a decade and they have been no1 in the world rankings almost continuously since the Beijing Games, but have dropped to fifth in the latest ISF rankings. This is to due to the Costers having had a slow start to their season: Sven Coster has had an infection of the L3-L4 vertebrae and is in the middle of a 9-10 month recovery period. In addition, at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma he suffered a throat injection so bad that he had to return to Holland for surgery.
'We didn't sail much in the first five months of this year. The results haven't been great this year, but everything is focussed on the Worlds - it all feels good," assures Sven Coster.
Also on top form are two time World Champions in 2008 and 2006 Nick Asher and Elliot Willis (GBR). They won the Delta Lloyd Regatta in the Netherlands this year - so perhaps Dutch waters could be lucky for the British duo again?
In the Women's 470, the class act this year has been the 2009 European Champions Guilia Conti and Giovanna Micol from Italy, no2 in the ISAF rankings. To date in 2010 they have won both the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma and Delta Lloyd and have not been out of the top four in the other events they have contested. However hot on their heels are the present World no1s, Ingrid Petitjean and Nadège Douroux from France, who have not been out of the top eight at the six regattas they have competed in this season and have podiumed no less than four times.
They will face strong competition in Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout (NED), who aside from being the local favourites are also the defending World Champions. In Denmark last year they demolished the opposition to win by 26 points, despite having only sailed together for three months previous. Currently ranked sixth in the world, both Westerhof and Berkhout are highly experienced 470 sailors: Westerhof represented the Netherlands at the Games in Athens while Berkhout and her then helm Marcelien de Koning returned from Beijing with the silver medal.
Despite being unbeatable in 2009, winning not only the Worlds but Skandia Sail For Gold and Keiler Woche, Westerhof and Berkhout had a disappointing start to their 2010 season and have only recently redeemed themselves scoring a silver at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik.
'We knew from last year that we still had a lot to do," admits Berkhout. 'We won all the events we sailed last year, but we still had to go through different things, like communication together, etc and we still had to grow as a team. We took the spring for that and it has been a good learning curve and at the Delta Lloyd Regatta we proved we are still one of the best teams. We will certainly have the possibility to be in the top three at the Worlds."
However as young British duo Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell proved when they finished second at the 470 Worlds last year, predicting form in the 470 is always hard and this year there is a particularly strong influx of Juniors.
In the Hague next week will be both the 2009 and 2008 women's two person dinghy gold medallists from the Youth Worlds, albeit with new crew - Britain's 2008 champion Frances Peters is now with Eilidh Mcintyre, while Brazil's Martine Soffiatti Grael, who won last year, is racing with Isabel Swan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist. The 2009 boy's gold medallist Philip Sparks is competing too, also with a new crew in Chris Grube.
Sparks, aged 17 and from Christchurch on the south coast of the UK, paired up with Grube last September. The duo have been competing at all the events they can including Kieler Woche, Delta Lloyd, Hyeres and Rolex Miami OCR this year, but he admits: 'We have been quite inconsistent because we haven't had enough time yet to put a consistent series together across the wind range, so it is hard to predict how you think you will do." This will be Sparks' first time at a 470 World Championship. 'I am looking forward to it - a proper event that counts for something and involves a bit of pressure it would be good," he says.
Reigning World Championship Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic who Junior 470 World Champions in 2007 advise that of those who have just left the Juniors, France's Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion should be watched. So far this year have finished inside the top 10 at all the regattas they have competed in and in 2009 were both the 470 Junior World Champions and 470 Junior European Champions.
The Delta Lloyd 470 World Championship starts with a practice race on Sunday 11 July, followed by a qualification series over 12-14 July, the final series over 15-18 July, culminating in the medal races. Tracking - for both classes and all races - can be followed through the Delta Lloyd 470 World Championship website http://470worlds2010.com/.
About the International 470 Class
The International 470 Class is the class of boat used for both the men's two person and women's two person dinghy events at the Olympic Games. Used as Olympic equipment since 1976, where the class was sailed as an open event before the introduction of separate events for men and women in 1988, the 470 is sailed in more than 60 nations around the world.
A strict one design class, the 470 has proved its pedigree as an Olympic class, being a high performance sailing dinghy suitable for body weights from all continents and to performing across a wide range of weather conditions. Across the 9 Olympic Games in which the 470 Class has been raced, more than 18 different nations have secured Olympic medals in the men's and women's events, demonstrating the depth of participation and talent.
The International 470 Class is responsible for the organization and administration of the 470 Class around the world and is committed to ensuring the interests of 470 sailing are represented and to encouraging, promoting and developing the 470 Class throughout the world.
Ambitious The Hague
The Hague, the international city by the sea, considers the sailing sport of paramount importance. The Hague is aiming to become the heartbeat of the Dutch coastal yachting and especially of the Delta Lloyd Olympic Sailing Team of the Netherlands. In May 2009, the International Top Sailing Centre The Hague opened its doors. Hosting the Delta Lloyd 470 World Championships 2010 is a major step in the ambition to become a leading national and international yachting venue.
About Delta Lloyd
Delta Lloyd Insurance sponsors sailing and water sports. In addition, Delta Lloyd is the official partner of the Dutch Water Sports Association and the title sponsor of the Delta Lloyd Olympic Squad: the elite sailors preparing for the Olympic Games. They sponsor the Delta Lloyd 24-hour Sailing Race, the Delta Lloyd North Sea Regatta, the World Cup Delta Lloyd Regatta, the Delta Lloyd Sailing Proficiency Centre, the HISWA in-water boat show and the Delta Lloyd Open Dutch Championships, Olympic Classes. The company also competed in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 under the name of Team Delta Lloyd.
Calm before the storm
July 12, 2010- Conditions transpired against the possibility of racing on the opening day of the Delta Lloyd 470 World Championships, taking place off the Hague, Holland.
The final tally of entries taking part in this resort town, best known for being the home of the International Court of Justice, comes to 119 men and 62 women. Chilean sailors, Aurelia Zulueta and Josefina Eluchans have had to stand down, but there has been an 11th hour entry in the 470 Men's class from India in Pushparajan Muttu and Nijeesh Bhaskaran so there are still 39 nations competing.
After a delay ashore until 2pm (local), the Men's and Women's fleets ventured out into a near mill pond, as they did their best to not be thrown around too much by the tide. But with storm clouds looming and no start looking possible, the fleets were sent back ashore – just in time. The lack of wind this afternoon proved to be the calm before the storm for at around 5pm suddenly the heavens opened and there was driving rain and 40 knot gusts. Just over half the fleet had made it safely to land when this struck, but some weren't so lucky. This included the Swedes Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Östling, who last Wednesday moved into the no.1 position in the new ISAF rankings.
Dahlberg explained what happened: "When the wind came we were being towed and we were doing a change in the towing. The wind caught us by surprise and we ripped our sails. So we are looking for new sails at the moment. It wasn't the best way to come into the Worlds...”
After a consistent season so far that has seen them finish on the podium at three regattas leading up to the Worlds, so Dahlberg, who typically sails from Stockholm or Gothenberg, says they were hoping for similar success this week.
"It is really big for us - it is like a goal you had in your life and suddenly it is there,” he adds of their ranking. "It has been a really good season. Our consistency has been the best. We have been focussed.”
For others the sudden violent downpour came as more of a surprise. Pakistan's entry in the 470 Men, Xerxes Avari and Mehboob Rafiq, have been sailing in the class for eight years and this is their third World Championship. "We do get rain in Pakistan, but let's hope we get a better day tomorrow,” said Avari.
Avari and Rafiq usually sail out of Karachi where they are currently trying to coax more of their compatriots into racing them the Olympic doublehander. "At the moment there are only two 470s and the other guy doesn't come out very much!” states Avari. "So we mostly sail on our own, but we are trying to get a few more people involved.”
In terms of local competition they have competed in Pakistan for the right to go to the Asian Games, where they finished "way, way down” according to Avari, who adds they are keeping their fingers crossed for a mid-fleet result this week off the Hague. "It is good fun, but it is very competitive.”
So will there be racing tomorrow? According to Delta Lloyd 470 World Championship Event Director Edwin Lodder the forecast for tomorrow should be better than today. However they do have some flexibility. There is no time limit on when they can start racing, and Lodder says that if conditions prove awkward again this week they have the option of keeping the boats out into the evening. "We want people back before 9pm We don't want to finish them in the dark or having them back in the harbour after dark.”
The forecast has the wind veering through 180 degrees tonight into the northeast. During the day it is supposed to build steadily from 5-10 knots at lunchtime to 10-15 later in the afternoon.
Return to Qingdao
July 13, 2010- After a first day lost initially to too little wind and then too much, it was with considerable relief that three races for the Men and two for the Women could be held off the Hague today at the Delta Lloyd 470 World Championship. But with breeze that ranged from 4-8 knots and shut down altogether at the start of the third race for the men, and the north-flowing tide building to 2-3 knots over the course of the afternoon, conditions were highly challenging.
Class act of the day was certainly Beijing Gold medallist Malcolm Page (AUS) and his new (since 2009) helm Matt Belcher, who scored a perfect 1-1-1 to take the lead in the Men's class. 'It was tricky conditions," commented Belcher. 'We were lucky at certain times, but we are starting quite well, with good judgement, sailing smart and putting the boat in the right position." Belcher acknowledged that good fortune particularly smiled on them in the final race when there was a pile up as two fleets converged at the final mark. Keeping clear enabled them to leap from third place into first for the final run into the finish.
Page and Belcher reckon they have trained less off the Hague than other top teams, but, while they deny it, they are riding the crest of a wave coming straight from victory at Kieler Wocher, following on from second places at the Delta Lloyd Regatta and Rolex Miami OCR - a set of results enabling them to walk away with this year's Sailing World Cup win in the 470 Men, with a regatta to spare.
Double World Champions, Skandia Team GBR's Nic Asher and Elliot Willis won the first two races in their group, but posted an 11th in the third, leaving them third overall, six points adrift of France's highly consistent Nicolas Charbonnier and Baptiste Meyer Dieu.
According to Asher the key to success in today's races with the powerful tide intent on taking the boats across the line, was starting well as this would launch you up the beat with the favourable tide. 'There wasn't much going on shift-wise. It was mostly downwind, because then we were into the tide so if you were quick downwind, you could get away."
In the Women's 470, American 2008 World Champions Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar matched the Australian men with a perfect scoreline. 'The current definitely helped us," said Maxwell. 'Where we grew up, there's a lot of current between Long Island and the mainland coast." Her crew reckoned that they had done well upwind, tacking into good lanes with clean air enabling them to make fewer tacks.
At the end of play today the Americans are followed closely by New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie who posted two seconds and the Netherland's Margriet Fokkema and Marieke Jongens on five points, the highly rated Dutch defending World Champions Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout having finished a disappointing 19th in the first race, after they were forced to recover from an OCS.
Jo Aleh, who finished seventh in the Laser Radial at the 2008 Olympic Games, compared today's conditions off the Hague to racing in Qingdao. 'The current was the funny bit. It was crazy, some of the starts - it was China all over again! Light wind, everyone sailing downwind with a minute to go." In such strong tide Aleh advises it is essential to play safe and make as few mistakes as possible, for the penalty for errors is much more costly. 'You can't get away from it - you just have to not make mistakes. I don't think we did that much right, I just think we didn't do too much wrong. It was just simple stuff - we didn't freak out too much!"
In such conditions the general consensus is that the 2010 Delta Lloyd 470 World Championships will be a high scoring regatta. Fortunately the forecast shows the wind building over the course of the week, peaking at 18 knots on Thursday afternoon.
Wind up, but early home
July 14, 2010- For the first day so far at the 2010 Delta Lloyd 470 World Championships, the wind conditions at sea in front of The Hague allowed racing to get away on time for the three groups in the Men's division and the two in the Women's. Welcome respite from yesterday's light winds and powerful tides, today the wind was typically above 10 knots, gusting up to 18 on the men's course, the tide still pushing the doublehanders over the start line early.
Showing that this World Championship is set to be a high scoring affair, in the Men's Division France's Pierre LeBoucher and Vincent Garos are the only team not to have posted a result outside of the top ten. After their perfect scoreline in three races yesterday, Australians Matt Belcher and Malcolm page still hold the top spot, discarding a 15th place in today's second race. After posting a 7-2 today past double World Champions, Skandia Team GBR's Nic Asher and Elliot Willis hold second on equal points with ISAF ranked world no1 duo from Sweden, Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Östling.
'It was not a bad day," commented Nic Asher. 'We could have gone better in the first race, but it was a tricky day - very shifty and gusty off the shore. Massively different from yesterday and downwind it was hard staying in the gusts. It was all quite close which made it quite interesting."
Racing closer to the shore and at a different part of the day, in more wind, the tide was very much less of an issue today. Asher and Willis' scoreline was doubly impressive today since prior to the start of the first race they had broken their kicker.
Second overall yesterday, but down to fourth today, France's Beijing bronze medallist Nicolas Charbonnier felt today's conditions were more difficult than yesterday. 'I think tomorrow is windy again. So we will try and do our best, but the championship is just at the beginning, we have many, many races to complete, so we will see what will happen over the next days."
Today it was the shifts that caught out several of the top sailors and promoted others. Thus ISAF world ranked 23 Australians, Sam Kivell and William Ryan, and 27th ranked Germans, Jan-Jasper Wagner and Lennart Scheulfer, were among the winners in today's first race, while other winners today included 2007 European Champions, Portugese duo Alvaro Marinho and Miguel Nunes, who claimed first place in today's second race.
In the Women's class, there is still some consistency among the top three, where New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie have pulled into the lead, four points ahead of the hotly tipped Italians Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol, in turn another four in front of yesterday's leaders, Americans Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kingsolving Farrar.
'It was pretty good today - it took a while to remember how to sail in over 7 knots!" commented Aleh, trying not to look too surprised at their position in the regatta. 'It was nice to have some breeze. On the reach there was bit more puff - it was much better than yesterday. In the second race we did a few silly things, but we got away with it."
ISAF World no1 Ingrid Petitjean and crew Nadège Douroux have had a tougher time and lie currently in an uncharacteristic 20th overall, although this will improve when a discard comes into play after five races. 'We had a very bad race and some average scores. We are not doing very well overall. We'll catch up later. It has been very small decisions either too late or not good ones and it makes a big difference in a short time."
At around 1400 local time after the second race, the boats were sent ashore. 'There was a warning for a big storm with a lot of wind and thunder. The warning was given that it would be at 1500," explained Event Director Edwin Lodder. After several boats were caught out and some damage caused when a similar prolonged squall came through on Monday afternoon bringing with it 30 knot winds, Lodder opted for prudence.
Sitting ashore mid-afternoon in blazing sunshine several sailors queried this decision as in the event the qualification series could have been completed before the torrential rain did indeed begin at around 1700 local, but without Monday's giant gusts. 'We have two kinds of weather radar - Dutch and European," explained Lodder. 'One says it will pass in an hour, the other says it will be slower." Sadly the latter proved true.
'They are being a bit cautious now: Fair enough with 180 boats, it could go pretty bad," commented Jo Aleh.
Tomorrow the Men's groups will have to sail one more qualification race and the women two before they are sent back in to be divided into Gold, Silver and Bronze (for the men) fleets.
July 15, 2010- Weather off the Hague, or perhaps the inaccuracy of the forecasts, continues to wreak havoc with the Delta Lloyd 470 World Championships in The Hague. Today the boats were sent out in the morning only for conditions to prove far too brisk for the majority of the fleet, which were duly sent home. With wind against tide further increasing the severity of the waves in the afternoon, it wasn't until the early evening that the final races of the qualification series could be held and even then this was only possible in the two Women's groups.
With theoretically two qualification races left to sail in the Women's class, they managed only one and the winners of the two groups were Italy's Guilia Conti and Giovanni Micol and long term Argentinian 470 campaigner, Maria Fernanda Sesto and Consuelo Monsegur. These results now mean that the Italian duo are tied in first place on eight points with New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, three points ahead of early leaders at this regatta, Americans Eric Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar.
"It was very hard to keep your concentration throughout the whole day,” admitted Guilia Conti.
Their race started in 12-13 knots and dropped off gradually over its duration. "We raced well and made good tactical decisions and we passed the last boat [the Netherland's Margriet Fokkema and Marieke Jongens] on the last reach, because it was a tight reach - the first boat put up their spinnaker but couldn't reach the mark.”
Of the regatta so far generally Conti said: "First day light wind, second day medium wind and today hurricane! We've had everything!” This morning there were gusts of over 25 knots, but the problem was the waves. One of these caused Conti and Micol to capsize, not sideways, but to reverse pitchpole - the bow flipping back over its stern. "I've never done that before - Giovanna, my crew fell over me. A lot of boats capsized, some of them broke their masts also. It was pretty tough, but our boat was perfect.”
A race was attempted on the Men's course, but this didn't get underway until slightly later than the Women and by this stage the wind had dropped off to such a degree that with the counter tide the first boats failed to reach the windward mark within the 25 minute maximum time limit.
"We went out and were thinking it was going to still be quite windy this afternoon and we were a bit surprised it died off so quickly,” admitted Australian Matt Belcher, who continues to lead the 470 Men with his Beijing gold medallist crew, Malcolm Page. "The current became more and more of a factor, which is why they had to cancel at the end of the day. No one could cross the line on starboard because the current was so strong.”
The word ‘forecast' is not one to mention to Event Director Edwin Lodder at present. "In the morning there was over 30 knots of wind, so we decided to get everyone back and to wait,” he explains his predicament. "The forecast had been about 20-25 knots and the wind direction was different to what was expected. So we waited and every hour we had contact with the meteo and at 6pm the wind was really lower than before and their forecast for after 8pm was for a good wind of about Force Four (11-15 knots). The weather conditions between 1900 and 2000 (local) were excellent, but after that it just dropped off and that wasn't expected.”
Matt Belcher agreed with the inaccuracy of the forecasts. "We have a few forecasts and I don't think any of them are right yet. It is a tough place, but it is the same for everyone. You try and keep your head out of the boat and try and make the right decisions at the right time.”
Despite not completing all the scheduled qualification series, so tonight the classes have been divided up into Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets for the Men, and Gold and Silver for the Women. Three races are scheduled for tomorrow, the first start at 1100.