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Dorian van van Rijsselberge (27) – photo Jesus Renedo

Peina Chen (CHN) and Pierre Le Coq (FRA) continue to lead their respective fleets at the RS:X World Windsurfing Championships in Mussanah, Oman, but light tactical conditions made for some challenging racing on day two.

The wind, when it did fill in, was lighter than expected with a high of 8 knots that led to an exceptionally physical day for the sailors with skilful pumping playing a major part in success on the racecourse.

With three more qualifying races per fleet (men and women), racing got underway promptly at 12:00 local time (CET+2). The men were first off and enjoyed some of the best breeze of the day.

While Le Coq managed to maintain his overall regatta lead with another couple of wins to add to his already impressive score line, he didn’t have it all his own way today in the 85-strong fleet. In the second race of the day Ivan Pastor Lafuente (ESP) sailed well, overtook Le Coq in the closing stages, and notched up his first win of the week. Zhichao Zhi (CHN), sailing his first ever world championship, also showed super-fast all round speed today, closing the qualifiers with a score line of 4-1-2 that put him in second place overall.

“This is the first time I have sailed abroad, and at a world championship, so I am delighted to be here and I am really happy to be doing so well,” said Zhichao Zhi.

“I think the reason I am fast in these conditions is because I am so light. The aim now is to continue to do well by sailing normally without too much pressure. I am really keen to learn from the other guys and to keep improving.”

Pierre Le Coq added a word on the challenging conditions: “Three races in those conditions is very hard for us. Very challenging to be in front and to be consistent so I am really happy and I am ready for the rest of the week.

“It was very important to make good starts and good choices early on today because in these 20 minute races, it is difficult to come back if you make a wrong decision. Thankfully my speed was still fine, but some of the other guys are really fast too so I need to keep an eye on them.”

In the women’s fleet 26-year-old Peina Chen (CHN), retains the overall lead but said she found the racing extremely tough, particularly having to do penalty turns in the first race of the day for a start line incident.

One of the most notable performances on day two came from Charline Picon (FRA). Picon, who won the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta (Rio 2016 Test Event) two years in a row (2014 and 2015) and the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, showed her true colours today with a stunning performance. In the closing stages of race 1, in the last short reach to the finish, she out-pumped race leader Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL) and, in fine style, snatched first place. She then went on to score another first place and a second, which lifts her up the rankings to second overall.

“I had a very good day today but it is tough here,” she said.  “Last week we had planing conditions but this week it is light and physically demanding. Also, because there are a lot of sailors and countries using the event as an Olympic qualifier, it is extremely competitive. Peina Chen from China, for example, is in very good shape.

“From here on it will be even more tough because we’ll be racing only the best girls in the gold fleet where every point is important.”

Peina Chen commenting on Picon’s speed said: “She really sailed smart in race two and on the last tack of the race I lost my lead to her. She then pipped me to the post for second in race three!”

On her performance elsewhere, Chen added: “Doing turns in the first race was not ideal but I tacked too fast, into Marina’s [Alabau Neira] water so naturally had to do something about it. I have to say it is really great racing because it is so close. I am however, looking forward to a rest tomorrow.”

Malgorzata Bialecka (POL) who won the final race of the day, retains third place overall. She said today was all about starting right and pumping.

“We had slightly less wind, and it was a bit shifty so the most important thing was pumping today. It was incredibly tough, so we are all a bit tired! I do believe it is going to be a lot harder when we split in two fleets [gold and silver] because all the best girls are going to fight for the top slot.”

The fleet can now relax and enjoy a well-earned day of rest tomorrow (reserve day). Racing resumes on Thursday 22 October at 12:00 local time (CET+2). Men and women’s fleets will be split in to gold and silver fleets, according to overall rankings from the first two days (six races). The final races and medal races will take place on Saturday 24 October.

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