Aussies And Austrians Strike 470 Gold In Santander
Published: Monday, 22 September 2014
Going into the medal race, Championship leaders Lara Vadlau and Jola Ogar (AUT) had to finish ahead of the London 2012 Olympic gold medallists Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) to secure the gold medal.
With a textbook perfect start, the Austrians claimed a clear lane, to put the lead in their hands and just over eighteen minutes later they crossed the finish line to become 2014 470 Women's World Champions.
At the first upwind mark, it was Japan's Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka who were closest behind, rounding with just a four second gap to the Austrians, but Vadlau and Ogar's eyes were only on the Kiwis.
Downwind, the Austrians continued to extend their lead over the fleet, with only the British pair of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark punching through the pack to move up to second place and put in a challenge. Despite pushing hard, there was no change in positions and the two teams crossed the finish line with just five seconds between them, and holding almost a minute margin over the next team, Slovenia's Tina Mrak and Veronika Macarol.
(Vadlau / Ogar photo courtesy Thom Touw)
"For this medal race I told Jola I will sail the wind and check the wind and you will keep your eyes on all the other boats,” says Vadlau. "Yes, this is always our plan,” added Ogar. "It works and if something is working, you shouldn't change it!”
"It is amazing, we are World Champions,” says Vadlau. "You know I told Jola before the race that we must win it because I want to have a gold 470 on my mainsail,” she says.
For Aleh and Powrie it was effectively game over for gold within the first six minutes of the race, as they rounded the first mark in seventh and knew there was no hope of catching the Austrians. The 2013 World Champions' race was now all about ensuring they didn't let any more boats get between them and the British, to ensure they could keep hold of silver.
The 2012 Olympic Silver medallist Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark sailed a perfect race, but were always too far behind on points to have a real shout at silver or gold. For them, securing the bronze medal was a pleasant surprise, as the pair still don't feel in prime performance mode, after both having injury set-backs earlier in the year.
"This is the ISAF Worlds, it is only once every four years, so it is a big deal and to come here and perform we are really happy,” said Mills. "We put up a good fight all the way to the end with the Austrians, to try and clinch silver, but we just couldn't quite get past them. But as it turned out, it didn't make a difference, because the Kiwi girls had managed to pull up enough to hold onto their silver. It was an exciting race all the way to the end.”
The gold medal was effectively a done deal going into the medal race for defending World Champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan from Australia. In theory Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic could get their hands on gold, but in practice the chances of that happening were remote as the Croatians would need to win the medal race and the Aussies finish last.
In front of a home team, the reigning 470 Junior World Champions Jordi Xammar and Joan Herp led to the first windward mark, and controlled the race from start to finish. While the Spaniards had no chance of a podium spot, they knew a win would put them on the leaderboard, but even more special was to win a medal race in front of a home crowd, including the eyes of the Spanish President.
In the second upwind leg the Spanish and Australians split, each choosing a separate side of the gate. The advantage was to the Spanish, but not such a good choice for the Australians who dropped back to fifth overall, but this was no worry for the Australians. Belcher and Ryan clawed one boat back to finish the medal race in fourth place and successfully secure their second World Championship title together, and Belcher's fifth successive World Championship title.
Celebrating his 32nd Birthday today, Belcher gave himself one of his most memorable presents by becoming the only sailor in 470 history to win five successive World Championship titles.
"It is really cool,” says Belcher. “Amazing. Now I can really celebrate. It is a shame my wife and son can't be here, but I will see them tomorrow. It is so cool and I didn't think we would be in this position. It says a bit about our personality too, that we went through that winning streak of two years and to keep focused on what we are doing. It doesn't really bother us or distract us. We are really just enjoying what we are doing and racing our competitors and having fun and that is the main thing to keep winning and keep performing.”
Croatia's Fantela and Marenic went into the medal race in silver medal position, but as they found themselves back in eighth place at the windward mark things were not looking good and they had lost the silver medal to the Greek team of Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis who were in fifth. The Croatians resolutely fought back, chipping their way up through the fleet to finish in sixth place, with the Greeks in fifth, and seal silver by a three-point margin, with the bronze to Greece.
The silver medal was the one colour missing from Fantela and Marenic's haul of medals, so now they count one 470 World Championship gold, one silver and three bronze medals.