Melbourne turned on its best day at the Sailing World Cup Final….
Matt Wearn (AUS) and Pavlos Kontides (CYP) held the top two Laser spots on 18 and 20 points with Tom Burton (AUS) and Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) third and fourth on 34 and 35. The top scorers were well clear of the pack heading into the Medal Race so it was first versus second and third against fourth to decide who walked away with the World Cup honours.
The last to sail on a day that also included the Medal Races in the 470s, Finn and Laser Radial, the competitors enjoyed 10-14 knots of south westerly breeze in gorgeous Melbourne summer sunshine off the St Kilda Sailing Precinct.
Kontides, London 2012 Olympic silver medallist, knew that victory would hand him an inaugural World Cup gold medal. His demeanour in advance of the decider was a man full of confidence and after a conservative start he managed to hit the front of the fleet and grab the lead on the second upwind.
Meanwhile, Wearn found himself mid-fleet, pushing to catch up with Kontides. Wearn was forced to do penalty turns after an infringement at the third mark rounding. That ultimately sealed his fate as Kontides streaked away to win the double points race and with it, gold.
“This is my first gold medal in the senior fleet,” said Kontides through a beaming smile immediately after racing. “I’ve come close to winning many times but I’m really glad I have finally won. It was a great week with great conditions.
“This is the start of a new cycle and it’s good to start it in this way.”
Wearn finished fourth which confirmed his silver medal but he was visibly frustrated, “It’s very disappointing after leading for two days. Pavlos sailed a lot better today but there were a few times this week where I gave points away, but that’s racing. It’s a nice end to the year and I’m looking forward to World Cup Miami and the new cycle.”
In the other battle, a familiar one within Olympic Laser sailing, Rio 2016 gold medallist Burton and silver medallist Stipanovic were up against each other, again. This time, Stipanovic pulled ahead of Burton from the outset and maintained his superior boat speed to pull away. The Croatian came through in third which handed him bronze and the Australian finished tenth.
It was advantage to Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) in the Laser Radial fleet heading into the Medal Race. The Dutch racer took a 12-point lead over Rio 2016 bronze medallist Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) into the final day and played her cards perfectly to walk away with World Cup gold.
Bouwmeester stayed close to Rindom, remaining risk free and allowing the Dane to win which confirmed Boumeester’s gold medal and Rindom’s silver.
“I should have been a bit more aggressive to win the race,” said Bouwmeester. “I thought if I stayed close to Anne-Marie I would be fine. I don’t think I sailed my quickest but I’m happy to be here and finish the year off with a win. I’m going to have a nice break, put some proper work in and then I’ll be back next year.”
Emma Plasschaert (BEL) overhauled Silvia Zennaro (ITA) to complete the podium.
On the eve of the Youth Sailing World Championship beginning in New Zealand next week, Laser Radial’s Finn Alexander (NSW) put the final touches on his perfect preparation. There was no doubt about the Australian Sailing Youth Team member‘s victory, he finished 14 points ahead of Zac Littlewood and 16 points ahead Caelin Winchcombe who was third overall.
“While the result was really good, it was more about making the final touches on my preparations for the Youth Worlds,” Alexander said. “It was about the learning and finalising any holes in the system that’ll best prepare me for New Zealand. It’s the perfect preparation – you can treat it like the worlds with the added pressure and even the coloured leader’s bibs.”
After the worlds, 17 year-old Alexander leaves the youth class to begin his Laser full rig campaign in Adelaide next month.
In the Laser 4.7 fleet Jack Littlechild (NSW) beat the field. Not to be shown up by his older brother, Ryan Littlechild (NSW) won the Opti Open fleet from 44 starters.
“I like regattas when they have both light and windy days, because it really challenges all the sailors. It’s not just who’s the biggest or the lightest,” said Jack. “My ultimate goal is to get to the Olympics one day – I don’t mind what boat. And I guess just always meeting the small goals that I set, because if I meet them I can get to where I want in the future.”
Jack’s hero in the sport is Rio 2016 gold medallist Tom Burton, who happened to be unrigging in the park after his own Laser Medal Race. The talented brothers were introduced to their hero, putting the finishing touch on an already big day for the awestruck Sydney pair.