Besson & Riou in tight Gold Fleet battles
Conditions were stellar for the foiling catamarans on Day 1 of the Gold Fleet finals…
Race 1 – To kick off gold fleet racing leading teams put their faith in each side of the racecourse. Zajac/Mats (AUT 3), and the two Italian teams started on port and when hard right. Waterhouse/Darmanin (AUS 2) and Pacheco/Trittel (ESP 28) went hard left, and when the two groups met at the top mark it was the Spanish in the lead, but only narrowly.
With the crews maintaining an extremely fine balance on the foils for the downwind legs, the Italians moved into second and third while the Spanish kept their lead. Bissaro/ Frascari (ITA 5) got the best of the next beat but misjudged their layline which allowed the Spanish to pass them back at the top of the second beat.
With the conditions proving ever-challenging, the pedigree teams moved into the front of the three-lap race with notable exceptions in Saxton/Boniface in 11th and Outteridge/Outteridge in 23rd (the Aussies are carrying this result due to an earlier UFD disqualification), and then Martinez/ Maslivets (ESP 99) who were not able to finish the race, scoring a DNF. ESP 99 then further compounded their misery on the day by being over early on the start of race two, scoring letter scores in consecutive races.
But it was a great opening Gold Fleet race for the other Spanish crew, Pacheco/ Trittel who took the winner’s gun ahead of the two top Italian teams, Tita/ Banti ahead of Bissaro/ Frascari.
Race 2 – Out in from early on in race 2 were four-time World Champions Billy Besson/ Marie Riou as a large right-hand wind shift allowed teams on the right side to dominate the race. On the second upwind all of the top boats headed out right again and then the wind shifted even farther right. With most boats now overstood, the teams sailed a more open angle and all started foiling upwind – moving from 10-11 knots of boatspeed up to 14-15 knots of boatspeed. To accomplish the mode change teams shift their weight back, give a bit more angle of attack on the daggerboard, slightly ease the jib and traveller, and then sail the boat flat. When done right the mode is steady, fast, and without much leeward slippage. Done wrong it’s unstable and results in a lot of leeward slip, so it’s a high-risk mode. The top teams all managed to do it well and drove to the windward mark at top speed.
As the boats headed downwind, the French team straight set and the chasing Australians Waterhouse/Darmanin gybe set. As the two teams came back together in the middle after their gybes – they were neck and neck. After a back and forth battle with each team looking to foil more steadily than the other – it was the…. well, why should we spoil it for you? Watch the French v Aussie showdown here…
Race 3 – The final race of the day started with a bang, as GER 77 Kohlhoff/Stuhlemmer port-tacked the fleet to head hard out to the right. It was a ‘mic drop’ moment. The only complaints from the spectator gallery was that they weren’t foiling upwind when they did it, but an epic move all the same.
Besson/Riou (FRA 99) moved again into the front of the fleet for a second race in a row. With a perfect layline call at the leeward gate the French team pulled into a solid lead but were heading left when the second placed team of Wilkinson/Dawson (NZL 96) headed to the favoured right.
The French flipped over but it was too late and the Kiwis made a pass to claim the lead half way up the beat. The Kiwis were underlayed, however and at the top of the beat had to pull off two quick tacks with only a 30-metre lead on the chasing French. Wilkinson and Dawson pulled off two beautiful tack but their lead narrowed to 15 metres as the two teams headed downwind and gybe-set.
The young Kiwi team had a better mode downwind than the French, sailing slightly lower on the foils but with fewer stuffs, to advance into a 100-metre lead. Besson / Riou followed through and were put under pressure at the finish line by their French compatriots, Delapierre/ Audinet (FRA 56), by only a few metres.