The two double MUSTO Skiff World Champions Jon Newman (AUS) and Bruce Keen (GBR) were again the main players in the exciting finale of the ACO 10th MUSTO Skiff World Championship 2019 in Medemblik. After a week of racing in challenging and changing circumstances on the IJsselmeer, their battle for the title came down to the 14th and very last race on Saturday July 13th. It was Bruce Keen who beat title defender Jon Newman on the finish line. Meanwhile, George Hand (GBR) did what he had to do to secure the third podium place. He won the last race and took third place from Rick Peacock (GBR), who had been in the lead for three days.
This years MUSTO Skiff Worlds got a bit of everything: between strong wind with challenging IJsselmeer chop and light shifty conditions with flat water. Medemblik showed the 92 sailors from 11 countries what sailing in the Dutch summer season is like. They were treated with bright sunshine, heavy rainfall and even thunderstorms. As the IMSCA President Andy Tarboton (RSA) said: "Medemblik put on some beautiful conditions and ultimately the right people finished at the top. It is a fair reflection of the event."
On Monday July 8th, the championship started spectacularly with a big breeze and waves. That resulted in havoc amongst the fleet and lots of capsizes, even from the most experienced and successful MUSTO Skiff sailors. By the end of that day, Bruce Keen was leading the overall ranking, but not without a fight. "Yeah, I capsized too", he said. "My gennaker was flapping for a moment. When the sail filled up again, the boat bore away very quickly but my body went straight ahead, that was me swimming. Luckily the mast stayed above the water and I was able to move on quickly." Jon Newman, coming from the Australian winter with less hours training on the water, also struggled: "Just before the first start I was stuck in a shower. I kept capsizing and couldn't get to the starting line in time." Dutchman Paul Dijkstra, who was in third position overall after day one, returned full of adrenaline to shore: "I went incredibly fast today. Amazing. This was really beautiful. That last race, when a squall came over, there was so much wind - no one had control over his boat. That's fantastic! That's why I do this."
Testing light air sailing skills
As of the second day, Mother Nature decided it was time to test the light air sailing skills of the fleet. The wind dropped and got shifty. The focus was less on survival and more on tactics and strategy. Jon Newman knew best how to play this game and won two out of three races and therefore climbed to the top spot on the leaderboard. Former 49er sailor and currently coach of the Dutch High Performance Talent Team, Rick Peacock (GBR), moved to second place overall with Bruce Keen dropping to third overall.
On day three, a new winner showed up as George Hand won two bullets in a row and took over the second place overall. "This must be my lucky day", he said afterwards. "The wind was very variable. Left wing paid quite well, so I did a good job with protecting the left and making some gains downwind. I always seemed to find a route to the front. I am actually one of the heaviest guys in the fleet, so normally I am not so good in this stuff. Just sailing sensibly today seemed to help." Peacock became the new leader and remained in the lead until the morning of the final day. Jon Newman held on to the third position overall at the cost of Bruce Keen, who was fourth at the time.
The competition got very tense on the penultimate day. Due to thunderstorms the fleet was kept ashore until late afternoon, but eventually the race committee managed to get two races in. Bruce Keen won the second one, took over the second place overall and closed the gap with Rick Peacock, who was now leading by only one point. Title defender Jon Newman held on to his third place, three points ahead of George Hand. "It is still all to play for tomorrow. It could be some tight racing", said George Hand on the dock. Jon Newman got himself back in the race for first by finishing third in the second race of the day: "I had a good tussle with Andy [Tarboton] and Bruce [Keen]. We ended up 1-2-3. The conditions were much better for me. The wind had picked up a bit and it was more consistent. The downwind was still difficult, it had holes in it, but it was much better than in the first race." With respectively Keen one point and Newman two points behind leader Peacock, the heat was on for the final day.
Exciting battle for the title
On Saturday July 13th, Race committee decided to go for three races instead of the two scheduled. In the morning the northern breeze was light and variable, but in the afternoon it picked up to about 13 knots. It turned out to be a real battle for gold by Bruce Keen and Jon Newman. In the final stages of the championship, both of them could still grab the victory. Keen however kept his nerves and got the job done. "It was a very exciting and stressful day", said the visibly relieved new triple World Champion. Keen: "It was hard work out there. In the first race, I managed to get ahead of the three other boats that I was close in competition with. Jon won the second one, so it was really close going into the last race. I just had to stay very near to him, so we were together the whole race. He was ahead of me at the top mark. I was able to pass him on the downwind and then I just beat him on the finish line." This is his third world title after winning in 2012 and 2015, but Keen said it was never that nerve-racking. "The sailing here as well with the many wind shifts. You never knew what to expect. It is definitely my most hard-fought world title. It feels great."
After the victory of Ryan Seaton (IRL) in the first race on Saturday, Jon Newman took the second victory and closed the gap with Keen. He was two points behind his rival. Newman: "It was very close right up till the last race. I had to get a couple of boats between me and Bruce to win the regatta. I had him behind me in the first upwind and he got just through me on the downwind, whereafter he sat on me the rest of the race. We were match racing. We started next to each other and we were hunting each other on the line. It was a really good cat and mouse. It was great fun."
"I am happy to become second", says Newman, who won gold in 2014 and 2018. "I have had a pretty limited preparation for this event. To be the best you have to beat the best. Me and Bruce have been changing for the last couple of years of whos the best. I have come second to the best, which is alright."
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