RSX And Finn Fleets Put Rio To The Test
Racing kicked off at the Aquece
Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 with the Finn and RS:X fleets taking
to two race courses on Guanabara Bay. The day began with a press briefing that saw over 120 national and
international journalists, broadcasters and photographers turn up to witness
the first Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Test Event first hand.
At the briefing the attendees included Rio 2016 Executive Director of Sport,
Agberto Guimaraes, Rio2016 Director of Sports, Rodrigo Garcia, Rio 2016
Director of Communications, Mario Andrada, ISAF Technical Delegate Alastair
Fox and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Mat Belcher (AUS). Initiatives to improve water quality were explained – read more here – and an
outline of the event, the largest ever Olympic classes' regatta held in
Brazil, was given.
During the press briefing Belcher said, "We're really excited to
be here. It's the first time we've been here and we're really impressed with
the venue, the organisers and what sort of event we can expect for our class.
"It's a big opportunity for the athletes to enjoy the environment, get
an understanding as to what we can expect in a few years' time, the currents,
geographical effects and what type of wind we can expect.”
Once the briefing concluded attention turned to the racing action. A south
easterly breeze coming in at 8-12 knots ensured that two races were completed
in all three fleets.
London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) was on
scintillating form in the 28-boat Men's RS:X fleet and took both the day's
Racing on Pão de Açúcar the Dutchman read the conditions perfectly to lead
Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) who sits second on five points following a 2-3.
On the course the Dutchman said, "We were on one of the inside
courses and close to Flamengo Beach. There's a little bit more breeze towards
the middle of the bay so I just tried to find the breeze and go fast.
"It's not too crazy. The wind was light'ish so it was tricky but still
fun and plenty of opportunities.
"You have to put a lot of work into racing. There's a lot of pumping but
once you pump it pays off if you go the right way so it's key.”
With 28 racers on the water it's not far off the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing
Competition fleet size. In two years' time 36 racers will take to water and
van Rijsselberge is enjoying the similarities, "We have a really nice
fleet here. That's the biggest plus. Everybody is here and it's a strong
field. I think it's a really good test. We have the top ten from the last
World Championship so it's a high quality. That shows that everybody wants to
see how it is and try to get the best out of it."
Rio de Janeiro provides a beautiful backdrop to the fleets and the Dutchman
enjoys his surroundings, "It's nice to have two big monuments
here. The Sugarloaf is a little bit in the way, it stops the breeze,”
smiled Van Rijsselberge. "But it's interesting and we're
enjoying it. The scenery is really nice.”
Charline Picon (FRA) imitated Dorian van Rijsselberge's (NED) performance by
taking both bullets in the Women's RS:X.
Picon has Rio experience under her belt and used the information she's
gathered on the opening day to lead Maayan Davidovich (ISR) by three points.
"The first race I had a very bad start but I finished first so I'm
very happy,” beamed Picon. "I had a good downwind and
good tactics. In the second I didn't have a good start but I had a good
battle at the top and finished second behind Marina [Alabau].
"We've had a good time here and came here last year and we were here in
the winter and it's very pleasant for competing. It's nice to have Sugarloaf
and everything around us.”
Brazil's Patricia Freitas recorded two fourth places and is third overall on
Brazil's Jorge Zarif used his knowledge of Guanabara Bay to his advantage on
the opening day of Finn racing as he took a bullet and a second.
The 21-year-old first took to the bay when he was seven years and having
trained regularly inside and outside of the bay he came to the forefront on
the opening day.
"It was a good day,” said Zarif, 2013 Finn World Champion. "I've
sailed here since I was seven in the Optimist but seriously I've been
training here a lot for the last four or five years. Especially in the Naval
School Course because it's the one we will use more but we always sail by the
bridge and outside.”
Seventeen Finns will mix up racing on the Ponte course which is inside the
bay and Niteroi, outside of the bay. Rio 2016 will see 23 take to water and
Zarif is relishing racing in conditions that will be present in 2016, "I
like the fleet size because the Olympics will be like this. It's close to
what we will have and normally I don't have good starts in big fleets so for
me it's better to have fewer boats.”
Ed Wright (GBR) sits second overall on six points with Race 2 winner Giles
Scott (GBR) third overall.
Racing in the Finn and RS:X resumes on 4 August at 13:00 whilst the remaining
seven fleets kick off racing. All five race courses will be used on the
second day of racing.
Media coverage and results from the Aquece Rio will be delivered by the Rio 2016
team and ISAF through www.aquecerio.com/en/competicoes.php and http://www.sailing.org/2014-test-event.php
Images credit ISAF