- 17 June 2009 | Windsurfing
Israeli star Shahar ZUBARI and Spain's Blanca MANCHON top the leaderboard as light winds prevailed during the opening three day's of racing at the RS:X European Championships in Tel Aviv, Israel.
With six races in the bag, all in light conditions, everyone is very pleased to be able to take a break during the lay day on Wednesday and gather themselves for the last three days of intense competition.
Shahar ZUBARI (ISR) is determined to take gold on his home waters. He is already a celebrity after winning the bronze medal in Beijing. Cameras are attracted to him like bees to honey so winning here will only add to his appeal. Just remember that Israel have only ever won six Olympic medals; three of those have been in windsurfing.
The holder of two, Gal FRIDMAN (ISR), bronze at Atlanta 1996 and gold in Athens 2004, paid a visit to championship earlier in the week and may well be returning to the Olympic windsurfing circuit for another shot at Olympic glory. Currently thought he is playing his cards close to his chest, although more is expected to be revealed in Weymouth at the RS:X World Championships in September.
Meanwhile Julien BONTEMPS (FRA), silver medallist at Beijing, is seven points adrift in second with João RODRIGUES (POR), the defending European Champion and current leader of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings, in third a further nine points back.
The battle for the podium will continue on Thursday. The Forecast is for more of the same. Light to moderate sea breeze. ZUBARI excels in these conditions. He is a cool customer and rarely gets excited. All those around him may be feeling the pressure but at the moment he looks to be taking everything in his stride.
In the women’s fleet, runaway World Cup leader Blanca MANCHON (ESP) has a clear and undeniable grip on this championship. She has built up an eight-point cushion after three days of racing. Meanwhile her compatriot and reigning European Champion, Marina ALABAU (ESP) is locked in a battle of attrition with Beijing bronze medallist Bryony SHAW (GBR) and home favourite Maayan DAVIDOVICH (ISR). Just two points cover these three rivals.
Back in fifth is three-time Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship gold medallist Laura LINARES (ITA), who is 11 points adrift and fighting hard to get on terms. She put in a 'bullet' in the first race on Tuesday but was back to the same old same old in the second, finishing 8th. It’s a big ask but she has to break into the top five consistently if she wants to mix it with the trio up front.
Amelie LUX (GER), Olympic silver medallist at Sydney 2000, is back in 15th and sailing in her first major competition since Athens 2004. A lot has changed since then: new equipment; new faces up front; and the fitness level and work rate have gone up. The sport is a lot tougher now. It is hard to believe but it's true.
Still LUX should be there or there abouts by the time the selection is made for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Whilst there have been a few 'generals' and black flag starts as a result, protests have been non-existent. The pressure is off in 2009. Many top contenders are taking time out to re-charge their batteries, if not top up their funding 'war-chest' for the coming campaign to win gold in London 2012.
Racing resumes in Tel Aviv on Thursday and continues through until the Medal Races this Saturday.