- Dutch complete double RS:X victory lap
- Picon the mother and medal, France on the rise
- “I spend more time with Kiran than my wife” – Van Rijsselberghe
- Great Britain qualifies for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in all ten classes
The Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus 2018 drew to a close on Sunday with the Netherlands on top, France on the rise and Denmark basking in accolades from around the world for setting new standards for hosting the biggest sailing event in the world.
“The city of Aarhus has really come alive over the last 11 days,” Kim Andersen, the president of World Sailing said. “Thousands of people have shown their support, enjoyed the sailing spectacle and the onshore activities.
“It’s been a truly fabulous event and as World Sailing President and a proud Dane, I could not be any happier.”
The greatest gift from the Danes and their 1,100 amazing volunteers was that they provided the perfect stage for the sailors to showcase their talents. New stars have emerged and old ones returned. The week has been graced by many great performances, from dramatic capsizes in the 49erFX and the rise of the Fantela brothers in the 49er, Zsombor Berecz’s tears as he crossed the line to win the Finn and Hungary’s first gold at a quadrennial World Championships and Emma Plasschaert winning Belgium’s first world championship gold in the Laser Radial and proving that Marit Bouwmeester is human.
The Netherlands topped the final medal table with three golds, two silvers and one bronze from the ten Olympic classes. On Sunday, they added a silver lining to their double victory lap in the windsurfing. Dorian Van Rijsselberghe, the double Olympic champion, and Lilian de Geus had made themselves mathematically uncatchable on Friday. Kiran Badloe, lying in second, kept his rivals behind him in the medal race to take another silver for the Dutch.No one across any of the fleets has been more dominant than De Geus. She did not finish lower than ninth in their 12 races over the last two weeks. After dominating Friday, the 26-year-old De Geus, was 30 points clear of China’s Yunxiu Lu in second. This World Championships gold and the challenge it lays down to the rest of the fleet for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (Enoshima), will have gone long way to making up for the dreaded fourth place in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“I can party officially now,” De Geus said. “It’s a strange feeling because I was already world champion on Friday, so we partied on Friday.”
“I was so disappointed after Rio, so it’s an amazing feeling to be world champion. We trained a lot in these conditions and you could see the results on Friday – with two bullets. I could see every shift and every gust.”
Behind her, France’s 2016 Rio Olympic champion, Charline Picon, laid down her own marker with a magnificent medal race which seized the silver from Lu, who had started the medal race 10 points ahead. The 33-year-old is just making her comeback a year after having a baby – one of at least eight women in the women’s RS:X fleet who are mothers .
“I’m very happy with my performance, especially because I’ve just had a baby one year ago, and I’ve only been training for four months,” Picon said. “I’ve proved that you can still trust in me and my performance in big competitions. I hope to improve a lot more over the next few months.
“I think Lilian did great and I will be using her great performance to compare myself. This week has been hard. I’ve been racing then going back to the apartment to look after my baby. It’s not easy after a day of racing.”
It was another result that suggested that France will be a formidable host of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Likewise, Louis Giard holding onto bronze in the men’s RS:X just before. Add in France’s three medals from the kiteboarding classes, which have been included in Paris 2024 (the sailing will be in Marseille) and France ran the Netherlands close.
Lu just needed to finish fifth or better to be guaranteed silver. The wind softened to five-knot offshore westerlies for the women’s race, down from ten for the men, 40 minutes before. Picon was third to the top mark behind the leader Britain’s Emma Wilson, just 19 and only three points behind at the start of the race.
But Picon flew into the lead on the first downwind and never gave it up. Lu was seventh and stayed there for the whole race. But with the field so tightly bunched – with less than 100m between the ten boards – fluctuations were always possible and nothing was settled until the line. After dominating the class world championships, China’s men and women have found it tougher going here.
The men’s RS:X was more settled. Van Rijsselberghe has been a class apart among the windsurfers over the last two weeks. This is the third time he has won gold before the start of the medal race. The other two times were the London 2012 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Olympics. He does things his own way and he does not leave things to chance.
Like many of his would-be rivals, the 29-year-old double Olympic champion has only won two races, but his consistency was unmatched. Only once in the 12 races leading to this medal race did he finish out of the top 10.
Even his highly-rated fellow countryman, Badloe, 23, had not been able to keep close and lay 23 points behind.
“I’m super proud for my nation and myself, and also Kiran who secured silver,” Van Rijsselberghe said. “We train everywhere and anywhere. I spend more time with Kiran than my wife.”
France’s Giard, in third, was five points further behind. He had Poland’s Pawel Tarnowski just two points back in fourth and Greece’s Byron Kokkalanis is fifth, six points further back.
Badloe slipped to seventh at the bottom of the first downwind, but made up the ten-second gap on Giard on the second upwind, rounded in fifth and held. He could afford to look back to check on Giard’s position on the second and last downwind. And Giard could relax with pursuers safely behind him.
Sadly the wind had softened to 2-3 knots by the completion of the women’s RS:X and there was no possibility of running what had promised to the medal race of the day in the Nacra.
The top four boats in this mixed crew foiling cat class were separated by just six points. The pre-race favourites, Italy’s Ruggero Tita and Caterina Marianna Banti were just one point clear of the exciting newcomers, Australia’s brother and sister Team Outteridge, Nathan and Haylee. Argentina’s Rio 2016 Olympic champions, Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli, were two points further back. And that’s they finished.
Spare a thought for Denmark’s Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lübeck in fourth – three points off the bronze.
What is the secret of the Dutch domination? For De Gues it is simple. “We medalled in almost the classes we went for,” she said. “We push each other to high standards. The secret? Hard work.”
Van Rijsselberghe, who is making a comeback to the sport this year after deciding to have a tilt at a third Olympic gold, the recipe is equally simple.
“The most important thing is to have more fun than anybody else, so we have that very high in our notes,” he said. “You just do the simple stuff really well as my coach (New Zealander, Aaron McIntosh) says and we end up there.
“We know that we need to beat each other and at the moment we’re pretty good, so you’ve got to try really hard to beat the other guy and it’s a supercool thing. We just wanted to end up first and second at the Worlds.
“How did I come back? First I needed a good ass-whipping. In Hyères this year I got beaten pretty badly, so that triggered me to step it up and make sure I was going to comeback strong.”
Badloe concurred. “Well, like Dorian said, I think we’re having more fun than anybody else,” he said. “We’re putting in the hard work but most of all keeping the fun in it, and that’s what has eventually got us up there.”
The men’s RS:X is one of those fleets that reinforces the fact that a world title is often harder to win than an Olympic one, with so many more talented sailors fighting for every point.
The medal races have riveting, played in front of packed stadium crowds.
“Having racing just off the front with a packed grandstand, coupled with big screens and digital applications such as the SAP Sailing Analytics has helped the audience to really understand what’s going on and dive deep into the action,” Andersen said.
“The City of Aarhus has really put on a world class show, which we always knew they would do.
“Worldwide, the media footprint of this event has been quite significant. We’ve broken previous broadcasting records and we’re on track to achieve more viewers of the sport at a World Championships than we’ve ever had before.”
Denmark’s ability to stage events of this scale has not gone unnoticed and Thomas Bach, the IOC president, noted it on his visit last Sunday.
“Denmark has really established it as one of the hubs for world-class sports organisation,”Bach said. “It’s something I’ve noticed. Just this year, Denmark is hosting three world championships. Aside from sailing, there’s been ice hockey and triathlon in Denmark and there’s more on the way.
“Denmark has proven to be a world-class organiser. No-one in the sporting world could have any doubts that Denmark could organise a fantastic Olympic Games, organisationally and logistically.”
Sustainability has also been at the core of these Championships and Bach said: “I think it’s remarkable that World Sailing, Aarhus and Denmark have built programmes with regard to sustainability. This is a benchmark project for these kind of World Championships.”
From small acorns these World Championships have grown strong through the kind of partnerships that bind sailors together across the clubs of Denmark. People and institutions have come to together for a greater purpose.
“These World Championships have been even better than we had hoped and prepared for,”Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark, said. “From the racing, to our incredible 1,100 volunteers, to the spectators lining the harbour wall, to the benchmark-setting sustainability programme, we are very proud that Denmark has delivered. The IOC president’s praise of Denmark’s organisational skills was very welcome. Great sporting events are all about partnerships. Sport Event Denmark, the City of Aarhus and the Danish Sailing Federation had a vision and made it a reality.”
Denmark and Aarhus 2018 hands on the flame to the Netherlands and The Hague 2022 in the strongest of health.