The opening day of the 2018 Sailing World Championships brought challenging conditions for event’s first battles in the 470 and Finn classes – but the British Sailing Team hit racing with trademark pace.
The regatta, which runs until August 12, is the highlight of the 2018 season and the biggest challenge to date in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle.
Not only is it the world championships for all ten Olympic classes, it is also the first opportunity for nations to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
London 2012 silver medallist Luke Patience and crew Chris Grube were among the first in action as the men’s 470 racing got underway in winds as little at times as three knots.
The Rio 2016 Olympians came back from a bad start to finish the only race of their fleet in seventh – a top result in such tricky conditions at this stage of the competition.
“That was a frightening day for a World Championships opener – there was a really shifty, offshore breeze,” said Patience.
“We know this venue to be like that so it wasn’t a shock, but today was particularly shifty. It’s hard going into racing when it’s like this – you can be as prepared as you like but then you get these massive uncontrollable factors that can totally change your fortunes, and that’s why it’s frightening.
“It’s the nature of Aarhus and it’s the nature of the sport. We’ll definitely take a seventh at this point – it’s a counter, especially in a fleet this big. We had a tough start but we clawed it back, so I’m proud with our performance.”
Click here for Mark Chisnell’s technical breakdown of Patience and Grube’s performance.
Promising pairing Martin Wrigley and James Taylor finished the day in the highest overall position with a third-place finish that proved their capabilities among a world class fleet.
“When we finally got going it was in a very shifty offshore breeze so it was basically a game of snakes and ladders,” Wrigley said.
“It was a good race for us though – we managed to get third so we’re pretty happy with that. It’s a nice result but ultimately it’s just one of ten races so we need a few more of those.”
The only fleet to get the scheduled two races in was the women’s 470.
Sailing World Cup gold medallists Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre started strongly but were penalised on the first leg, forcing them back down the rankings.
A good recovery saw Mills, the reigning Olympic champion, steer them back into ninth from 47 boats. They followed it up with a 14th to go into day two in eighth overall.
In the Finn class, Hector Simpson made his Sailing World Cup debut with an impressive race in which he built on a strong start to cross the finish line in fourth.
“I had a nice start from the starboard end, held my lane and worked into a nice left-hand shift at the top and that got me into the top five at the windward mark,” Simpson said.
“From there I was able to hold that position, and made gains on the second beat to finish fourth. I’m really happy with my day.”
The day rounded off with the grand opening ceremony in front of big crowds.
Beijing 2008 bronze medallist and new mum Bryony Shaw was the flag bearer for Great Britain as more than 90 competing nations were introduced – but it was her one-year-old son Jaddek, strapped to her chest in a baby carrier, who stole the show.
As well as the 66 British Sailing Team athletes competing in the Sailing World Championships, 18 more sailors also flying the flag for Britain.
British Sailing Team members are those who have met the required performance criteria for UK Sport’s World Class Programme.
Racing resumes at 1100 UK time (1200 local) tomorrow with the Laser and Laser Radial fleets joining the action.