After several days of preparation, tuning and training, racing at Sailing’s World Cup Series Final in Marseille, France got underway on Tuesday under clear blue skies.
Anticipation has been building in Marseille as the venue will host the Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Competition. For the locals, it’s the first opportunity to see the Olympic fleets up close and personal.
For the sailors, the opening day was about ensuring they recorded strong scores which will give them a launch pad to target the medals and podiums later on in the week.
After a small morning delay to wait for the sea breeze to build, sailing commenced early in the afternoon, with a 13-15 knot southerly breeze appeasing the 212 registered sailors from 34 nations racing across eight Olympic fleets.
It was a perfect start to racing for the British Men’s RS:X team as they dominated the opening race. Tom Squires snapped up the race win and was duly followed by Kieran Martin and Andy Brown as they grabbed the early initiative.
But their dominance didn’t last long as the Gamagori World Cup winner, Pawel Tarnowski (POL), took control at the front of the fleet, winning the next two races after an 11th in the opening race.
“It was a good day overall,” commented Tarnowski. “The last time I sailed in Marseille was last year and, due to a wedding in Poland, I only arrived yesterday so didn’t have enough time to train.
“I wasn’t used to the conditions here and during the first race I decided to go all the way to the right, with the French, but that wasn’t a good idea.
“However, my other two races were great. It’s only day one and I know the rest of the week is going to be tough, with plenty of tricky races. We have some top sailors here, which is why I am competing here.”
From three races he has opened up a five-point advantage over Pierre Le Coq (FRA), Thomas Goyard (FRA) and Yoav Omer (ISR), who are tied on seven points each.
In the Women’s RS:X, Lilian de Geus (NED) put a scoring penalty from race one behind her to pick up a second and first which sees her tied at the top with Gamagori World Cup gold medallist, Hei Man Chan (HKG).
After her race one struggles, the Dutch sailor managed to bounce back, picking up a first and a second. Chan also had a tough start, finishing in 11th, but followed through with a 1-2 to leave her level with de Geus.
Stefania Elfutina (RUS) won the opening race of the series and is two points off the leaders in third.
Croatia’s Nenad Bugarin sprung a surprise in the Finn fleet, grabbing an early lead.
The Croatian, ranked #19 in the world, has never reached a World Cup Series Medal Race before, but on the opening day he fended off previous World Cup medallists such as Jorge Zarif (BRA), Alican Kaynar (TUR) and Jonathan Lobert (FRA), to name but a few.
“I had two solid races,” explained Bugarin. “I had a good start on my first race with high speed on my upwind and downwind. I finished fourth in my first race and then first in the second.
“I didn’t have a good start on my second race but I managed to climb my way up the fleet. We have a small fleet and some top sailors, so we will have to see what happens, but I want a medal this time and I’ll try my best.”
Kaynar sits second following a 5-2, with Josh Junior (NZL) in third. Zarif won the opening race of the event and is fourth.
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) got their World Cup Series title defence off to a strong start in the 20-boat Women’s 470 fleet. A fifth and a race win positions them nicely at the head of the leaderboard.
Brazil’s Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Luiza Barbachan picked up the opening race win but were unable to come close in the second as they finished down in 11th, ending the day fifth overall.
World Cup Series Miami Champions and recently crowed 470 European Champions, Tina Mrak and Veronica Macarol (SLO), were off the pace in the fleet, scoring a 13th and an 18th. After the opening day, they are down in 17th.
The two race wins in the Men’s 470, went the way of Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez (ESP) and Hungary’s Balázs Gyapjas and Zsombor Gyapjas. The Spanish team backed it up with a fifth to grab the lead, but the Hungarians could only manage a 14th which puts them seventh.
Plenty more racing is on the horizon in the Men’s 470 but the teams in between the Spanish and Hungarian teams will be content as very little separates them so far.
Lorenzo Chiavarini (GBR) thrived in the Laser, snapping up a second and a first in the 25-boat fleet. “It was fantastic, just what I like – nice and shifty conditions with plenty of sunshine. We had around 10 knots which was great for hiking,” commented the British leader.
“I did the simple things well, like using the shifts to my advantage, and I had good starts which helped me get up the fleet straight away.”
Giovanni Coccoluto (ITA) won race one and is second overall, tied on points with Michael Beckett (GBR).
Belgium’s Emma Plasschaert and Finland’s Tuula Tenkanen are locked on six points apiece at the top of the Laser Radial leaderboard after two races. Maud Jayet (SUI) won the opening race and is 12th overall, and race two winner, Alison Young (GBR), is in seventh.
In the Nacra 17, Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari (ITA) got off to a steady start to take an early lead. They secured a (12)-2-2 scoreline and have a slender lead over John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR).
Racing is scheduled to commence at 12:00 local time on Wednesday 6 June as the opening series continues.