Spanish lead British by one point
After a year missed through injury, it was a momentous return to form for Spaniards Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez on day one of the 49er world championships in Athens. Having dominated the 2002 season with victories in the 49er worlds, Europeans as well as many Grade 1 international events, both helmsman Martinez and crew Fernandez took it in turns to be injured throughout 2003. Unable to defend their World title on home waters in Cadiz last September, some were beginning to wonder whether they could ever re-establish their dominance of past years.
A scoreline in yesterday’s qualifying races of 4,1,1 suggests they can, although it is very early days, and defending world hampions, Great Britain’s Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks, are just a point behind with race finishes of 1,2,4. “It was a nice day’s sailing,” commented Draper. Whether others saw it that way is arguable, however, as the sudden unexpected gusts played havoc with the fleet. “The wind was quite changeable,” he admitted. “It was blowing 8-10kts in one race, until the final run when it got up to 25kts.” Boats were capsizing left, right and centre, and many failed to finish within the time limit. The USA’s recently selected Olympian Pete Spaulding injured his leg quite badly, although with helmsman Tim Wadlow managed to record a reasonable score to be lying just outside the top 10.
Considering the wildly variable conditions, it is surprising just how much the fleet is running to form at this early stage. Just behind Draper and Hiscocks are their training partners, Norwegians Christoffer Sundby and Frode Bovim who were second in Cadiz last year, and Germans Marcus Baur and Max Groy, fifth at the last Worlds. Britain’s Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith are the exceptions, currently lying in 23rd overall, although they managed to climb from a similar position last year to finish fourth in Cadiz.
No one takes anything for granted at such early stages of a world championship. With the 82-boat fleet currently divided into three qualifying groups, all you can do is sail your best and try not to worry what the rest are up to. With another two days of qualifying to go, the first priority is to book a ticket into the 25-boat Gold Fleet final, where the battle really intensifies. The priority for the competitors this evening is to check over their boats after a gruelling first day, ready for round 2 of qualifying today.
1. IKER MARTINEZ/XABIER FERNANDEZ SPAIN 6pts
2. CHRIS DRAPER/SIMON HISCOCKS GBR 7pts
3. CHRISTOFFER SUNDBY/FRODE BOVIM NORWAY 8pts
4. MARKUS BAUR/MAX GROY GERMANY 11pts
5. CHRISTOPHER RAST/CHRISTIAN STEIGER SWITZERLAND 12pts
6. RODION LUKA/GEORGY LEONCHUK UKRAINE 13pts
7. MARC AUDINEAU/STEPHANE CHRISTIDIS FRANCE 13pts
8. STEVIE MORRISON/BEN RHODES GREAT BRITAIN 13pts
9. CHRIS NICHOLSON/GARY BOYD AUSTRALIA 15pts
10. MICHAEL HESTBAEK/DENNIS DENGSOE ANDERSEN DENMARK 16pts