The SSL Gold Cup kicked off to an excellent start in the 1/32 Finals, a superb standard of racing that only increased in the 1/16 Finals, but the extraordinary 1/8 Finals topped them both, with the double-points Fantastic Friday surely going down as one of the greatest in sailing history.
All 16 races were successfully completed in near-perfect Gran Canaria conditions. The 10 knot breeze, combined with the rolling Atlantic swell, tested the teams’ skills to the limit, and in every fleet we saw unexpected comebacks, major upsets, and high-octane drama…
Consistency was a hard commodity to find in Fleet 1: three of the four teams won a race, but two of those failed to qualify for the 1/4 Finals. Going into the final race Argentina and USA were top of the leaderboard, but the points were tight. Malaysia and Hungary turned the tables, holding their nerve to finish first and second respectively, causing a major upset over the higher-ranked nations.
The story of Fleet 2 was split into to parts: the absolute domination of Lithuania and the intense battle between Brazil and Tahiti. Lithuania sailed a flawless round, scoring wins in all four races. The Lithuanian ‘Ambers’ have been in the competition since the beginning of the 1/32 Finals and are looking stronger every day. We saw a true David v. Goliath contest for the second qualifying spot, where the Olympic-medal laden Brazil team, led by sailing great Robert Scheidt, took on the tiny South Pacific nation of Tahiti. The battle went down to the wire, and in the end the might of the Brazilian team proved too much, but Tahiti bowed out of the competition with their heads held high and with many new admirers.
Despite starting poorly, Chile looked strong in Fleet 3 and in the end won the group by a comfortable margin. Going into the final downwind leg of the final race, it looked like South Africa would be joining them in the 1/4 Finals, but Switzerland’s ‘Helvetic Lakers’, Captained by match racing star Eric Monnin, staged a stunning comeback to snatch a place in the next round, leaving the hugely impressive South African ‘Team Ubuntu’ stunned.
The final race in Fleet 4 was one for the ages. Going into the final race Portugal had been hugely impressive, and sailed conservatively to seal their qualification. France on the other hand, with two third places and an OCS (over the line at the start), languished on 4 points. They needed a miracle to progress, and it all played out in the final moments before the finish. With just 200 metres to go, Slovenia were leading the race, but France managed to hold them out on the right hand side of the course, pushing them to last while remarkably finishing first themselves, and grasping the final 1/4 Finals qualifying spot.
The top ranked eight teams now enter the competition: Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Italy and Spain. The draw has set up some tantalising groups.
See you Monday 27th November at 10.30am local time for the beginning of the 1/4 Finals of the SSL Gold Cup Finals series, the football world cup of sailing. The atmosphere in Gran Canaria is electric!
For the thousands who’ve downloaded the Panini Digital Collections app and are building their teams we have a special bonus, but you’ll have to be quick! These codes only work once, and then they’re gone!
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