SLOVENIA AND SWEDEN WRAP UP 470 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP CROWNS
Medal Race day at the 2018 470 Open European Championships in Bourgas, Bulgaria got underway in a breeze of 10 knots. The apparent pre-race calm in the boat park switched to high energy full-on physical racing for the 25 minute windward-leeward races.
A second place in today’s medal race gave Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol (SLO) the 2018 470 Women European Championship title, with Sweden’s Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergstrom formally confirming the gold medal they won yesterday.
With Slovenia taking the gold, it was silver to Frederike Loewe/Anna Markfort (GER), with their team mates Nadine Boehm/Ann-Christin Golias (GER) pushing all out to finish the medal race in 3rd place and take the bronze.
A 4th place finish in the medal race was enough to see Stuart McNay/David Hughes (USA) finish second overall, with third to Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE). The 470 Men European Championship medals, for European nations only, gives gold to Sweden, silver to Greece and bronze to Malte Winkel/Matti Cipra (GER).
Based on current form, only a disaster was going to push the world #5 ranked team of Tina Mrak/Veronika Macarol off the podium today. But they still had to confront three other teams with the opportunity to displace them.
“We were focused on our sailing,” said Mrak on their medal race strategy, “and with one eye we just looked to the Israelis and the Germans, but also other boats were really close. At the middle of the first upwind, it didn’t look so great, but then we managed to do a really good downwind, so we gained places and once we were in front we were more relaxed.”
“It is a really nice feeling now,” continued an excited and relieved Mrak. ”Finishing the medal race and securing our second European title we are really happy. At the beginning we did not find the right movement, but then the last two days we did a really great job.”
“I feel fantastic,” was Macarol’s take, before adding, “now we only need to get the World Championship gold medal!”
Their win will impact back home, as Macarol explained, “For sure this boosts sailing in Slovenia, and gives young people an inspiration. It is great as we are a really small country, but we are always working hard. Also in other sports I think Slovenians are doing really good.”
Behind the Slovenians points were close in the chasing five boats, all of whom at a shot at the silver and bronze, so holding your nerve under pressure would make all the difference.
Gil Cohen/Noa Lasry (ISR) went into the medal race in second place, but their race unravelled early on, seeing them cross the finish line in 9th and drop to a fifth place overall.
“We started OK, but we went for the wrong side in the upwind,” said two-time Olympian Cohen. The pair was out by themselves, with the rest of the pack accelerating away. “We did a lot of bad tactics in the first downwind, and we lost distance from the fleet. But I think we did a good regatta, and we didn’t lose the medal just today.”
The partnership is only five months in the making, so plenty of gains to be made. Cohen concluded by saying, “We need to work on finishing a regatta as we start. We know we can be in the top three and we have to work on the mind to be focused each day of the regatta.”
Germany’s Frederike Loewe/Ann-Christin Goliass took a steady approach to the Championship, consistently placing in the top ten to consolidate their standing. The pair only moved into third overall yesterday, and converted to silver from a 5th place medal race score.
“We are a bit overwhelmed,” said Loewe. “It is a bit hard to imagine it is true. We started middle right, but we mucked up the start a bit, and had to fight back from 7th or 8th at the first mark. Then we gained in the downwind and next upwind, but it was the last downwind when we gained a whole group of boats.”
“I am totally knackered and could do with a drink and sitting down,” laughed Markfort, before adding, “of course water! I had to pump all the way.”
This result cements their teamwork and marks a career best from four years campaigning together. “We came here and we started the Europeans not as a major regatta,” continued Markfort, “because obviously the focus is on the Worlds this summer. Coming out second is like unbelievable.”
Next up is home to Germany, rest for a week and then they take on the fleet at Kieler Woche.
Nadine Boehm/Ann-Christin Goliass (GER) were underdogs in the podium hunt. In 6th place going into the medal race, they had to finish inside the top three with their rivals making errors to have any hope of stepping up to a medal finish.
“We just tried to push hard and didn’t calm down at all during the race. Our heart rate was up to the fullest, we gave our best and in the end it was enough,” said Boehm.
A fantastic outcome and career best for the pair, who only started training again in January after Boehm was out of racing for six months last year due to surgery on her spine.
470 WOMEN – FINAL TOP TEN
1. Tina MRAK/Veronika MACAROL (SLO 64) – 58 pts
2. Frederike LOEWE/Anna MARKFORT (GER 26) – 78 pts
3. Nadine BOEHM/Ann-Christin GOLIASS (GER 24) – 82 pts
4. Elena BERTA/Bianca CARUSO (ITA 6) – 83 pts
5. Gil COHEN/Noa LASRY (ISR 311) – 85 pts
6. Linda FAHRNI/Maja SIEGENTHALER (SUI 5) – 87 pts
7. Silvia MAS DEPARES/Patricia CANTERO REINA (ESP 18) – 90 pts
8. Maria BOZI/Rafailina KLONARIDOU (GRE 216) – 93 pts
9. Amy SEABRIGHT/Anna CARPENTER (GBR 7) – 101 pts
10. Fabienne OSTER/Anastasiya WINKEL (GER 95) – 105 pts
Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergstrom’s unassailable points advantage just required a clean start and finish to the medal race – easily done. But the Swedish pair left no-one in any doubt about their racing calibre, putting on the ultimate show to win the medal race.
Their win with a race to spare yesterday swiftly hit Sweden’s media, with Dahlberg explaining that one journalist had concerns all could change if the pair were disqualified in the medal race, to which he had responded, “Don’t you worry. We will win the medal race!”
Commenting on the medal race, Dahlberg added, “It was a super tough medal race and it could have gone either way really. We were on the left, and it was really tight at the upwind mark. We were first at the mark but then lost a little bit of groove in the first downwind, but went around the right gate mark and that was super key. We had a nice lane and then we could tack and start to control the fleet. But it was not an easy victory. All the guys are good, and it is small margins.
“It is a great sensation to execute a nice medal race and when you are racing in the top of your game. But it was yesterday when I had all the euphoria, it was pure happiness through every cell of my body,” smiled Dahlberg.
Looking ahead to the Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in August 2018, which is the first chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020, Dahlberg predicted, “I think we have a really good chance, but I do expect slightly different racing in Aarhus, compared to Bourgas for sure. So, I think we will have to continue and train smart and do the work, and show up in Aarhus confident and take it race by race. I know we have what it takes, so at the end of the day it is a race against ourselves.”
As non-Europeans Stuart McNay/David Hughes (USA) were in the fight for the 470 Open European Championship leader board, and their fourth place score in the medal race rewarded them with second overall. This backs up their win at the 2015 470 Open Europeans and 3rd in 2016.
“Dave and I have been trying to work our way back this winter and spring,” said McNay in reference to Hughes’ time out with injury which meant the team were only back on the campaign trail from February. “We are coming into form now and it has taken a bit of time to get our feet under us.”
Both have also made their mark in keelboat racing, with three-time 470 Olympian McNay most recently winning the 2016 Melges 24 Worlds and 2nd in the 2017 J/70 Worlds, with Hughes winning the 2017 Etchells Worlds. McNay emphasized the connection with the 470, saying, “Of all the Olympic Classes the 470 best prepares you to be able to race in small keelboats and sport keelboats with mixed modes. There’s the element of tuning and interesting tactics and the 470 is a great training ground and the two reflect off each other well.”
Third overall in the 470 Open Europeans and a silver medal in the Europeans go to Rio 2016 bronze medallists Panagiotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis (GRE).
“Always a medal at the Europeans is very important, for us and our country,” said Kagialis. “Our last medal at the Europeans was in Aarhus in 2015, silver again. It has been a tough regatta. Everybody prepared themselves for the Europeans, and the young sailors are very strong teams and they want to win a medal.
Kagialis/Mantis is one of the oldest teams in the fleet, as Kagialis recognized, “We are very tried at the moment. The sailing conditions were perfect, but they need a lot of physicality physical. But in the end if you win a medal you forget everything, pain and everything.”
The pair seem a certainty to secure Greece’s slot to Tokyo 2020 at the upcoming Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, but with only eight places up for grabs of the 19 available, the fight will be hard, as Kagialis explained, “The new system of qualification for the Olympics makes it very tough to take qualification, and we must for sure be in the top eight. Many teams are very strong and you can be at the Worlds in 9th or 10th and you don’t have qualification for the Olympics. This makes it very tough and why we train and prepare a lot.”
“It is really hard to believe this,” said European bronze medal helm Malte Winkel (GER). “It is the biggest victory for us so far and a really good result for us looking ahead to qualify the nation in Aarhus. We are just really happy with our performance and hope we can continue.”
“We were not sure we had got the medal after the finish,” chipped in Cipra. “Our coach told us and it was an amazing feeling. We are only just realizing we have won the medal.”
470 MEN – FINAL TOP TEN
1. Anton DAHLBERG/Fredrik BERGSTRÖM (SWE 349) – 39 pts
2. Stuart MCNAY/David HUGHES (USA 1) – 71 pts
3. Panagiots MANTIS/Pavlos KAGIALIS (GRE 1) – 72 pts
4. Malte WINKEL/Matti CIPRA (GER 13) – 91 pts
5. Hippolyte MACHETTI/Sidoines DANTES (FRA 79) – 91 pts
6. Pavel SOZYKIN/Denis GRIBANOV (RUS 5) – 99 pts
7. Jordi XAMMAR/Nicolas RODRIGUEZ (ESP 44) – 99 pts
8. Giacomo FERRARI/Giulio CALABRO’ (ITA 757) – 107 pts
9. Nitai HASSON/Tal HARARI (ISR 15) – 107 pts
10. Deniz CINAR/Ates CINAR (TUR 890) – 109 pts
Nations competing: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and USA
photo credit: AleN Photography
video credit: ICARUS Sports