Abu Dhabi has spoilt the 270 competitors from 38 nations over four days of racing. Medal Races across the ten Olympic events and Open kiteboarding brought proceedings to a close in an exciting finale in the Emirati capital.
An 8-12 knot north westerly breeze tested the competitors on the final day of racing as the inaugural event came to a conclusion off of the stunning Corniche.
Giard Covers Kokkalanis To Seal Men’s RS:X Title
Louis Giard (FRA) took a single point lead over Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) into the Men’s RS:X Medal Race and did exactly what was needed to claim gold by taking the race victory.
The young Frenchman has excelled in Abu Dhabi and knew he had to beat Kokkalanis across the line to take the honours. He covered Kokkalanis at the start to edge in front and as the race played out he was able to extend. He made it look seamless with a relaxed approach and said, “Maybe that’s the secret. The first day I was like this and it worked very well. Yesterday was difficult for me; I had the yellow jersey so I had some extra pressure on my shoulders. I relaxed today and knew in these conditions I could do something great.
“I am super happy. It’s my first win in the senior fleet so it was a really good day for me. Some of them have some Olympic medals so I tried to have fun and sail well without pressure and enjoy the fact that I am racing in Abu Dhabi. It is a great place and the organisation was perfect. It was a pleasure.”
Kokkalanis came through in third which was enough for silver and he heaped praise on his young competitor after racing, “What can I say? He was really good in this competition. He had one bad day yesterday but today he was really solid. He had a good start and he just had to cover me. That is exactly what he did. He sailed correctly and followed the gusts and he really deserves his gold medal. He was surprisingly good in this competition.
“I feel satisfied to finish the season with one more medal. Having a medal here is really important and I feel happy about it.”
Nick Dempsey sailed astutely to pick up a fifth which gave him bronze.
French Nacra 17 Un, Deux, Trois,
It was a French one, two and three in the Nacra 17 with their strong teams completely dominating the Abu Dhabi race track.
2013 and 2014 World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou claimed the title with a fifth in the Medal Race. They were followed by Audrey Ogereau and Matthieu Vandame who took the Medal Race bullet and Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet, who despite finishing last, still secured bronze.
“We are very happy because today was a very hard day, ” said Besson. “The positions were changing every time in the Medal Race and we’re happy for not only us but for the French team as we’ve all had very good results. We’ve all been training together throughout the year and to get a result like is no surprise.”
Riou added, “We have a really good French team. We are four teams and we sail together all year. It’s good to get first, second and third for the spirit of the team. We know there was a French team six point behind us so we looked at our strategy and tactics and we always looked at them. We raced our race and pushed a lot.”
Poland’s Januszewski And Nowak Take First Major 49er Honours
It was a week of hard graft for the 49er fleet with no team able to take a stranglehold across the series. In the end Tomasz Januszewski and Jacek Nowak (POL) kept hold of their overnight lead with a Medal Race tenth to secure their first major title.
The Polish team have regularly found themselves in the middle of the fleet but found what they’ve been striving for in Abu Dhabi, “All throughout the year we have been fighting, ” explained Nowak, “We were very confident but our results didn’t give us what we wanted so our hunger grew bigger and bigger. At this event we made it to where we wanted to be. We are very satisfied.
“We are feeling great because this is the end of our season. This kind of regatta is the first issue of it and it was great to be here in Abu Dhabi and to win it, against the best, it makes us very happy.
“We like racing in places we like. In Abu Dhabi there’s a great atmosphere which made us very confident, we like it here.”
Carlos Paz and Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medallist Anton Paz (ESP) were able to claim silver with a fourth in the Medal Race. John Pink and Stu Bithell (GBR) took a third to pick up bronze. For Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR), their race win wasn’t enough to propel them into the medal positions.
Victory Again For Belcher And Ryan
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) added Men’s 470 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final gold to their impressive haul in 2014. They hold the World and European titles and took the World Cup Final title with a Medal Race fifth.
“The race today was really tricky, ” said Ryan. “It was tough racing with big shifts. It was tough to keep control of the fleet but I’m really happy with how the week has been and we’ve enjoyed our time here.”
Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) had a chance to take gold in the Men’s 470 but missed out after they finished sixth. Nonetheless they walk away with silver. Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) picked up the final podium position whilst the race win went to Austria’s David Bargehr and Lukas Mähr.
There has been barely any separation between the fleet across the week and Ryan looked a relieved man after the stresses and strains of elite sailing, “It’s been really tough competition. I think that’s what they expected with this ‘Super Final’. We had six of the top seven from the worlds and it’s exactly what we came for, really good racing and everybody really enjoyed it. A few of the races came down to the final few metres and there was no chance to get any points separation, the intensity of the races showed that.”
In its first year the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final has been widely praised by the 270 sailors as Ryan concluded, “It’s really unique. It’s the first time this event has been hosted and to come away with a win, I couldn’t ask for anymore. This event is a concept that all of us professional sailors have been hoping for in the Olympic scene and it does give that chance for us to be professional. It’s exciting for the future and hopefully we can get more events with more support from places like this. Abu Dhabi has been a fantastic host.”
‘Best Sailing Week Of My Life’ For Van Acker In The Laser Radial
Evi Van Acker (BEL) praised Abu Dhabi as she put in a professional showing in the Laser Radial Medal Race, taking the race win and ISAF Sailing World Cup Final glory.
The Belgian took the lead from the start and held it through to the finish to end an amazing week, “Overall, this has been one of the best sailing weeks I have had in my life and I’ve been doing this for quite a while, ” said the London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist. “I’m really happy and thankful to be here.
“I think it’s a really good idea and everybody had a lot of fun. The conditions were really nice and much nicer than we all expected. We had some really nice sailing outside and inside with different conditions and close racing.”
Van Acker had a narrow one point lead over Anne Marie Rindom (DEN) going into the Medal Race but got off to a great start that handed her lead. Van Acker was able to extend as her nearest competitor, Tuula Tenkanen (FIN), kept up with her pace yet stayed out of the way.
“I was a bit nervous before the start, ” explained Van Acker. “You know one point between us meant there was a lot to lose. I had good tactics. Me and Tuula went quite far in front from the start so we could play our own game. The rest were quite far behind so for me it was a really nice race and nice to win the regatta.”
Tenkanen finished behind Van Acker and pushed up into the silver medal position. Rindom ended up eighth which relegated her to third overall.
Bridge Blows Away The Kite Competition
In a four way single race shoot out for the Open Kiteboarding title, Great Britain’s Oliver Bridge used his exceptional speed to blow away the competition.
Bridge has been exciting to watch on the race track with blistering pace that none of his rivals have been able to contend with.
After a tense semi-final Bridge qualified through to the final alongside 2014 World Champion Maxime Nocher (FRA), 2013 World Champion Florian Gruber (GER) and regular podium finisher Florian Trittel (ESP).
In one of the most important races of the year Bridge was relieved to turn his excellent series into gold by taking the victory, “That was pretty intense, ” he smiled. “We had two semi-finals and then the final which the winner would take, just on that race. I managed to remain unbeaten in all of my heats and then I won the final so I’m really happy.
“It’s the first time we’ve had the kites in an ISAF event like this. I’ve had good results all year; I managed to win the European Championship so it’s great to end the year with another win, which is a really important one.
“It’s been pretty amazing in Abu Dhabi. We’ve had great conditions and great racing. Some of the days have been intense with short and fast races. It’s been exciting.”
Nocher fought hard to catch Bridge but was unable to match him. He was nonetheless pleased with his week, “The racing today was fantastic today, ” said the Frenchman. “In the World Championship the races are usually 15 minutes long but here they’re only 4-5 minutes so it’s intense. I’m very happy to be second but it was a big fight between Ollie.”
Gruber fended off Trittel to complete the podium.
Sailors’ attentions now turn to the 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup series. Melbourne, Australia plays host to the first 2015 Abu Dhabi Final qualification regatta with racing scheduled to commence on 8 December 2014.