5 augusti 2008
2008 International 420 Open and Ladies World Championships
The 2008 International 420 Open and Ladies World Championships have just concluded in Athens with four Swedish boats having taken part. The regatta was held by the NOTK at the sailing centre used for the Athens Olympics on the Gulf of Saronicos. The regatta proved to be a successful week, especially for the local sailors who achieved quenelles in both the Open and Ladies Gold fleets after an extremely difficult week of sailing conditions.
The regatta week began as usual with two days of measurement and, true to form, there were problems for almost all competitors with boats mysteriously losing weight or aluminium spars inexplicably growing in length. Such is the nature of a one design class, that these measurements must be strictly adhered to, and all of the Swedish team worked together over this period, supporting one another and getting all of our boats ready to begin racing.
The racing began with two days of qualification starting on Friday the 25th of July as strong thermal winds fought with prevailing north westerly gradient. Winds varied from 30kts to dead calm and shifted between 180 and 300 without evident reason or pattern. The conditions were further complicated by the geographic effects that were caused by the point of Piraeus at the north western end of race area A. Although the Swedish sailors showed good speed, this advantage was quickly negated by the lack of risk management, an issue which was to become an even greater problem later in the series. As a result, although all of the sailors showed good skills and talent, they all had to carry too many large scores to allow them to qualify for the Gold fleet of the finals.
After a lay day on Sunday the 27th, the final series began on the Monday with light and patchy sea breeze from the south, shifting between about 180 and 220, and bringing with it a short chop. The Swedish sailors found conditions difficult work in the conditions on this day as wind refused to follow a regular pattern; many found themselves out of their comfort zone and as a result began to take greater and greater risk in an attempt to achieve an advantage but were generally punished for this approach. The Mediterranean sailors seemed to be most at home in these conditions, not only due to their experience of the wind and sea state, but also because they were more conservative in their approach and had the sense to manage their risk much better.
The second day of the final series was again different with the famous Meltemi wind blowing in fiercely from the North. The wind was between 16kts to 20kts and the retained unpredictable nature it had shown in the earlier days, made even worse now by the fact the courses were set with the top marks around 50m from the shore which caused the wind to back and veer even further. However, the focus of the sailors´ strategy had now begun to shift to risk management rather than pure speed or strategy and the changes became immediately apparent with all boats putting themselves in strong positions at the first mark and generally working forwards from there. The change was important as it allowed the sailors to begin to assert a degree of control over their racing which had been lacking earlier in the series and performances improved as confidence returned.
The third day of the final series was basically a carbon copy of the second, only that the Meltemi had increased to 20kts to 25kts before racing began. The Swedish sailors approached this day this more confidence than any of the previous days as they were comfortable in their speed and now had a tactical approach that was proving effective. The first race of the morning saw all of the boats in the open fleet work up to the top of the field and put themselves in position for a good place, however John and Sofia Gustafson were forced to retire from their race when Sophia injured her knee on the second upwind leg. Further misfortune was to follow, as the race committee decided to abandon sailing for all silver fleets after only one race and the Swedish sailors were unable to continue making up for earlier disappointments.
The final day of sailing once again saw a Meltemi from the North, but now it was being recorded in the high 30s and gusting to 42kts. The race committee held sailors under AP on the shore in the hope that the breeze would slacken and make sailing possible, but with Greek boats filling the first two places in both gold fleets it never seriously looked like eventuating.
So the 2008 420 World Championships ended in Athens slightly earlier than anyone would have dared to predict. The Greek teams took most of the glory from the event and were not shy about letting people know about it, but the winners had proven that they deserved their places by being able to post consistent results when those around them folded. The race committee, with the exception of the cancellation of sailing on the second last day, ran a very good series with few problems and the Gulf of Saronicos provided warm azure waters that no one could complain about.
Viktor and Veronika Holmgren
17th Silver Fleet, Open World Championship
Viktor and Veronika were doing their second world championship in the 420 and therefore had a slight advantage over some of the other team members as they were more prepared for what to expect from the event. They showed good speed and skills at times, however it was a lack of risk management early in the series that gave them some large numbers that they were unable to get rid of. The pair did learn from early mistakes though and showed a definite development as the regatta progressed.
Carl and Wilhelm Johannisson
24th Silver Fleet, Open World Championship
Carl and Wille found the shifting conditions particularly tough as there style of racing is generally based on solid strategy. It took them some time to accept that this was not going to offer them an advantage as long as the wind remained unpredictable, however when they began to sail the fleet around them rather than the conditions their performance returned immediately.
John and Sofia Gustafson
30th Silver Fleet, Open World Championship
John and Sofia were the least experience in the 2008 team, having sailed the 420 for less than a year, however they seem determined to sail at the level of more experienced crews regardless of this late start. They suffered from the problem of risk management as both other crews, but learned the lessons just as smartly and started to push themselves into top ten positions quite frequently.
Maja Bärring and Linnéa Petersson
48th Silver Fleet, Ladies World Championship
Maja and Linnéa had a difficult start to their regatta as the chartered boat that they were using provided a lot of head aches for everyone involved in getting it on the water. They also chose to use a set of sails that they were not familiar with for the regatta and were giving away a lot of weight to other crews when it was windy. They did show that they had good ability, making good starts and taking places downwind and at mark roundings, but their campaign showed gaps in tuning and heavy wind experience.
Swedish Team Coach, Galen Mack
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