Please select your home edition
Edition
Rooster 2023 - Aquafleece - LEADERBOARD

Pained expressions on Day 2 of the SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals in Gran Canaria

by Mark Jardine & Benedict Donovan / SSL Gold Cup 28 Nov 2023 18:09 GMT 10 November - 3 December 2023

Light winds bring emotions to the fore on yachts. Situations can change in an instant, and the whole scenario can be understood just from looking at a sailor's face.

Anyone who has sailed in very light winds can relate to the frustration of hitting a wave, or when your wind is taken by an opponent.

On Tuesday in Gran Canaria the expressions on the sailors' faces said it all after a very delayed start as a feeble breeze briefly awakened from its slumber.

Fleet 4, Race 2

In little more than drifting conditions, the fleet was finally away at 13:25 local time, with the Italian and Spanish teams advanced on the Lithuanian team and the Swiss further back, tacking away early. Thankfully even in this lightest of winds the SSL 47s have the power to provide great racing.

The wind was incredibly patchy, and early leaders the Italian 'Gladiators' could only look on helplessly as the Spanish 'La Armada' simply sailed around them in their own private wind, which seemed reserved for the home team.

'La Armada' caught a new breeze first to round the top mark in the lead with the 'Gladiators' 35 seconds behind. The Swiss 'Helvetic Lakers' recovered something from their poor start to slide ahead of the Lithuanian 'Ambers', who then had issues with their spinnaker retrieval line on the hoist.

At the leeward gate the leaders split, with 'La Armada' choosing offshore while the 'Gladiators' headed inshore. The Spanish soon tacked onto starboard though, not wanting to give the Italians too much breathing space.

'La Armada' sailed the second upwind leg superbly in the patchy wind, while the 'Helvetic Lakers' pulled right onto the tail of the 'Gladiators' at the final windward mark. The 'Ambers', with nothing to lose, rolled the dice with a gybe set on the final downwind leg.

Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto, who had spent much of the race gesticulating, showed his frustration by hitting the deck as the 'Helvetic Lakers' slid past them on the final downwind leg, leading to a luffing duel between the two. Would their private battle bring the 'Ambers' back into the battle?

As the Spanish slid across the finish line first, a full half a kilometre ahead of the others, it was all playing out in excruciating slow motion for the other three. The 'Helvetic Lakers' continued to fiercely guard their lead over the 'Gladiators', while the 'Ambers' tried to sneak round the outside. In the end the Swiss held on for second, while Italy kept third from the Lithuanians.

Nico Rodríguez, the trimmer for 'La Armada', and an Olympic medallist in the 470, described their onboard priorities when the conditions are so tough:

"First of all, we need to look outside the boat to see what's the easiest and fastest way to get into pressure. And then to have really good communication about the boat handling and all the manoeuvres to get into speed and to be a fast boat.

"There are still a lot of things to improve, but I think that we have a really strong team with a balance between youth and experience on the boat."

Kilian Wagen, main trimmer for the 'Helvetic Lakers', savoured overtaking the 'Gladiators' on the final downwind leg to take second place:

"We knew that as soon as we got some pressure that we'd be able to battle them on the gybe, and that's exactly what we did. We had better speed on the exit of the gybe than them and it was nice to roll them. They then tried to put pressure on us, all the way to the end of the race, so we were very pleased to finish second."

Fleet 1, Race 2

The wind, if anything, was even lighter as the French executed a perfect committee boat start, while Malaysia and Denmark boxed out the British, leaving them having to tack twice just to cross the startline. Incredibly this was topped by Denmark, who completed three tacks before crossing the imaginary line to start the race.

Halfway up the first leg, France's 'Les Bleus' and Great Britain's 'Spitfires' were head to head, just a few metres separating them. Towards the windward mark, 'The Spitfires' split off to the left, allowing 'Les Bleus' to gain a 25 second lead at the mark, with 'Danish Dynamite' following only 3 seconds behind, and the Malaysian 'Monsoon' bringing up the rear.

At the windward mark the 'Spitfires' managed to avoid disaster as the spinnaker pole failed to deploy. Thanks to quick action from bowman Matt 'Catflap' Cornwell they kept position ahead of Denmark. Meanwhile, 'Les Bleus' broke away at the front of the fleet, gaining a comfortable 100 metre lead and rounding the leeward gate 48 seconds ahead of the 'Spitfires' in second.

On the second upwind, Denmark fell to the back of the fleet, while the slippery 'Spitfires' gradually closed the gap to 'Les Bleus', jumping from pocket to pocket of pressure to overtake them before the final windward mark. By this point, 'Les Bleus' had lost their momentum, rounding almost 2 minutes behind, although this was still 4 minutes better than the 'Monsoon' in third.

The French weren't done though, and closed to within 100 metres of the British leaders, with the gap ebbing and flowing continually. But the 'Spitfires' matched 'Les Bleus' move for move - textbook technique, holding station between the finish line and their opponent - to take the win ahead of 'Les Blues' with the Malaysian 'Monsoon' third.

Eventually a dejected drifting 'Danish Dynamite' crossed the finish line, but it was too little, too late, as they failed to make the 15 minute time limit.

British bowman Matt Cornwell explained how the spinnaker pole problem at the first windward mark could have defined their race:

"If the Danes had rolled us then everything could have been on, and obviously you saw where they were at the end. If you got some dirt then you really got spat out the back. The pole was jammed which put us in a tough position - I hung onto the tack line, but could only do it for so long as it had a bit of load on it - but we sorted the problem."

Matt was encouraged with how his teammates are performing:

"The guys did a very, very good job, especially with the boatspeed. We were quite lucky after that start, as obviously it was a terrible start, which we'll watch back later grimacing, but we caught a right hand shift which was a bit of fortune that went our way."

French captain Xavier Rohart detailed what it's like to compete on such a calm day:

"It might look like a slow race from the outside, but onboard it's very intense, because there's lots of emotions going on! You are leading, then you are almost lost, and nothing is under control. It's really a very difficult race, because the wind changes every 15-20 seconds.

"Everyone is talking, and lots of decisions have to be made. Trimming the boat, changing the direction, changing ideas about what the wind will be in 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and then trying to cover The Brits!"

Sadly no more racing was possible in the day, with what little breeze there was disappearing as the sun sank towards the horizon, so Fleets 2 and 3 remain on just one race complete. Will we have a windy Wednesday? Probably not, but a bit more than today would be nice.

Follow us LIVE each day as we present you with all the latest SSL Gold Cup news from on and off the water:

#GranCanariaSSLGoldCup

Related Articles

Relive the Top 10 Highlights of the SSL Gold Cup!
It's hard to believe that the epic Grand Final was a week ago It's hard to believe that the epic Grand Final of the SSL Gold Cup was a week ago! The event was filled with highs and lows of emotions but, most of all, was a showcase of all that is good about sailing. Posted on 10 Dec 2023
Spellbinding SSL Gold Cup Grand Final
The inaugural football world cup in sailing's thrilling conclusion After 23 days and 64 races in Gran Canaria at the SSL Gold Cup it all came down to the final four, and the Grand Final. The inaugural football world cup in sailing's thrilling conclusion. Posted on 3 Dec 2023
SSL Gold Cup Semi-Finals
Razor-thin margins With the first rainclouds we've seen in Gran Canaria since the start of the competition, this was no normal day in the SSL Gold Cup. Everyone understood it was all on the line. Posted on 2 Dec 2023
SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals recap
We're down to the final 8 teams in Gran Canaria Just when you think the SSL Gold Cup can't get any more exciting, another round proves you wrong. The 1/4 Finals saw the introduction of the top 8 seeded teams, taking on the 8 qualifiers, so naturally the level of competition went up a notch. Posted on 1 Dec 2023
SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals Day 4
Tough & Tempestuous Golden Day The 1/4 Finals started in a calm manner, but came to a crescendo early on Thursday in Gran Canaria. Posted on 30 Nov 2023
SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals Day 3
Gran Canaria shines on massive 6 race day Tuesday's light winds meant we only had two races, so Wednesday was catch-up time, with the wind playing ball, delivering a beautiful 8 knots. A daunting six races were scheduled - physically and mentally draining for the teams and race organisers alike. Posted on 29 Nov 2023
Tense & Tactical Opener to SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals
Light winds mean the slightest mistake was costly in Gran Canaria After the breathless and heart-stopping moments we saw on Fantastic Friday, the start of the SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals in Gran Canaria was a far less frenetic light wind affair. Posted on 27 Nov 2023
SSL Gold Cup 1/4 Finals Officially Opened
The world's most elite sailing teams have landed in sunny Gran Canaria The world's most elite sailing teams have landed in sunny Gran Canaria for the 1/4 Finals of the SSL Gold Cup, and the level of competition is only ramping up. Posted on 26 Nov 2023
SSL Gold Cup 1/8 Finals recap
Fantastic Friday will surely go down as one of the greatest in sailing history The SSL Gold Cup kicked off to an excellent start in the 1/32 Finals, a superb standard of racing that only increased in the 1/16 Finals, but the extraordinary 1/8 Finals topped them both. Posted on 25 Nov 2023
SSL Gold Cup 1/8 Finals Day 4
Perfection & Pain on a Phénoménale day Just when we thought we'd seen it all in Gran Canaria, the SSL Gold Cup took it to a whole new level on the Golden Day of the 1/8 Finals. Double points meant it all came down to today's performance on the water. Posted on 24 Nov 2023