Game on at Nations Cup Grand Final
Published on April 10th, 2019
San Francisco, CA (April 10, 2019) – The 2019 World Sailing Nations Cup Grand Final is the culmination of an international qualifying system that has brought together nine Open teams and ten Women’s teams for this World Sailing match racing championship. Racing began today with a single round robin series which is the first stage in narrowing the field.
Day 1 update from St. Francis Yacht Club:
It was picket fences for both French teams – top-ranked Women’s skipper Pauline Courtois and Open Division skipper Maxime Mesnil, as well as defending Nations Cup Women’s Champion Nicole Breault (USA) after the first day of racing.
Competition commenced with 10 women’s division teams from around the world facing off in round robin format on two east-west race courses. Ripples of current snaking across the courses made for challenging conditions for first-timers to San Francisco Bay sailing.
“It was really difficult with the current, but my team did a really good job,” said Courtois, of her Match in Pink Normandy Elite Team of Maelenn Lemaitre, Loise Acker and Sophie Faguet. “We had really good, close matches in difficult conditions. There were no surprises, but it is important to keep focused and watch the water and the current.”
Anna Östling (SWE) currently in third place with three wins echoed the sentiment to stay focused: “Our first race with [Juliana] Senfft (BRA) we had a penalty at the start and were able to wipe it and give her one right at the finish line. It was one of those races where you think, think, think and finally get the win.”
Defending Women’s Champion, and Bay local, Nicole Breault, raved about the caliber and tightness of competition. “You have to capitalize on their mistakes, because they’re capitalizing on yours.”
Asked if she had any unforgettable moments on the racecourse today, she called up her match against fellow USA skipper, Allie Blecher.
“We were trailing around the leeward mark, but really close. We rolled into a tack, got our bow forward and I realized we’d rolled over our spinnaker sheets.”
With the drag of the sheets slowing them down during the short second beat, Breault’s bow Hannah Burroughs was all over the deck recovering and retying them. “We rounded, tucked to the inside, got control of them, and had the most perfect spinnaker set. We ended up passing them and winning the race.”
The morning’s light northerly winds eventually clocked to the west and built to the high teens delivering more robust afternoon conditions for the nine Open Division teams. The tail end of a strong flood tide pushed competitors close to shore seeking relief and moments of lift in reversing ebb.
This made for fantastic viewing from StFYC’s clubhouse of a series of dial-downs between David Rae (RSA) and Henrique Haddad (BRA) in a match ultimately won by Haddad. By day’s end, the ebb had shortened the average match times from 16 minutes to 11, noted World Sailing’s Technical Director and PRO David Campbell-James.
“We had a very nice day,” said Maxime Mesnil (FRA), sailing with Match In Black Normandy Elite Team members Hugo Feydit, Yann Chateau and Yves-Marie Pilon. “Last week we were at Congressional Cup and today we had more wins than all of last week. It was a very good start to the event.”
A neck-and-neck match against Pearson Potts (USA) had spectators out of their seats as the two boats rounded the windward mark, raised their chutes for the downwind with Mesnil quickly luffing Potts to the north, their hulls careening wildly in the building seas.
“I thought I had a penalty,” Mesnil explained, “So I was trying to penalize him, but my team said no, we are fine.” Eventually bearing off, Mesnil sent it for the finish line and squeaked out the win.
Tomorrow, he’ll be up against Haddad, who also had a strong day, and Ettore Botticini (ITA) who’s hoping for more wins than he scored during his first day sailing in San Francisco. “Today was hard. We lost, not the most important matches, but the ones we wanted to win,” he said. “We improved a lot through the day, but tomorrow we need to do better.”
Racing recommences tomorrow with Open Division skippers competing in the morning and Women’s just after midday.
The event is held in J/22s on April 10-14, 2019. For event format, click here.
About the Nations Cup
The inaugural Nations Cup in 1991 saw six regional qualifiers in each of Denmark, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Bermuda and Japan, with the Grand Final in Barcelona, Spain. At that time only sailed in an Open division, the title was won by Ed Baird (USA). The 1991 Nations Cup Grand Final was the climax of over 1,000 races sailed by some 50 countries.
Moving onto 1993, preceding the Grand Final in Holland, the qualifiers were held in Finland, France, United Arab Emirates, Peru, USA and Singapore, with Roy Heiner (NED) taking the Open Title and Helena Strang (SWE) the Women’s event.
The 1995 event saw San Francisco, USA host the Grand Final, with the qualifying events in South Africa, Croatia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and Chile. The Open Event was won by South Africa’s Bruce Savage, with the Women’s title claimed by Susan Walters (AUS).
The ISAF Nations Cup was successfully re-launched in 2006 with eight Regional Finals leading to the Grand Final in Cork, Ireland. France completed a double victory with skippers Mathieu Richard and Claire Leroy leading their teams to victory in both the Open and the Women’s division.
In 2009 competitors from more than 40 nations contested the Regional Finals held in Antibes, Auckland, Brindisi, Buenos Aires, Charleston, Kinsale, and Mumbai, whilst Porto Alegre in Brazil played the host of the Grand Final. Brazil saw some of the world’s best match racers representing their countries, but France repeated their achievement of 2006 to win both titles again with skippers Claire Leroy and Damien Iehl.
The 2011 ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final was hosted in Sheboygan, USA. Claire Leroy won her third consecutive title for France with Laurie Jury skippering a New Zealand team to victory in the Open event.
In 2013 Denmark won the rights to host the Nations Cup in Middelfart with the support of the Triangle region. Australia’s David Gilmour the 22-year-old son of Peter Gilmour brought home the Cup to Australia and the Women’s title went to Brazil with Juliana Senfft as skipper – the first ever Nations Cup victory for Brazil.
Vladivostok, Russia hosted the last edition of the Nations Cup in 2015. Russia’s Vladimir Lipavsky took the title in the Open division and Nicole Breault from the United States of America claimed the Women’s title.