There was no separating the leading sailors in the Laser and Laser Radial at the Sailing World Cup Final presented by Land Rover, with ties at the top in both fleets.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic (CRO), London 2012 silver medallist Pavlos Kontides (CYP) and former World #1 Matt Wearn (AUS) are all tied on four points apiece in the Laser, sharing the top three places in the two opening races.
Stipanovic and Kontides took a race win and a third apiece and Wearn was consistent with a pair of twos. The trio top the billing with Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Tom Burton (AUS) in fourth on 11 points.
Back in August Wearn watched Burton, Stipanovic and Kontides fight it out at Rio 2016 from his home. The trio have consistently tasted success wherever they sail and Wearn is pleased to be among the lead pack from the outset, “You don’t think much about it when you’re out on the water but when you come back in and say you’re sailing against the medallists from both Rio and London, with the experience they’ve got, it’s pretty cool and great to be racing against them.”
But what would it take for Wearn to beat them? “A bit more breeze,” he smiled. “But it’s just experience on my behalf and being able to do more regattas like this and continue racing against them. Then I’ll hopefully get up on them more than they get up on me.”
At 21, Wearn is in the early stages of his sailing career and with time in the sport comes experience. Sometimes experience and youthful exuberance can come together perfectly and that was the case for Cyprus’ Kontides who made his Olympic debut at the tender age of 18 at Beijing 2008. Now 26-years-old, he has three Olympic Games under his belt and a silver medal at London 2012.
Kontides will use this experience to his advantage this week and knows the importance of being able to sustain a performance against high level competition, “There’s eight races to go and that’s a lot of points so we will try and keep it consistent until the end. I’m used to racing against Tonci, we’ve been sailing together for eight years. It’s nice to be sailing against good sailors here. It was close all day.”
Another fleet equally close was the Laser Radial. At the close of play Rio 2016 gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and bronze medallist Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) are locked on three points after sharing a race win and a second.
Bouwmeester and Rindom have had contrasting build ups to the World Cup Final. Bouwmeester turned her attention to Tokyo 2020 almost immediately after Rio 2016, heading to Enoshima to try out the next Olympic waters. Meanwhile Rindom headed back to university to continue her studies but the thrill of the competition in Melbourne was too much to resist. “I’ve been in school so I have not had much time for sailing,” explained Rindom. "I’m very rusty and I can still feel that. There’s a lot of young girls here who have been training so it’s exciting to be able to race again. I love to compete.
“This is for finishing 2016 and then next year I will see how it goes. Right now I’m not focusing on Tokyo as it’s way too early. I’m taking it easy as I have another year of school to go.”
Silvia Zennaro (ITA) occupies the final Laser Radial podium at the early stage of the event.
The opening day of competition at the Sailing World Cup Final saw all ten Olympic events and Open Kiteboarding complete a full schedule of racing in a 10-12 knot south westerly breeze across Melbourne’s Port Phillip.
In the RS:X fleets, Manjia Zheng (CHN) has taken control in the women’s division after posting two bullets and a third and in the men’s, Ivan Pastor Lafuente (ESP) and Bing Ye (CHN) are tied on three points.
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) got off to a solid start in the Men’s 470 with a 1-2 to hand them the opening day lead. Austria’s Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar enjoyed the perfect start with two race wins in the Women’s 470 with the two Chinese teams tied on five points each behind them.
New Zealand’s Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie put in a strong showing in the first two 49er races, winning both. They discard their 11th from the third race of the day to lead the fleet. Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Marra Lopez sailed consistently, remaining in the top four in all three races and occupy second overall followed by Josh Porebski and Trent Rippey (NZL).
The qualification process is well underway in the Formula Kite and the ever-dominant Oliver Bridge (GBR) began his campaign with flying colours, claiming every race victory. His brother Guy follows with Florian Trittel (ESP) the next best so far in qualification.
In the remaining fleets, Rio silver medallists Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) sailed a perfect day in the Nacra 17, winning all three races to grab top spot. Jake Lilley (AUS) was equally dominant in the Finn, taking both race victories, and Australia’s Tess Lloyd and Eliza Solly lead by one point in the 49erFX.
Racing continues Wednesday 7 December from 12:00 local time.
By Dan Smith, World Sailing