Tuesday’s light winds meant we only had two races, so Wednesday was catch-up time, with the wind playing ball, delivering a beautiful 8 knots. A daunting six races were scheduled – physically and mentally draining for the teams and race organisers alike.
For Fleets 1 & 4, only one race was scheduled, but Fleets 2 & 3 had it all on, with two races in the day, including Fleet 3 sailing back-to-back races – the equivalent of a team having to play two matches in two days at the football world cup.
Gran Canaria was at its absolute sparkling best, with wall to wall sunshine and a superb sailing breeze. Game on.
Fleet 2, Race 2
Hungary won another great pin end start with Chile also starting well nearer the committee boat, while The Netherlands and Germany were both a touch later, forcing first the German ‘Unbreakables’ and then the ‘Dutch Lions’ to tack away.
The Hungarian ‘Shamans’ superb start gave them the options to tack when they wanted on the wind shifts, handing them a 29 second lead over Chile’s ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’, with the ‘Unbreakables’ close behind and the ‘Dutch Lions’ a further 30 seconds back.
The ‘Shamans’ were looking stronger and stronger, extending their lead at the gate to 40 seconds. Meanwhile the ‘Unbreakables’ pressed the ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’ hard on the downwind leg, forcing the Chilean team to gybe away, and allowing the Germans to round the leeward gate ahead of the Chileans. Would the intense battle between these two give opportunity for the ‘Dutch Lions’ to get back into the game?
The ‘Shamans’ rounded the final windward mark comfortably ahead, while the tough ‘Unbreakables’ sailed a beautiful second upwind leg to extend over a minute ahead of the ‘Dutch Lions’ who powered past the ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’ into third.
The Germans weren’t going to settle for second, and pushed the Hungarians hard on the final downwind leg, but the ‘Shamans’ held off the ‘Unbreakables’ charge to secure an 8 second victory. The ‘Dutch Lions’ held third, leaving the ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’ in last.
Zsombor Berecz told us how the team manage a two race day:
“We are lucky that we’re the first and last race today, so we have a bit of time to relax and refuel our batteries. We’re going to watch one more race, then go together to eat something, switch off for a while, then come back strong again.”
While confident, Zsombor is fully aware that Hungary’s place in the semifinals isn’t secured:
“This is sailing. We just have to take what we can get in the previous races, and sail the next race like it’s our first.”
Frithjof Kleen, the captain of the German ‘Unbreakables’, was looking forward to getting back on the water in the afternoon:
“It’s a long day, so we’ll keep the focus up, relax a bit. But we’re really happy that we have the opportunity to sail again today because we really enjoy being in the boat.”
Fleet 3, Race 2
An aggressive prestart, with plenty of jostling for position, saw New Zealand’s ‘Guardians’ squeezed out on the committee boat end, while Brazil’s ‘Storm’ and Portugal’s ‘Navigators’ powered off the line at full speed, squeezing Australia’s ‘Boxing Kangaroos’ between them.
The ‘Navigators’ chose the right, but ultimately the left paid for the ‘Brazilian Storm’ and ‘Boxing Kangaroos’, who rounded the windward mark in that order, followed by the ‘Navigators’. Again the ‘Guardians’, bottom of the group in points, brought up the rear, trailing by more than a minute.
The downwind leg saw no change, while the second upwind leg saw ‘Brazilian Storm’ and the ‘Boxing Kangaroos’ hiking hard and battling it out for first place, but the all-star Brazilian team held the Australians at bay on the final downwind to take the win, with Portugal and New Zealand taking third and fourth respectively.
Fleet 3, Race 3
After a frustrating delay due to a container ship mooring in the race course, which gave the sailors some recovery time, Fleet 3’s second race started with New Zealand’s ‘Guardians’ hitting the line at pace, and Brazil’s ‘Storm’ pushing it to the limit on the pin end. The Australian ‘Roos’ had to tack away early as they were in disturbed wind and late.
With the breeze up a notch, the teams were hiking to the maximum, tightly bunched with some tight crosses and tacks the entire length of the first upwind leg.
Brazil are really starting to find top gear, and found their way to the top by the windward mark ahead of New Zealand, who rounded 10 seconds ahead of Portugal’s ‘Navigators’, while Australia were still paying for their poor start in last.
Portugal tried all they could to slip past New Zealand on the downwind and make it into second, but the ‘Guardians’ defended their position right down to the leeward mark.
By the final mark, the Brazilians were away, a full minute ahead of New Zealand in second, with Portugal and Australia trailing. Despite an extended course, the Brazilians stormed to finish in just under 39 minutes. New Zealand’s ‘Guardians’ picked up a much-needed second place ahead of Portugal and Australia respectively.
Robert Scheidt was smiling as he hit the shore:
“We really enjoyed today as we had a bit of pressure with 10 to 12 knots, absolutely beautiful sailing conditions, and I think our team likes a little bit more wind, so we can feel the power on the boat. We executed our plan at the beginning of the races, Martina (Grael) made some great tactical calls which helped a lot, and the trimmers did a superb job keeping the boat going fast.”
Robert was happy where the team are heading into the last race:
“It’s better to be ahead than behind, but it’s still not an easy race by any means – anything can happen as so many points are at stake. We’ll come with a strong attitude, keep doing what we did today, and let’s hope we can go through.”
The results table sets things up beautifully for Thursday’s double point race. Brazil is out in front, but just 3 points separates the other three teams, and both the Aussies and Kiwis were grateful to get some extra time in the boat today. Will Ryan, captain for the ‘Roos’, said:
“For us, as a new team, having two races together was fantastic – it was a big learning day. We’ve never sailed together as a group before, so it’s been really nice just to have a little bit of time to piece it together.”
‘Guardians’ captain Leslie Egnot agreed:
“We quite liked it because we haven’t had a chance to practise in the boats very much. We learnt a lot in the first race and we were able to take those learnings straight away to the next race, so it was quite valuable for us.”
Fleet 4, Race 3
Straight off the startline it could have been anybody’s race, with just 100 metres between the teams up the first leg, but Spain’s ‘La Armada’ came out on top, rounding the mark 21 seconds ahead of the Swiss ‘Helvetic Lakers’ in second, followed by the Italian ‘Gladiators’ then the Lithuanian ‘Ambers’.
The Swiss closed the gap with the Spanish team on the downwind leg, rounding the leeward gate with just 9 seconds between them. Meanwhile, Italy and Lithuania remained locked in a fierce gybing battle at the rear.
On the second upwind, the two leaders on the left side engaged in a tacking duel, allowing Italy to get back in the running in the middle of the course. While the Spanish maintained their lead around the final mark, the Swiss and Italians kept up the pressure, nipping at their heels.
Towards the finish, Switzerland managed to cut the distance down to 20 metres, but it wasn’t quite enough, and ‘La Armada’ crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of the ‘Helvetic Lakers’. Italy finished third just ahead of Lithuania in last.
Spanish main trimmer Nano Negrín said afterwards:
“Our position is quite strong, and if we’re not last tomorrow, then we’re going to the semifinals. I think in this group the Italian team is the strongest and that we must keep our eye on them.”
Sadly, the ‘Ambers’ spectacular journey in the SSL Gold Cup looks to be over, meeting their match with the top teams and perhaps tiredness creeping in after competing since Day 1. Lithuanian pitman Kristoforas Akromas expressed his disappointment this round:
“Those first two days – those tricky days, frankly – kicked us out of our comfort zone, off our pace. Today we were confident that we would bounce back, but at the end of the day we got the same result as the first two days. We lost our pace, we lost a bit of our confidence, I think. We’ve lost some of our physicality because we are a bit worn out.
“There were no mistakes from our crew, perhaps some tactical decisions that we had to make due to the situation we were in. It’s a bit frustrating now. It’s hard to find the right words. It was a long way here, and we’ve been here three weeks, so maybe we are running out of gas.”
The Lithuanian team have lit up the SSL Gold Cup and captivated the world with their exceptional performances and will no doubt be back for more in the future.
Fleet 1, Race 3
Gran Canaria continued to deliver in our fifth race of the day, with Malaysia trying to hold the British ‘Spitfires’ out at the committee boat end, but they squeezed in, while the French ‘Bleus’ had to slow at the pin end, allowing the ‘Danish Dynamite’ through to cover their wind.
Once again, the ‘Spitfires’ dominated the fleet from the first leg, rounding the windward mark 18 seconds ahead of ‘Danish Dynamite’, with the ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Les Bleus’ in close pursuit.
A penalty at the windward marks resulted in the ‘Dynamite’ campaign finally imploding to the back, a position from which they were never able to recover.
With the ‘Spitfires’ flying around the leeward mark in an impressive sub-17 minutes, the course length was extended. ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Les Bleus’ followed about a minute later in close contention, with ‘Dynamite’ trailing over 2 minutes behind.
In what had essentially become a match race between the ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Les Bleus’ to take second place, the French were looking for any chance they could get to overtake the Malaysians, but the ‘Monsoon’ were sailing superbly and ultimately managed to fend them off.
Great Britain have made it look easy so far and, excluding being disqualified tomorrow, are a sure thing for the semifinals. It’s all on for Malaysia and France in what will surely be an epic battle. Will the ‘Monsoon’, who have been in the competition since Day 1, continue their dream run by qualifying for the semifinals?
The Malaysians know France will be going after them, but they’re gearing themselves up for tomorrow. Helm Khairulnizam Afendy explained:
“The British are very fast, they’re like another level from us. But we were in front of France, and we kept our second position, so we’re in good shape for tomorrow. We just need to get into the rhythm and try to sail the fastest possible race tomorrow, so we can get through to the next stage.”
Meanwhile, the French are keeping their cards close to the chest. Captain Xavier Rohart after the race:
“The team has made all the calculations already. I can’t tell you the plan, but it’s on.”
Fleet 2, Race 3
The Netherlands were off strongly in the final race of the day, with the ‘Dutch Lions’ roaring ahead, while the Germans took pole on the committee boat end of the line. Hungary and Chile had things harder in the middle of the line, and Fleet 2 leaders, the Hungarian ‘Shamans’, quickly tacked away for clear air.
It was down to Chile’s ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’ and the ‘Shamans’ to catch up with the ‘Dutch Lions’ and German ‘Unbreakables’. The Hungarians made some gains, but Chile were struggling.
As the race progressed the ‘Unbreakables’ asserted themselves over the fleet, while the ‘Dutch Lions’ prowled, waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
Instead it was the ‘Shamans’ who were on the attack, closing on the ‘Dutch Lions’. It briefly looked like they may have overtaken them on the second upwind leg, however the Netherlands team protected their position well. With positions remaining the same, Germany took victory by a wide margin ahead of The Netherlands, Hungary and Chile finishing in that order.
German Captain Frithjof “Frida” Kleen was a content man when he came ashore:
“I think that our team has just a fantastic atmosphere. We take it day by day, and we’ll go out again tomorrow and have a lot of fun – that’s it. We’re happy to be here as the SSL Gold Cup is just a great thing for Team Germany.”
Ahead of Thursday’s double points race we have a superb situation on Fleet 2’s results table, with just 2 points separating 3 teams. But Chile’s ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’, who have been in the competition since the beginning, are on the brink of their SSL Gold Cup odyssey being over.
Some days at the SSL Gold Cup provide drama, some frustration, but today sailing was the winner. Exceptional conditions, racing of the highest calibre, and smiles all round.
Six races seemed like a tall order at the beginning of the day, but Gran Canaria came up trumps.
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