The opening day of racing at the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates has been described as spectacular, fantastic and perfect.
Smiles were present before racing at the Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club, on the waters off of the Corniche and around Lulu Island and back ashore upon the conclusion of racing. A north westerly breeze that ranged between 9-14 knots greeted the sailors across the four race tracks. The outside courses saw big waves to add some spice to the sailors lives whilst the flat water on the inside Corniche course tested the sailors all round abilities.
Racing for the 270 sailors from 38 nations across the ten Olympic and open kiteboarding fleet commenced at 12:00 local time and wrapped up with a full complement of races in the Olympic events.
Slovenia's Vasilij Zbogar was dominant in Abu Dhabi's conditions, picking up a pair of race wins in the 19-boat Finn fleet.
After racing, ashore at the Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht, the Slovenian was visibly pleased yet shocked with his regatta opening, "I am a bit surprised with the two first places. It's much better than I thought I would start. The conditions were perfect for my technique and weight and my boat speed was extremely good. The main issue was that I got a yellow flag in the first race which was a bit annoying but I still finished first."
Zbogar's victories came by different margins. A close encounter with Jake Lilley (AUS) in the opening race saw him take the victory by a narrow two seconds. He ramped it up in the second race, taking the gun by 30 seconds over Pieter Jan Postma (NED) and Zbogar wants to continue in the same way on the second day, "I hope we will have the same conditions. I will try to keep this first place until the end but I know it is going to be very hard. Today it was really nice sailing conditions and I'm looking forward to the next few days."
Abu Dhabi is a new venue for the Slovenian and he has taken to it well, not only the sailing side but offshore as well, "Until now, Abu Dhabi has been a big surprise for me. Everybody was a bit sceptical at first, maybe the venue and the sailing conditions weren't right but here we are and people are extremely helpful, everything is extremely well organised and the sailing is spectacular.
"I think all the sailors are really happy and they all see it's a big step forward in Olympic classes."
Lilley trails the Slovenia by five points in second place whilst Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic occupies third overall, a point behind Lilley.
New Zealand's Alex Maloney and Molly Meech started the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final with a bang by taking the opening race victory in the 17-boat 49erFX fleet.
The pair picked up a second victory in the third race of the day but a sandwiched tenth tarnishes their good start. Nonetheless the Kiwis had some great racing as Maloney explained, "It was beautiful conditions out there with a nice Abu Dhabi breeze and really nice waves. We were on Course C in front of the Emirates Palace and it was pretty nice out there. The first and last race we had 8-10 knots and it dropped down and got a bit interesting, it's really nice racing out there.
"We were pretty disappointing with our performance at the Worlds but we had a good break and have had some good preparation for Abu Dhabi. We were in Rio for three weeks and we're feeling a lot more confident again and a lot more focused."
Whilst the Kiwis lead, it's the Italian pairing of Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich who were the masters of consistency as they notched up a race win and a pair of seconds. They sit second overall by nature of the Kiwis discarding their tenth and Conti's face was full of smiles after racing, "It was perfect, perfect conditions. There were 10-14 knots with good waves and we enjoyed it a lot. We had good results and that's why we enjoyed it a lot.
"We felt very comfortable with the boat. It's good to have a brand new boat as we used to sail with a pretty old one so there are a lot of differences in performance. It's just perfect to escape from winter and to be here, we love it."
Conti was also full of praise for everything she has seen thus far at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, "We are staying in such a beautiful hotel and the people here are just so gentle and kind. They're so curious about sailing as well. The venue is just perfect. There is plenty of space so we can move around without having the problem of touching other boats. The weather is warm and there is a huge mall right here, it has everything. I would stay here the whole winter."
Sweden's Lisa Ericson and Hanna Klinga complete the podium after the opening day but it's still early stages in the competition with six fleet races to follow ahead of the Medal Race.
Captain America and Superman's Polish alias' Tomasz Januszewski and Jacek Nowak have swooped in to Abu Dhabi to take the 49er lead on the opening day of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final.
The pair picked up two races wins and a 13th, discarding the latter to top the bill in the 18-boat 49er fleet. They lead Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign by a single point, "It's great to be here and race here with the best of the best," commented Nowak. "We were on Course D so we were inside the bay and the wind was inshore so there was a lot of shifts and gusts. It was good to have great speed and to be able to read the shifty conditions. All the teams were very close to each other throughout the races."
The Polish competitors are instantly recognisable on the race track with their superhero outfits and Januszewski explained the origin of their tops, "We are co-operating with under armour, so when the t-shirts went on sale our friend gave us a couple of them.
"He asked who we would like to be and I was just like, stop there, 'I want to be Captain America', because I love that superhero and Jack loves Superman.
"After we first wore them everybody has called us Superman and Captain America," continued Januszewski with a beaming smile, "They're defending someone's honour and ambitions so we like those and they're really friendly, they're not bad guys.
"It's a good way to show potential sponsors what we can do and how many opportunities we can give them."
The racing on the 49er race course was exceptionally close with little separation of the fleet across three races. Fletcher and Sign picked up the first race victory before finishing second behind the Polish sailors in the second. The Brits did not sail the third race due to an equipment issue as the Polish sailors swooped through to take their second race win and the lead.
Januszewski and Nowak are in a good spot to progress with six fleet races and a Medal Race remaining and will be looking to draw on their super strength from within, "With any power you can achieve anything," said Januszewski, "but if we were to have a power I think we'll take super speed."
Great Britain's Bryony Shaw stole the show in the Women's RS:X taking three consecutive race victories to hold a steady lead over her rivals at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The British racer, who won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, was in exceptional form, mastering the conditions and ruling the waves on one of the outside course areas.
"We were out on Course C today so we had quite a bit of swell and waves," said Shaw. "The wind was between 10 and 13 knots and I was pleased to be sailing fast."
Shaw proved to be a class above the rest as she read the conditions perfectly to lead at the first mark in all of the races as she explained, "I got a good start in the first race but not such a good start in the second race. The wind had just started flicking to the right so I made a gain from going to the right in that race. The first two races I rounded first and was able to extend my lead.
"In the last race we had lighter winds. I had a great start by the committee boat and really good height and speed and managed to round first again. It was quite a physical race that one. I kept it quite simple and stayed between my competitors and the mark and managed to win that third race. It was a really good day."
With 270 sailors from 38 nations competing in Abu Dhabi, the British sailor is just one of many competitors who are revelling in the Emirati capital. With a blend of old traditions in a modern metropolis there is plenty for the sailors to learn and enjoy, both on and off the water, "I've tried to immerse myself in the culture and we've been going out for dinners and the people here seem really friendly," added Shaw. "The conditions today were fantastic. To be sailing out there in board shorts and for it to be warm, sunny and to be sailing in planing conditions is the best for windsurfing. I've had a great time here so far. It's been a short regatta for them to try and set up but it's going well."
China's Qiaoshan Weng is second overall following a third, second and a discarded 14th. Charline Picon (FRA), 2014 Women's RS:X World Champion, is third overall after an up and down day that included a second, a fourth and a discarded 14th place finish.
Youngsters Pawel Tarnowski (POL) and Louis Giard (FRA) are showing their experienced counterparts how to race in Abu Dhabi as they top the bill in the Men's RS:X fleet.
Tarnowski, 20-years-old, stormed into the lead following an exceptional day on the water. He amassed two race wins and a third and holds a two point advantage over Giard, 21-years-old, who took a pair of seconds and a third.
The youngsters lead their more experienced rivals but only time will tell if they are able to continue it through for a podium finish on Sunday 30 November.
Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) is in control in the 18-boat Laser Radial pack. She picked up a fourth and a first to hold a five point advantage over Alison Young (GBR) going into the second day of competition.
Young has had some time away from the boat throughout 2014 and is happy to be back, competing against the best Laser Radial sailors in Abu Dhabi, "It's been great fun racing against all the great sailors that are here this week. I'm here this week to learn as much as possible. There are 18 great sailors here so every race is really tight and every point counts.
"It was such tight racing today out on the water with boats crossing the line in packs and I expect that will be a similar story for the rest of the regatta."
London 2012 bronze medallist Evi Van Acker (BEL) completes the podium at the early stage of the event.
World #1 Tom Burton (AUS) showed his worth in Abu Dhabi by grasping the Laser lead after the opening day of racing. Burton was strong on the race track and took a fifth and a bullet and was pleased after racing, "It was pretty solid day all around," commented Burton, "The top guys are all here and with the 20 boat fleet you can't afford to have a bad race because the guys that will win this regatta, won't do that so you won't have a chance to catch up."
Pavlos Kontides (CYP) took the first race win but an 11th in the second race relegated him down to fifth overall.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao gold medallist Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) is tied on points with Burton in second whilst Nick Thompson (GBR) occupies third.
Men's and Women's 470
It was business as usual for World Champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) in the Men's 470. The pair strolled into pole position following a 2-4 scoreline. Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis are second on eight points with Austria's David Bargehr and Lukas Mahr in third on ten points.
The day's race wins went the way of Stu McNay and David Hughes (USA) who are sixth overall and fifth placed Matthias Schmid and Florian Florian Reichsteaedter (AUT).
China's Shasha Chen and Haiyan Gao and Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar shared places one and two in the Women's 470 and are tied atop of the 11-boat fleet on three points.
Very little separated the two teams on the opening day and they will do battle once again on the second day with two more races scheduled.
America's Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha are third overall on 10 points, seven off the leading duo but there is plenty of time for change.
It's an all French top three in the Nacra 17 with World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou leading the way. Besson and Riou are seemingly unstoppable in the Nacra 17 and amassed a steady scoreline that featured two seconds and a race win.
Their compatriots Audrey Ogereau and Matthieu Vandame follow in second with Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet in third.
Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger (SUI), Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) and Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) are hot on the French teams heals, tied on nine points.
Riccardo Leccese (ITA) came out on top on the opening day of kiteboarding after he picked up a pair of bullets. He heads into the next stage as top seed. 2014 World Champion Maxime Nocher (FRA), European and Open Asian Champion Oliver Bridge (GBR) and 2013 World Champion Florian Gruber (GER) follow in places 2-4.
The 20 competitors will be divided up for Stage 2 heats on Friday and Saturday based on their seeding from Stage 1. The top ten boats will then progress to the medal stage.
Two semi-finals will be held with five racers in each. Places 1 and 2 will carry forward ten points, 3 and 4 seven points, 5 and 6 five points, 7 and 8 four points and 9 and 10 three points. Two races in each semi-final will follow with the top two placed sailors in each heading to the final.
From there, it's a four way single race shoot out for the podium spots.
Racing across the fleets is scheduled to commence at 12:00 local time on Friday 28 November.