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World Laser Radial Women's Championship 2008 Reports

Sat 15th March 2008 - Thu 20th March 2008



Wednesday 20th March 2008 - Day 6

Steyaert (FRA) wins her first Radial World Title

Sarah Steyaert of France has won the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Championship after a sensational finish to the regatta when Lijia Xu of China was disqualified from the final race ultimately costing her the world title. The six day regatta concluded off Takapuna, North Shore City, Auckland today.

Steyaert had an excellent day on the water, lying third at the start of the day she won race nine of the championship this morning and then placed 5th in the final race which was enough to secure her the title. It is Steyaert's first ever world title and far and away her best World Championships result, her previous best being a 6th place in 2006.

Steyaert was aware of what she needed to do as things unfolded on the water in the final face. Presented with a large bunch of flowers on the podium after racing the French woman had a grin from ear to ear, delighted with the result.

"I saw her take the flag," said Steyaert, "and I knew that I had to finish in the top fourteen - I knew the points. And I did it, so I knew I had the World Championship."

Disappointment for Lijia Xu, who has been outstanding throughout the regatta, came with a disqualification in the final race, a ruling on body movement that came from the on water judges. Despite losing her grasp on the title at the final hour Xu comfortably won the silver medal.

When asked about the disqualification after reaching the beach Xu admitted she was disappointed.

"It was very disappointing, but a lesson learnt," explains Xu. "I will do better in Qingdao."

Andrea Brewster of Great Britain got up to claim the bronze medal after sitting 5th in the overall standings at the start of the day. The final two days of racing were Brewster's best and were what sealed a podium spot for her.

"I'm really, really pleased. I don't think it's sunk in yet," said Brewster at the conclusion of racing. "I was fifth going into today, and I knew if I sailed like a sailed yesterday, then I had a shot at the podium, and I did, so it was great. I couldn't have had a better day really."

The final day spelt disappointment for Belgium's Evi Van Acker who had a shot at the title at the outset of racing today, lying second overall. In her worst day yet Van Acker recorded a 47th and 20th slipping out of the medals and back to 9th overall.

Local girl, Jo Aleh was unable to improve her standing today and finished up 14th overall, after some highlights and some lowlights over the course of the event. She was the best of the New Zealanders competing, with Sara Winther coming in 17th.



Tuesday 19th March 2008 - Day 5

Xu leads, Van Acker within striking distance

Lijia Xu of China continues to lead the Women's Laser Radial World Championships, being sailed off Takapuna, New Zealand, going into the final day of the regatta tomorrow. Xu is four points clear of Evi Van Acker of Belgium in second with Sarah Steyaert holding on to third place a further nine points behind Van Acker.

After regular postponements over the initial four days, conditions on the Hauraki Gulf today were conducive to an on time 10am start to racing on what was the penultimate day of the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Champs. Three races were sailed today with a total of eight races now on the board, and just one day of competition remains.

Racing now in gold and silver fleets, sailors today encountered a predominantly overcast sky and a north easterly breeze which ranged between 6 and 10 knots. Sailors had challenging chop to contend with which made things interesting.

"Race one we had 8-10 knots, less in the second race, like 6-8 knots, and then a little more again, but it was really hard with the waves," said Evi Van Acker after racing. "It was kind of like China, so that was good practice."

"You couldn't really see where the wind was coming from because the waves were so big. It was really difficult and everyone had mixed results, and I think that's why I'm still in second place."

Chinese sensation Lijia Xu, who had the overnight lead, won the first race of the day in the gold fleet. Eighth around the first mark Xu had to battle back to cross the line 12 seconds ahead of Charlotte Dobson GBR.

Race seven was Xu's worst in the regatta to date apart from her DSQ in race two; she finished 30th which effectively wiped her large leading margin putting Evi Van Acker of Belgium back within striking distance of the lead.

Van Acker managed to further diminish Xu's lead by finishing ahead of her in race eight, the last race of the day. Xu was 6th while Van Acker was 4th narrowing the gap to four points at the conclusion of the penultimate day.

"The first race went well for me, until I got a second yellow flag, so I had to pull out of the race" explains Van Acker. "I don't like unfair sailing, and I don't think that I was doing anything wrong."

"In the last race I had a good start, I went to the right," she continued. "We had more current against us on the right, but I managed to get 4th to the top mark, and I finished 4th so that was good."

"So it's all down to tomorrow. I feel good. I can't afford anything, I have my discard, so I need to do two good races - and I will do."

Sarah Steyaert of France retains third place overall despite a mixed day on the water. She recorded a 24th, a 20th and a 3rd today and now has a points total of 58, nine points back from Van Acker. Behind her, Penny Clark GBR is her closed rival who would need to close an eleven point gap to Steyaert to make it onto the podium.

It was a disappointing day for local favourite Jo Aleh who slipped from 5th overall at the start of today out of the top ten and back to 14th overall.

Olympic Qualification

With just six Olympic berths still available and 23 nations here in Auckland who have not yet qualified the battle for national Olympic qualification is on. The pecking order after today of those in the hunt for Olympic qualification is as follows... Greece, Spain, Russia, Ireland, Croatia and Czechoslovakia with Paraguay further down the list.



Monday 18th March 2008 - Day 4

Xu now leads Laser Radial Worlds

Lijia Xu (CHN) has hit the lead at the Women's 2008 Laser Radial World Championship and is three points ahead of Sarah Steyaert (FRA) who now lies second. Evi Van Acker (BEL) is just one point back in third overall.

It was a mixed day for most on the water today with some serious shuffling on the leader board as the day unfolded. Five races have now been completed with two days of the regatta remaining.

Light winds continued to frustrate race management and made for an eventful day on the water for the Women's Laser Radial fleet at the 2008 World Championships in Takapuna, North Shore City, New Zealand. The intention to start early today was thwarted by lack of breeze due to the large high sitting over New Zealand's upper North Island.

Race four did get underway at around 11am with the yellow fleet up first, sailing in a south westerly wind of 6-8 knots, followed by the blue fleet. The breeze eased and shifted and sailors had an on water delay of around an hour before race five got started, again the yellow fleet went first, sailing in 5-7 knots of wind which had shifted through to the south east.

Blue fleet were well into race five, with Jo Aleh (NZL) out to a four minute lead, just around the final mark and heading for the finish line when the race was abandoned with the dying breeze stalling the sailors towards the back of the fleet. Both fleets were back ashore by 4pm and while yellow fleet packed up for the day, blue were put on standby in the hope that race five could be re-raced and added to the leader board for all.

A light wind filled in an hour later from the north east and the blue fleet headed back out onto the course, finally getting a start away just before 6pm. Jo Aleh came out firing after the earlier disappointment and put a second on the scoreboard finishing behind Susanna Romero Steensma of Spain.

Lijia Xu (CHN) was also on hot form winning race four and then placing third in race five taking the overall lead now that she is able to discard her disqualification from Race 2. Two wins and two thirds give her 8 points in total as the regatta heads into the finals.

Sarah Steyaert (FRA )drops back to second overall with a 2nd and then a 36th in racing today while Evi Van Acker (BEL) is still looking strong just one point behind. Van Acker was 2nd and 14th in today's races.

Paige Railey USA and Jo Aleh (NZL) share 4th place overall both on 20 points. Railey was consistent today with a 7th and an 8th while Aleh's day was mixed with a 43rd followed by a 2nd.

Romero Steensma was the stand-out performer of the day languishing back in 60th overall at the start of the day the Spaniard clearly mastered the tricky light winds coming home with two bullets today. She improved her standing by 39 places to now lie 21st overall.

Racing continues tomorrow with the fleet now splitting into gold and silver for finals with a start scheduled for 10am.

Olympic Qualification

With just six Olympic berths still available and 23 nations here in Auckland who have not yet qualified the battle for national Olympic qualification is on.

Currently Russia, Paraguay, Greece, Spain, Croatia and Ireland are the top six of the nations not yet Olympic qualified with Czechoslovakia remaining in touch.



Sunday 17th March 2008 - Day 3

Steyeart (France) takes the lead at Radial Worlds

Sarah Steyaert of France has taken the overall lead at the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Championship being sailed off Takapuna Beach, North Shore City, Auckland. Just one race was sailed today with three races in total now on the board.

A postponement due to lack of wind delayed the scheduled start of racing off Takapuna Beach for the 116 boat Women's Laser Radial fleet competing for the world title. However a light north easterly sea breeze gradually filled in and the fleet left the beach at around 1o'clock for a 2 o'clock start to racing.

The day belonged however to Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) and Lijia Xu (CHN) who both brought home a race win with a solid leading margin in their respective fleets in today's race. Despite this neither Tunnicliffe of Xu are featuring in the top ten as the American is carrying an OCS and lies 36th overall while Xu has a DSQ on her scorecard and lies 30th at this stage in the regatta. Both will likely rocket up the leader board once the first discard comes into play.

Steyaert leapt into the lead today after placing 2nd in today's race after starting the day lying 5th overall. She has a total of nine points which means her leading margin is slight with Evi Van Acker (BEL) hot on her heals just one point adrift on ten points. Van Acker, who had a share of the lead overnight, was 7th on the water today.

Australian Sarah Blanck retains third overall after race three with an 8th placing in today's race and is three points back from Van Acker.

Local girl and current ISAF # 1, Jo Aleh was a big mover in the standings today shooting from 11th overall up to 4th place on the leader board. Fighting her way back from 10th at the first mark Aleh managed to cross the line in 5th which gives her a points total of 18 putting her eight points clear of Nathalie Brugger (SUI) who has 5th place in the current standings.

Sari Multala of Finland will be disappointed after a poor race today saw her drop out of the lead and back to 12th place overall. A 37th in race three was the cause of her slide down the standings, and this race will likely become her discard once in play.

The intention for tomorrow, Tuesday 19th March is for an early start to racing in order to try and catch up for lost races on Saturday and today. Organisers hope to start racing at 10am in order to squeeze in three races.

116 competitors from 40 countries are competing in the World Championship, which is also the final Qualifier for the 2008 Olympic regatta in Qingdao, China.


Sunday 16th March 2008 - Day 2

Finland leads Laser Radial Womens Worlds

Sari Multala (FIN) and Evi Van Acker (BEL) have the early lead with a win and a second place apiece at the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Championships which got underway today, the second day of scheduled racing, on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.

It was a warm sunny day on Auckland's North Shore and a 20 knot south westerly greeted sailors for race one of the regatta which kicked off on time at 11am this morning. Easing slightly for race two the fleet enjoyed excellent sailing conditions all day, after the wind failed to show yesterday.

Van Acker enjoyed being back on the water for some top level competition having spent recent months laying low with a virus. However the Belgian demonstrated today that she's back in top form with a stunning start to the regatta. Despite traditionally being more of a light air specialist Van Acker's recent training paid off and she won the first race in the blue fleet.

'I think it's the first time I've won a race in strong winds,' she said after racing today. 'I'm usually more of a light wind sailor. But last month I've been training, and I've been getting better, and today was just great. I was so fired up because it's been so long since I've done a real regatta'

'The first race I had a good start, good speed and I was far out in front from the start with an easy lead.'

'In the second race I had a bad start, in the beginning it didn't work out for me, I was on the wrong tack. But anyway I tried to climb up, I was, I think seventh or eighth at the top mark. I made too many mistakes on the downwind; I think I could have won the race,' continued Van Acker.

'But woah, great day, great result - I was crying after the first race. I'm really happy.'

Sari Multala of Finland had an equally good start to the regatta placing 2nd in race one in the yellow fleet and then following that up with a win in race two.

Both Sarah Blanck of Australia and Paige Railey of the USA also started strongly and have a share of third place both just two points adrift of the leaders. Blanck had a win and a fourth in racing today while Railey was third and second giving them both five points in total and well placed in this world class fleet going into the second day of the five day series.

Behind them is Frances Sarah Stayaert with a sixth and a win on the water today she has 7 points in total and lays fifth overall on the leaderboard.

Jo Aleh is the best placed of the New Zealand contingent and sits in 11th place overall with two 7th's on the water today. The light air specialist suffered with a capsize on the water today still managing a respectable result and is on equal points with Vickers (GBR) in 10th.



Saturday 15th March 2008 - Day 1

Womens Laser Radial Worlds becalmed on Day 1

The strong south easterly winds forecast for day one of the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Championship didn't show and the 116 boat fleet were today becalmed off Takapuna Beach, North Shore City, Auckland.

It was a long day of waiting on the water for competitors who left the beach around 10-10:30am for a planned start time of 11am. A light south easterly that appeared to be building showed promise and a course was laid, however the breeze dropped away forcing race organisers to shift the fleet and hunt for breeze which just never came.

Competitors spent the day bunched and drifting on the course in the hope that breeze would come from somewhere and allow organisers to get race one underway. A decision was made at 5pm to abandon racing for the day and the fleet made their way ashore.

The forecast for the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf for tomorrow, Sunday is for southwest 20 knots, rising to 25 knots gusting 35 knots early morning. Then easing to southerly 15 knots late afternoon or early evening and becoming southeast 20 knots at night. However this prediction is similar to what was expected today, so for competitors and organisers it will be a matter of seeing what the morning brings.



Friday 14th March 2008 - Practice Race

Laser Radial World's Practice Race a blow-out

The Hauraki Gulf played host today to around 50 sailors for an attempted practice race ahead of tomorrow's start to the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Championship. 116 are expected on the water for the first race of the series which is scheduled to start off Takapuna, North Shore City, Auckland at 11am tomorrow.

While the Gulf provided only around 5-10 knots of north easterly breeze until mid-afternoon today, a forecasted swing towards the south kicked in around 3pm making things difficult for race organisers who were attempting to lay a course for the practice race in a shifting and freshening breeze. 

Just less than half the fleet left the beach in the early afternoon with the intention of testing the waters and their start sequence form in today's practice race. However with the changing conditions challenging the race management and the increasing breeze everyone was back on the beach again around 3:30pm.

Predictions are that the wind will build, threatening competitors with the prospect of up to 20 to 30 knots for day one of competition tomorrow. Sunday's forecast is similar which could make for a high-speed, high-action start to the championship which runs over the next six days.

With 116 entries, racing will take place in two fleets for the qualifying rounds following which the top half will advance to the gold fleet and the remainder to silver for finals which are scheduled to start Tuesday. An 11am daily start is planned for each of the six days of the regatta with no reserve day in the programme.

If conditions allow, ten races will take place starting Saturday 15th and concluding on Thursday 20th when the 2008 Women's Laser Radial World Champion will be decided. Representatives from 40 nations are taking part with both Olympic qualification and national selection on the line at this event, so for many of the competitors the stakes are high.

New Zealand has the largest team competing with ten representatives taking part, all excited at the prospect of top level international competition on home waters.


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