With ten teams qualifying from the 1/32 Finals and six new teams joining the competition, the 1/16 Finals were always going to be exciting and intense. Little did we know just how much drama would unfold over the four days!
14 races were sailed in total, with the Golden Double Points Super Sunday hampered by a lack of wind until the afternoon resulting in two fleets being unable to race on the final day due to the 16:00 start time cut-off.
Some of the tightest racing was seen in Fleet 1, where Chile, Malaysia and Estonia finished on equal points while Austria were only two points behind. There was a different winner in every race, and Estonia only missed out on qualifying for the 1/8 Finals due to not winning a race. Sadly this fleet was unable to race on Super Sunday as it would have made for an incredibly exciting finale, but in sailing we are reliant on the wind!
The island nation of Tahiti may only have a population of just under 200,000, but they have set the SSL Gold Cup alight so far with their performances. In Fleet 2 they started well, but the strong Hungary team quickly found their stride and handed Tahiti their first defeat in Race 2. The Hungarian ‘Shamans’ then won the double points final race to win their group, with Tahiti qualifying second. The popular Tahitian ‘Black Pearls’ then served up their national dish of ia ota in the event to the delight of the other teams.
What a finish we had in Fleet 3! In the most dramatic of circumstances, the qualifying picture was turned on its head in the final 200 metres of the double points final race. All looked set for Croatia and Antigua & Barbuda to progress to the 1/8 Finals until Portugal’s ‘Navigators’ found their own breeze on the left of the final downwind leg to go from last to first, while at the same time South Africa overtook Croatia. In second all had changed and Portugal won the group with South Africa qualifying second.
The other fleet unable to race on Super Sunday was Fleet 4, but the battle was not as tight. Lithuania put in a commanding performance to win the group, winning two races and finishing second in the other, only losing to the second qualifier Slovenia. Both these teams have been in the competition since the beginning of the 1/32 Finals, so we will watch their progress in the 1/8 Finals with interest!
USA, Argentina, Poland, Brazil, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and France now enter the competition at the 1/8 Finals stage and will face off against the eight qualifiers. See you Tuesday at 10.30am local time for the beginning of the 1/8 Finals of the SSL Gold Cup Finals series, the football world cup of sailing.