French sweep Nations Cup Grand Final
Published on April 14th, 2019
San Francisco, CA (April 14, 2019) – Maxime Mesnil (FRA) and Pauline Courtois (FRA) were crowned the champions at the World Sailing’s Nations Cup Grand Final, winning the Open and Women’s Division respectively. Mesnil bested Pearson Potts (USA) in the semifinals, then toppling Henrique Haddad (BRA) 3-1 in the finals. Courtois got past Anna Östling (SWE) in the semifinals before blitzing Nicole Breault (USA) 3-0 in the finals.
Daily update from St. Francis Yacht Club:
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) in the semifinals.
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 semifinal races with commanding leads against Juliana Senfft (BRA) earning her spot in the final.
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 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
The event was 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.
Source: St. Francis Yacht Club