Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spain's Fernando Echavarri and Anton Paz win gold in Tornado class

[Source: ISAF] Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ won gold for Spain after a superb performance in today's Tornado Medal Race.

The Spanish duo finished fourth in today’s Medal Race to secure their place on the top step of the podium. Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ (ESP) went into the race with a three point lead over Australians Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY and quickly took the initiative by blasting off the starting line to establish an early lead. The Spaniards are at their best in moderate to strong wind conditions and were superb in today’s 12-15 knot breeze with big waves. They sailed a near-flawless race and always held the upper hand in the battle against the Aussies, eventually crossing the finishing line one place ahead of them in fourth to win Olympic gold. BUNDOCK and ASHBY won the silver medal with Santiago LANGE and Carlos ESPINOLA taking the bronze.

Since finishing eighth at the Athens ECHAVARRI and PAZ have taken their Tornado sailing to another level. Their breakthrough season was 2005, where they won both World and European titles and went on to be crowned ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year that November. The pair won their second World title together last year, although ECHAVARRI admitted Olympic success was what they really craved, “After 10 years of training we finally got our first Olympic medal. We feel like we’re the luckiest ones here. We’ve been performing very well together as a team. We’ve been winning championships and regattas, but this is the most important win of them all.”

BUNDOCK and ASHBY won the silver medal after a poor start and first beat put them at a big disadvantage from which they never really recovered. It is BUNDOCK’s second Olympic silver medal, he also won one in Sydney with John FORBES, and the Aussie admitted to being slightly deflated, “We are a little disappointed. We are here for the gold but we missed it because we stuffed up at the start and we parked. We’re still extremely happy about the silver,” said BUNDOCK.

Santiago LANGE and Carlos ESPINOLA of Argentina finished sixth in the Medal Race, good enough to secure the final podium spot and repeat their bronze medal success of Athens.

Since the very beginning of the Tornado Opening Series the Spanish crew has led at the end of every day, but had the Australian crew of BUNDOCK and ASHBY hard on their tails. It was no surprise to see these two crews dominating at the top of the leaderboard; between them they have won the past four Tornado World Championships and occupy positions #1 (BUNDOCK and ASHBY) and #2 (ECHAVARRI and PAZ) on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. Ahead of today’s Medal Race the Spaniards held a narrow three-point advantage and ECHAVARRI admitted the nerves were jangling, “The conditions were really difficult today and we were quite nervous when we were out there. We just reminded ourselves to concentrate more on the sailing and treat it like any other race.”

The Spaniards didn’t show any signs of nerves as the blasted off the starting line in today’s race, dominating the first beat to lead at the top mark. In contrast the Aussies fluffed their start and headed off on their own to the left of the course, a costly decision which left them ninth at the top mark. “We could see all the breeze was over there,” explained ASHBY, “but we made up ground. We were really pumped and just keep hanging in.”

The British team of Leigh MCMILLAN and Will HOWDEN hooked into a big puff to surge into the lead on the downwind leg and never looked back from there. Meanwhile the Spaniards looked well in control, sticking to safe lines down the middle of the course and keeping a close eye on their Australian rivals.

BUNDOCK and ASHBY were beginning to make up ground and following a capsize by the Germans Johannes POLGAR and Florian SPALTEHOLZ the Aussies were up into fifth place by the downwind mark. However the Australians were somewhat hampered by a broken mast swivel and in front of them ECHAVARRI and PAZ were controlling the race. Although the British, Canadian and Dutch boats had all pulled ahead of them, it was the Australians the Spanish were racing and they never gave them a hint of a chance down the final run. MCMILLAN and HOWDEN took the gun to win the Medal Race but the cheers of 'ole' were for ECHAVARRI and PAZ as they crossed the line in fourth to win gold. BUNDOCK and ASHBY came in fifth to secure the silver medal, whilst LANGE and ESPINOLA followed in sixth to take bronze.



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