Post Date: Sunday, April 14, 2019
French Women’s and Open teams share the podium. © Gerard Sheridan
Pauline Courtois (FRA) and Maxime Mesnil (FRA) took top honors respectively in the Women’s and Open Divisions at World Sailing’s Nations Cup Grand Final, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, CA.
Courtois and her Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team of Maelenn Lemaitre, Loise Acker and Sophie Faguet opened the day with a 2-0 lead over Anna Östling (SWE). Östling scored a crucial point in their first match and kept the pressure on Courtois, but in their fourth and final race, Courtois was able to pour on enough speed to clear a penalty just before crossing the finish line a few boat lengths ahead of Östling.
Meanwhile, Nicole Breault (USA) sailed two strong races with commanding leads against Juliana Senfft (BRA) earning her spot in the final.
Breault won the semifinals, but failed to score in the finals. © Amanda Witherell
Close racing ruled the Open Division from the end of the semifinals all the way through the last match of the day. Mesnil’s Match in Black by Normandy Elite Team of Hugo Feydit,Yann Chateau,Yves-Marie Pilon scored two against Pearson Potts (USA), getting back in the game after two early losses in the semifinals. James Hodgson (AUS) locked in an early win versus Henrique Haddad (BRA) and the two went into their second race of the day neck and neck around the course, sailing cleaner than the previous day. On the second downwind leg, Hodgson had a smoother set to the chute and galloped into the lead, but Haddad managed to close the gap. Both gybed solidly to lay a photo finish, with the point going to Haddad. The four Open Division teams sailed a fifth flight, tucking tightly to shore along the south end of the course to seek relief from the strong flood current. Mesnil and Haddad both managed to gain control and hold it steady during the downwind legs to cross first ahead of Potts and Hodgson, respectively.
In the Final Round Mesnil bested Haddad 3-1. Courtois kept up the speed in her battles with Breault, who tore a spinnaker in a very close first match giving Courtois the opportunity to attack from leeward, luff her and offset a penalty she’d picked up earlier. Breault was never able to scratch ahead enough to score a point and Courtois won it 3-0.
“It was a good fight. We didn’t make it easy, but they owned us,” said Breault, who was racing with the same Team Vela members Molly Carapiet, Karen Loutzenheiser and Hannah Burroughs from 2015 Nations Cup, defending their Women’s Championship title. “The losses live with you, but we can’t wait to do battle again,” she said.
Courtois’s Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team © Leslie Richter, Rockskipper Photography
Courtois had only praise for her rival, Breault, recalling that “four years ago we were in the Nations Cup Final in Vladivostok, against them, and we lost 3-1 so to win these three races today was incredible,” she said. “It’s an amazing place to sail.”
Mesnil said the matches against Haddad were tricky, but the elevated wind conditions helped put his team on the podium, which he’s delighted to be sharing with “the women’s team, who are our training partners.”
Mesnil’s Match in Black by Normandy Elite Team © Leslie Richter, Rockskipper Photography
“A nation wins the Nations Cup,” said Michael O’Connor, Nations Cup Working Party Chair in World Sailing. “Many of the countries who came are emerging nations in match racing…we want to build a platform for it.”
Haddad concurred that the event helps the sport in general. “We started in match racing 12 years ago because we had the Nations Cup in Brazil,” he said, thanking his team for coming together to compete once again.
Östling and Senfft finished third and fourth respectively, with Östling scoring two points in quick succession during the petit-finals. Hodgson and Potts battled for a medal in the Open Division, with Hodgson beating him 2-0 to finish third overall.
“Brazil sailed better than us and deserved the spot,” said Hodgson. “We’re super happy with how we sailed today. These were the most fun matches of the regatta for us, my crew was really on and we’re grateful to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia for supporting us and St. Francis Yacht Club for hosting us.”
Viewing from StFYC's Race Deck was outstanding. © Amanda Witherell
“We’re pleased with how racing played out and entertained viewers in and around the club. What was unique about the venue was the public had commanding view of the racing – all the tactics and execution were visible to everybody, whether you were a junior or a match race champion, you could learn from watching,” said Regatta Chair Bruce Stone. “One of the challenges of the final day of racing was the current and who could get in to the rocks first. The tide charts were not accurate due to snowmelt from the Sierra Mountains and outflow from Oroville Dam. While we short-tack the shore often here, I’ve never seen it done so tightly in all my years here.
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