Just when you think the SSL Gold Cup can’t get any more exciting, another round proves you wrong. The 1/4 Finals saw the introduction of the top 8 seeded teams, taking on the 8 qualifiers, so naturally the level of competition went up a notch.
Some of the new teams excelled, while others floundered. We said a sad goodbye to teams who had been in the competition since day one, but also saw underdogs sparkle in the Gran Canaria sunshine.
We started the round with the lightest of winds, building to a peak of 25 knots on the morning of the final golden day, which then settled down to a perfect 10 knots for the double points races.
In Fleet 1 we saw Great Britain and Denmark enter the competition, but with very different fortunes; the British ‘Spitfires’ soared, scoring a perfect 20 points, while the ‘Danish Dynamite’ failed to explode into life. The real battle was between France and Malaysia for the second semifinal qualifying spot alongside the Brits. There was nothing to separate these two, with the Malaysian ‘Monsoon’ team, who had been in the competition since day one, going into the final double points race one point ahead of France’s ‘Les Bleus’. In the end it was ‘Les Bleus’ match racing experience which put them through, while the ‘Monsoon’ team finally bowed out with their heads held high and new fans around the world.
The Hungarian ‘Shamans’, who have been in the competition since the 1/16 Finals, continued their strong form with an impressive three wins out of four in Fleet 2. Behind them it was a three-way battle for the second qualifying spot between The Netherlands ‘Dutch Lions’, Germany’s ‘Unbreakables’ and Chile’s ‘Finis Terrae Sailors’. It came down to just 9 seconds, with the ‘Dutch Lions’ coming out on top of an ultra-close battle with Germany’s ‘Unbreakables’.
Fleet 3 was one of the most open of the competition, with the antipodean teams of Australia and New Zealand entering the competition, taking on Brazil and Portugal. Three of the four teams won races, with the Australian ‘Boxing Kangaroos’ starting strongly with a win in the first race, followed by the ‘Brazilian Storm’ winning races 2 and 3. The double points race on Thursday was extraordinarily close, with New Zealand’s ‘Guardians’ requiring a race win, and other results to go their way to qualify. The ‘Guardians’ secured the win, but it was a photo finish between ‘Brazilian Storm’ and the ‘Boxing Kangaroos’ which decided the qualifiers. Brazil took top spot, with New Zealand edging Australia for the second qualifying place thanks to ‘Brazilian Storm’ finishing centimetres ahead of the ‘Boxing Kangaroos’.
The home nation, Spain’s ‘La Armada’ team, and the Italian ‘Gladiators’ were the newcomers in Fleet 4, meeting Switzerland’s ‘Helvetic Lakers’ and the hugely impressive Lithuanian ‘Ambers’ – the team who had been in the competition since the 1/32 Finals and won all their races in the previous round. The Spanish had all but qualified going into the final race, but the Italians and Swiss were on equal points. In the end it was the ‘Gladiators’ who joined ‘La Armada’ in qualifying for the semifinals after controlling their opponents impressively throughout the race. The ‘Ambers’ failed to match their previous form, with the Lithuanian campaign running out of steam after such a long run in the competition.
So all is set for our 1/2 Finals. In Semifinal 1 we have Great Britain, Brazil, The Netherlands and Italy and in Semifinal 2 we have New Zealand, France, Hungary and Spain.
See you Saturday 2nd December at 12:00 local time for the semifinals of the SSL Gold Cup Finals series, the football world cup of sailing.
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