Keeping it simple spells success for Bissario and Sicorio
|Photo Antoine Beysens|
If the loss of the first day of racing at the Nacra 17 European Championships due to too little wind was the price to be paid in order to have great Mistral conditions today off La Grande Motte then many of the 71 competing crews would accept that as a worthwhile tax. Today’s payback was a cross offshore, NW’ly Mistral averaging 17to 19kts but up to 23kts at times which was peppered with lighter holes and big shifts in direction creating a spectacular opening to the regatta.
While the top ranked Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri who went 1,4,1 in the yellow fleet to lead the world champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou who opened with a 5,1,1 in the opposite grey fleet, it was not so straightforward an opening day for Australia’s Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis who found themselves on the back foot.
A collision with a Bulgarian crew resulted in a hole in the Bulgarians boat in the first race, and in the second they were among those penalised under the black flag rule. To add to their woes a capsize put the tin lid on a day the duo who hold three Olympic silver medals between them will probably be glad to put behind them.
Keeping it simple, staying out of trouble and sailing the shifts well were the fundamental building blocks to success today. Besson and Riou, who train on these waters with the French team, were in their element, starting off with a fifth in their first race when it was especially shifty with big changes in wind pressure with the breeze puffing partially off the land. The Italian regatta leaders also adhered to the first principles of sailing the key shifts and holding their lane out of the traffic.
Besson explained how they stuck to watchwords of keeping it simple, safe and fast:
“ The wind constantly changes strength and direction and so it is hard to find the right angle to get to the buoy as fast as possible. The key in these conditions is safety first. You really have to use secure maneuvers because we are never safe from a fault or a capsize and it needs great control between crew and helmsman to be very coordinated. "
The Italians, who are world ranked number one on the ISAF standings, showed the benefit of their intense training programme in Cagliari which they shared with the Austrians Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank. They too would have been up there was well but for a black flag penalty in the first race, in which they crossed the finish line second.
Bissario said: “It is not an easy job to win. Two wins is good but the championships are long. We just sail fast and do the simple things well and try and get the shifts right. We are happy. We expected to do this because we have worked hard and have been going well.”
New Zealand’s Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders won the first race for the grey fleet and were then pleased to back that up with a pair of solid, counting results in the form of an 11th and an eighth.
“We had three keepers which is good from a first day like that.” Said Jones “It was very shifty, very up and down and when we first went out it was very windy. The first and second races were a bit lighter. We feel like we had good speed and were racing quite well but just have to get on the right side of the windshifts.”
In the tactical, technical conditions Denmark’s 49er bronze medallist Alan Norrergard sailing with Line Just retained a high level of consistency with a 2,2,4, proving they are fast learners in the Nacra 17 since making the move into the mixed sex Olympic catamaran just over six months ago, after they have put in some hard miles training at home.
Norregard, third at London 2012, smiled: “We are very happy. We were in the right places at the right times. There were very big shifts and we managed to get them right. Some of it was a little bit lucky but that is the way it is in these conditions. If you are in the right place at the right time it is easy. We were up there all the way. Getting the first shift was important because it got you out of the traffic. But we were really happy with our speed and how we sailed. We have done a lot of training at home. We have just done a lot of hours on the boat, some in breeze. But to be honest we are still getting the hang of it. The French are still better than us in these conditions but I think we can catch them at some point. They are good downwind and really push the boat more. We are still a bit careful. So we need more time in windy conditions. For me it is really fun, a lot of new things after the 49er, learning every time we are on the water and I am really enjoying it. We really only started this project about six months ago and so we are still quite new into it. We changed to the boat only in the spring and surprisingly we did not expect to get near the top so quickly. We will see over the week we will drop a bit this week Im sure, but it was tactical, technical racing.”
Qualifying racing continues with warning signals due at 0900hrs local time Wednesday in order to try and catch up on the races lost on Day 1.
Standings after three races
1. Vittorio Bissaro/ Silvia Sicouri (ITA) 1,4,1 6pts
2. Billy Besson/ Marie Riou (FRA) 5,1,1.7pts
3. Allan Norregaard/ Line Just (DEN) 2,2,4.8pts
4. Euan McNicol/ Lucinda Whitty (AUS) 2,8,4. 14pts
5. NIcole Van Der Velden/ Thijs Visser (ARU) 8,5,3.16pts
6. Jason Waterhouse/ Lisa Darmanin (AUS) 6,4,6.16pts
7. Lucy MacGregor/ Andrew Walsh (GBR) 3,3,13.19pts
8. Gemma Jones/ Jason Saunders (NZL) 1,11,8. 20pts
9. Pipa Wilson/ John Gimson (GBR) 10,2,8. 20pts
10. Moana Vaireaux/ Manon Audinet (FRA) 10,7,3. 20pts
They said :
Lucy MacGregor (GBR): “We had two good races and then did not get a good start in the third one. We just lost our gap on the line and so had to fight our way back through the fleet which was pretty tough in that breeze. We got a counter. The conditions were pretty crazy, up and down and very shifty. The two good ones we fought up to thirds. We are going well, speedwise which is good to see but there were a lot of gains and losses on the shifts. You are trying to get your head out the boat and see what is happening.”
Sophie de Turckheim (FRA) (crew with Cammas): "We were straight into it with a lot of wind this morning. That was not really so good for us but the second race was better. These are conditions we have not had very much this year and the strong stuff is a bit of a weakness for Franck and I right now. We take this as our chance to train alongside the best. In the strong wind, we have to keep things simple, manouevering as little as possible. You can easily capsize if you attack too hard and at the same time it should not be too defensive. If the boat takes over and we lose control. There is a balance between attack and keep it simple.
Tania Frank (AUT): “It was a surprise to get the BFD we thought we were on the line. But the second race was good, we had a good upwind and downwind, we had good speed and so we won. We are comfortable in a lot of wind. We had two months of training in Cagliari and had every kind of conditions and so we are quite confident. I was ISAF Youth World Champion in the 420 in 2011 and Thomas, my helm, was in the Tornado and was vice world champion and European Champion. He sailed the 49er for three years. We were fourth at the Europeans last year.”
John Gimson (GBR): “ The first race there were big holes in the breeze and we were a bit average. The second was good, fresher with a more solid breeze. We made a steady start. You always want some steady top ten scored and don’t get any letters. The second race the breeze was just a bot steadier but the key thing was to stay clean and out of trouble.
Darren Bundock (AUS): “The first race we sunk the Bulgarians. It was our fault. We were on port at the start, tried to duck them and could not bear away enough. And then on the second race we got OCS. So it was a bit of a disaster. And that race we capsized. So hopefully that is our three bad strikes and we have had them. There is still plenty to go in the regatta though.”