British sailors wrapped up the 2017 World Cup Series with an eight-medal haul at Santander’s Final (6-11 June). The bay of Santander played host to a speculator finale, with bright sunshine and light winds providing the ideal viewing platform as crowds gathered to watch the battles ensue.
First up on the opening day of medal race action was the Nacra fleet with racing coming down to wire for the silver and bronze medals as four boats battled it out for two podium spots after Spanish pair Fernando Echavarri Erasun-Tara Pacheco Van Rijnsoever had all but secured the gold on the penultimate day of racing.
A third place finish for John Gimson and Anna Burnet in a nail-biting finale was enough to hold onto the silver medal after a week of close racing.
Burnet described their elation: “It feels really good, we’re pleased with how we sailed this week. We made a few errors, but we know exactly where we went wrong.
“But to go out today in tricky conditions in the medal racing and execute the race we needed to secure the silver means we’re very happy with our performance!”
The pair’s attention will now turn to the evolution of the multihull class as Gimson says: “Our next focus event is the Europeans, but we’re heading to Bermuda next week to train out there until we get the new boat [foiling Nacra] and do as much foiling as we can do.”
Ben Saxton and Katie Dabson delivered a light-wind masterclass to grab the final bullet and with it steal the bronze medal in an unexpected turn of events, as places changed throughout the fleet in a snakes and ladders race.
Whilst Saxton’s focus was on the race in the hand, he explained what went through his mind in the post-race moments: “When we finished, I looked back and saw where the other guys were, I thought ‘that went really quite well’, so I knew just after we crossed the line that we had done it. Before then we were just racing really hard.”
Dabson, at her first Nacra 17 event, was thrilled to end a ‘tough’ week on a high: “It’s been a big learning curve but I’m slowly getting the hang of it, but it’s been good fun and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
After a challenging medal race, Tom Phipps and Nikki Boniface had to settle for fifth overall, ahead of Chris Rashley-Laura Marimon Giovannetti in sixth. Rupert White-Kirstie Urwin wrapped up their event 10th.
With four boats in the mix for golden glory, overnight leaders James Peters-Fynn Sterritt knew it was everything to play for if they were to cement their place at the top of the 49er scoreboard. The British pairing, who have been on fire all week, finished second, enough to secure the top spot with 7-points to spare.
The pair had a clear plan going into the deciding race as Sterritt explained: “To make smart decision, not do anything too extreme, and it paid off today”.
Peters described their event: “We just sailed really consistently all week, we didn’t actually win any races but we just went out there and put ourselves in the mix in every race.
“Ultimately over 14 races that’s what it took to win so we’re really, really happy with how we’ve sailed.”
“It’s been a great week for us, starting well, good boat speed, made smart decisions. It meant that every race, apart from one, we were in there and in a good position,” summed up Peters.
Teammates Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell also defended their position to take the bronze, making it a third consecutive World Cup medal in the pair’s first season together. Fellow Brits Jack Hawkins-Chris Thomas end their week seventh, their best major event result so far in the 49er.
Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey held on tightly to the silver spot going in to the 49er FX finale to secure their second medal as a pairing.
The duo, who won their maiden medal at the Sailing World Cup Hyeres, were thrilled: “It’s been an absolutely great week of sailing for us, it’s a process regatta, we’re to work our starting and those goals have been really good with really big improvements there.”
“It’s lovely, despite it being a process regatta, to come away with a silver medal having sailed really well with plenty of headroom still to go so we’re really, really happy,” smiled Dobson.
Despite crossing the line second in the medal race, Kate Macgregor and Sophie Ainsworth missed out of the podium finishing their event fourth.
It wasn’t to be for the British windsurfers as a tough medal race for Tom Squires sees him finish the week sixth overall. Meanwhile, in the women’s RS:X Emma Wilson and Izzy Hamilton finished eighth and ninth respectively.
With five medals already under their belt, the British Sailing Team were back out in force for day two of medal race action. In a demonstration of 470 prowess, Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre made it a second gold for the British Sailing Team. Having started the day in the top spot and with a 13-point cushion, the class act showed that despite being a scratch crew, they had what it took to leave the rest of the fleet in the dust.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing as a shift in the final race forced Mills-McIntyre to tack on to port coming off the start-line. The pair quickly locked into battle with Dutch duo Afrodite Zegers-Anneloes Van Veen, who started the day second, as they looked to defend gold.
Once round the first mark, their focus turned to securing the best medal race result, eventually crossing the line third, to see them the crowned runaway winners, an impressive 19 points ahead of the Dutch pair.
For Mills, this was her first 470 event since winning Rio Gold last summer, and despite training and competing in the 49er FX so far this season, the sailor proved unstoppable as the week went on.
Mills admits she’s feeling ‘relieved’ after securing gold: “Although we had a good points gap going into this medal race, I think that also adds pressure as everyone almost expects you to win so to come away and pull it off is a relief!”
With America’s Cup inspiration in full flow, there was motive behind a defensive first beat for the British pair.
“The conditions were so tricky, it felt the safest option was to actually take the Dutch girls and try and practice a bit of a match race. You don’t often get the opportunity when you’re far enough ahead to guarantee a silver so we thought we would see what we could do and it pulled off quite nicely!” Mills elaborated.
McIntyre reflected on their week: “We had no pressure coming into it [the event], a new team figuring things out, but we had a speed edge.”
“It’s pretty cool, we did three days training before the event, so it’s really good but sailing with a gold medallist helps though, doesn’t it?” laughed McIntyre.
Fellow British Sailing Team crew Amy Seabright and Anna Carpenter finished the medal race ninth to see them end their week seventh overall.
It has a been closely fought battle at the front of the Finn fleet throughout the event as three boats aimed to top the podium, with just a few points separating the sailors going into the final title clash.
An incredibly tense finale saw the medal colours constantly change as Brits Ben Cornish and Ed Wright, and Hungarian Zsombor Berecz fought tooth-and-nail for every last place.
A nail-biting end to medal race action saw Cornish penalised for a rule infringement and it looked like it might be over, but in a dramatic turn of events Berecz was also forced to take a penalty turn resulting in Cornish crossing the line two places ahead of his rival, with it snatching gold.
Cornish, elated and relieved, described the intense last race: “That was an exciting race! I’m sure for everyone watching as well, with a lot of lead changes, a lot of times when people were winning and then they weren’t.
“I’ve had quite a good season so far, and what I really needed was the gold so it’s great to come away with the win,” reflected Cornish, who made in a third British World Cup Final triumph.
There was disappointment for Ed Wright as he was unable to upgrade his third place in a challenging final race. Wright rounds off his event with the bronze medal, clinching an eighth British Sailing Team medal. Compatriot Henry Wetherell also contested the medal race finishing seventh overall.
Elsewhere in the final day’s action, Nick Thompson started fifth in the 10-boat Laser line up, however with a large point deficit, it would have always been a long-shot for a British medal. Thompson sailed a superb race to take the final event bullet, but with the medal contenders snapping at his heels, the Rio Olympian was unable to capitalise and remained fifth overall.
Starting in tenth and outside of medal contention, Lorenzo Chiavarini in an all or nothing final Laser race, risked the right-hand first beat in a bid to climb the scoreboard. A sterling effort and a third place finish resulted in Chiavarini advancing to eighth, whilst Michael Beckett wrapped up his week in ninth. Martin Wrigley and James Taylor finished sixth in Men’s 470 event.
2017 World Cup Series Final:
James Peters-Fynn Sterritt (49er)
Hannah Mills-Eilidh McIntyre (470 Women)
Ben Cornish (Finn)
John Gimson-Anna Burnett (Nacra 17)
Charlotte Dobson-Saskia Tidey (49er FX)
Ben Saxton-Katie Dabson (Nacra 17)
Dylan Fletcher-Stuart Bithell (49er)
Ed Wright (Finn)