Sailing World Cup - Lessons and opportunities in China
22 September 2016
It was another chance for learning at the Sailing World Cup Qingdao as currents, pressure and changing winds accompanied a hot and humid day two to challenge the visiting competitors.
The local Chinese sailors and returning international competitors are riding high near the top of the fleets, while newcomers and Qingdao debutants are still fighting to get to grips with the elements the home of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition has to offer.
Olympic silver medallist, Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic remains top of the Laser fleet thanks to two second place finishes on day two of racing. Sitting on five points, Stipanovic only has a one-point lead over second placed Giovanni Coccoluto (ITA).
Coccoluto claimed the first bullet of the day and followed that up with a third place to move on to six points for the regatta. Coccoluto does however hold a higher discard at present than Stipanovic with a tenth place on the first race, but there is a reason for that, as Coccoluto explains, "I did better today than yesterday because my last event was Kiel [Germany] in June. I mean I trained in the summer, but racing is a different thing.
"I played a little with the wind today and it paid off. I just didn't feel in racing mode yesterday, but today was a lot better.”
Now in 'race mode', Coccoluto looks like he is getting to grips with the Qingdao waters, but what will it take for him to beat an Olympic medallist in a venue where he has historically had high finishes? Talking about his rival Stipanovic, Coccoluto said, "I just want to sail my regatta and whatever comes will come. He is one of the best sailors in the world and to get an Olympic medal is amazing, but I have to focus on my own regatta and there is still a long way to go.”
Aiming to catch second placed Coccoluto is Great Britain's Lorenzo Brando Chiavarini who lies in third place with 11 points from a third place and a discarded ninth from the day.
Another Olympic silver medallist in the fleet, Cyprus' Pavlos Kontides, is also hunting the top three down and lays in wait just outside the podium places with 13 points. Kontides scored a 4,5 on day two.
With Stipanovic and Kontides again doing well in Qingdao, a sailor hoping to take some tips from his new training partners is Ireland's Finn Lynch. Speaking about the Qingdao knowledge his friends have, Lynch said, "They have a good understanding of the venue and the currents so they help me a lot. Since I've joined their team I have improved heaps. They will be a massive help on my road to Tokyo and I'm hoping I can overtake them at the end.”
Tokyo 2020 is a little further off than the end of the Sailing World Cup regatta, so focussing on the tips that he can take for the coming days about the element that has caught some visiting sailors out, the current, will help him improve out on the water and move the Irishman up the leaderboard. Talking about the current, Lynch said, "You just need to think about it as just another factor. I've been sailing in Rio a lot because of the Olympics and the current was trickier there. Here it's just in one direction and very strong.”
Lynch currently sits in eighth overall following a disappointing 15th and discarded 25th place finish. "I found it a lot more tricky today,” the Irishman said, "I made a good comeback in the first race and finished in the top 20 which is ok I guess. Second race was a disaster and a discard.”
Lynch will be looking to take the advice he has been given and the lessons he has learned from the day forward in to day three to improve on his current standing if he wants to make the podium at the end of the regatta.
Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) remains top of the Laser Radial fleet thanks to a bullet and a discarded fourth which leaves her on three points total.
Zhang's closest rival at present is Finland's Monika Mikkola who was caught out on day one by the Qingdao currents. A bullet in the first race of the day would suggest that she had gotten to grips with it, but a discarded fifth in race two would also suggest she's still not totally comfortable just yet.
With Mikkola on seven points, Rubei Yuan (CHN) completes the podium at the end of day two racing with ten points to sit in third.
Hungary's Maria Erdi lies in fourth overall and talked through her day out in the water, "I had a really good start in the first race. I was in the top three but then I just don't know what happened. Everyone was passing me. I dropped back and finished tenth. The second race the wind picked up so I was really happy. My speed was good.”
There was a reason for that second race speed according to Erdi, and it was the pick-up in wind strength which helped the Hungarian out, "In this fleet I like the stronger winds as about 50% of them are about ten kilos lighter than me so it's hard. If it's around five knots everyone else is already hiking and I'm just sitting.”
With a discarded tenth in the light wind race and a second in the stronger wind race, Erdi has 14 points and is just off the medal places, but with an Olympics already under her belt for a young sailor, is she happy with the way the Sailing World Cup is going for her? "Um…hmm…” The thought and pause would make you think not. Erdi finally found some words and said, "Sometimes I feel slow but hopefully I can reach the podium by the end of the regatta.”
As some of the visiting sailors have pointed out, the current is a new factor to take in to account when it comes to their race sailing. Some sailors are here to learn new skills and challenge themselves in new elements, and New Zealand's Susannah Pyatt is one of those sailors. Talking about her Qingdao experience, Pyatt said, "It's really good here to teach you about pressure. It's really patchy wind here so it's a good place to concentrate on pressure and trying to call the wind. It's different to any other venue I have sailed at so I am enjoying it.”
Pyatt is currently in eighth position with 21 points in the Laser Radial.
Mimicking their day one scores, China's Hao Lan and Chao Wang finished with a bullet and a second place on day two to top the Men's 470 fleet with four points.
They lead their compatriots Liangdao Weng and Youjian Wen by five points in second as the pair could only manage a fourth and discarded sixth place to sit on nine points total.
Taking the second bullet of the day were Jian Xiang and Jichang Wang (CHN). The win made up for a seventh place finish in the first race of the day and moves them in to third overall with 13 points.
With a perfect score from day one, Mengxi Wei and Yani Xu (CHN) were disappointed to start the day with a sixth place. The pair can discard their first race result however as they got back to winning ways in race four with another bullet to add to their collection.
Taking the bullet that Wei and Xu dropped were Shengnan Ni and Lizhu Huang (CHN) who couldn't take advantage of the good start to day two with a disqualification in race four, a score which they now discard. Ni and Huang are in third on the leaderboard with eight points.
Sandwiched in the middle in second overall are Shasha Chen and Haiyan Gao (CHN) who scored two second places for the day to sit one point ahead of Ni and Huang on seven.
Hongmei Shi (CHN) has been the most consistent over the first two days of racing in the Women's RS:X which has led her to the top of the leaderboard with an 11-point cushion.
Shi scored three second place finishes on day one but upgraded those to two bullets. In the final race of the day Shi came in third, but discards this score. Shi has eight points in total.
On 19 points and sitting in second overall is Xiaoqing Yu (CHN) who carded a 2,3,7 for the day, places which all score for the Chinese windsurfer.
One point behind Yu in third is Pei Ling Chen (CHN) who came in with scores of 2,4 and a discarded ten. Chen sits just in front of day one leader, Manjia Zheng (CHN), who could only score a 5,6,8 on home waters.
Mengfan Gao (CHN) took the honours on day two of the Men's RS:X with two bullets and a second place, but it was not enough to give the Chinese athlete top spot on the leaderboard.
That goes to Chunzhuang Liu (CHN) thanks to a good day one and a 1,3 and discarded 5 on day two. Liu has nine points at the top with Gao in second on 12 points. Liu and Gao are the only sailors who have won races in the fleet sharing three bullets a piece over the first two race days.
Rounding out the top three is Zhichao Zhang (CHN) who had the exact same scores as the previous day. Fourth in the first race, second in the second race and third in the third race. Zhang has looked the closest to breaking the monopoly that Liu and Gao have on bullets and will be pushing on day three. Zhang has 14 points overall.
Lei Gong (CHN) had a perfect day in the Finn with two bullets from the two races. Combining those wins to his first day score the Chinese sailor sits on top of the leaderboard with three points.
Finishing behind Gong in both races, He Chen (CHN) is two points back in second overall with five points. Xin Li (CHN) is a further three points adrift in third overall with a 3,3 day two.
Racing continues on Friday 23 September in Qingdao as we reach the midway point of the Sailing World Cup regatta. All seven fleets are on track so the windsurfers are scheduled for another three races while the other five fleets have two scheduled on day three starting at 12:00 local time.