New Zealand sailors are renowned for enjoying a bit of breeze and Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox took advantage on day four of the 470 European championships by winning a race they describe as one of their career highlights.
The final race of the day, and second race in gold fleet, started with the wind averaging 24 knots but ended with gusts in excess of 30 knots buffeting the course off San Remo. The final downwind, in particular, was hit by some strong winds and a number of crews either struggled with their boat handling or suffered gear damage.
Snow-Hansen and Willcox revelled in the conditions, taking out a commanding race win. They are now sixth overall, 21 points behind leaders Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan of Australia who have won four of their six races, but the New Zealand pair are only eight points off Spain's Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez in third.
The conclusion to the second race was in contrast to the final downwind of the first race, when Snow-Hansen and Willcox dropped from fifth to 12th as the wind shifted wildly. They did well to limit the damage and the result was soon overtaken by the drama of the next race.
"We had a pretty amazing end to the day," Snow-Hansen said. "It's not often you get to sail in that much breeze. We had a phenomenal downwind, which was probably one of the career highlights. It took us from about fifth or sixth place into the lead. It was just a bit of a game changer for our race and we won the race by the [distance of the] last reach. A leg ahead. That was pretty fun.
"It was just another race but it's pretty fun to enjoy these wins and take a moment and think, 'wow, that was pretty special'. Tomorrow it's back to business."
Three races are scheduled for tomorrow, with some more fresh breezes forecast. It has proved to be a difficult venue to predict, however, so the Kiwis are ready for anything San Remo dishes up. The top 10 boats after tomorrow will then qualify for the medal race.
Susannah Pyatt and Brianna Reynolds-Smith enjoyed their best day of the regatta with a 22nd and 16th in the women's fleet and are now 28th overall. Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre of Great Britain have a five-point lead over France's Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz.
The month of May is littered with European championships and racing starts tonight (NZ time) in the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Europeans in Weymouth as well as the Finn European championships in Athens.
Results and standings after day 4 of the 470 European championships in San Remo:
Men's 470 (70 boats)
1st: Mathew Belcher / Will Ryan (AUS) 1 1 1 2 1 (7) - 6 points
2nd: Anton Dahlberg / Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE) 3 2 5 1 (35) 2 - 13 pts
3rd: Jordi Xammar / Nicolas Rodriguez (ESP) 8 1 3 3 4 (36 DNF) - 19 pts
6th: Paul Snow-Hansen / Dan Willcox (NZL) 6 8 8 4 (12) 1 - 27 pts
Women's 470 (40 boats)
1st: Hannah Mills / Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) 1 (8) 1 6 3 2 - 13 pts
2nd: Camille Lecointre / Aloise Retornaz (FRA) 5 2 4 (7) 6 1 - 18 pts
3rd: Silvia Mas Depares / Patricia Cantero Reina (ESP) (12) 3 8 5 4 4 - 24 pts
28th: Susannah Pyatt / Brianna Reynolds-Smith (NZL) 19 (31) 30 28 22 16 - 114 pts
- File pic: Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox won the final race on day four at the 470 European championships in San Remo. Photo: Sailing Energy.