By Andy Rice
Hungary’s Maria Erdi came through an exceptionally tight medal race to claim the final gold of the 2023 Allianz Sailing World Championships in The Hague.
The 25-year-old went into the ILCA 6 medal race in third spot, but was able to step up in the medal race, finishing third, which was enough to clinch a maiden world title.
Earlier in the day, Matt Wearn (AUS) confirmed his own global crown in the ILCA 7, safely negotiating the medal race to add a world title to his Olympic gold won in Tokyo.
And it was the host nation, the Netherlands, who finished these Allianz Sailing World Championships as the most successful nation. Gold medals for Luuc van Opzeeland in the iQFOiL and Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken in the 49er, ensuring they retain the IOC President’s Trophy for the best nation.
Entering the medal race four points behind leader Maud Jayet (SUI), Maria Erdi knew she had the chance to take a first gold medal of these Championships for Hungary.
And when the Swiss sailor picked up a penalty on the second leg, it opened the door for Erdi.
She needed no second invitation, coming home in third to finish on 75 points, four clear of Jayet, who took a second consecutive world silver, with 2022 champion Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) taking bronze.
For Erdi, it has been a long journey, with early success hard to back up, but the 25-year-old has now achieved her dream of winning the world title.
She said: “I’m a world champion, which sounds pretty amazing. I’m very happy for my family, my friends and for my small support staff that I have back in Hungary. I’m just very proud of the work we have been doing with my coach. I was hoping and believing that I will get here one day. The day has finally arrived and I’m just over the moon.
“It hasn’t been easy. I became quite good in the senior fleet when I was quite young. When I was 18, I was able to deliver top 10 results and things were happening for me quite easily in the early stages of my career but it all started getting real, I got an injury and I realised that you need to put in a lot of work to deliver a World Championship title in the senior fleet.”
Matt Wearn (AUS) had all but wrapped up gold on Saturday, entering the medal race 20 points clear and needing only to avoid a penalty to take victory.
His sixth place clinched a gold medal on the world stage after three previous silvers, a particularly satisfying result having spent much of the last couple of years trying to get over Long Covid.
He said: “It feels great. It feels like it’s been a long time coming. Not that I started to doubt that the performance was there but it’s always a shame to just miss out on the top step. So there is a bit of relief, I’m ecstatic to have won a World Championship now.
“We have been so close so many times. I probably haven’t grabbed every opportunity that I’ve had on the water and other people have been better on the week. I can’t say I’ve been unlucky. But it feels great to finally get it.”
The bigger question in the ILCA 7 was over who would take silver and bronze – George Gautrey (NZL) went into the race with a precarious one-point lead over Mickey Beckett (GBR).
Beckett had led the competition all week, before dropping to third in the final race of the opening series. He recovered from that disappointment to finish second in the medal race behind 2020 world champion Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA).
That was enough to overhaul Gautrey and take silver, with the Kiwi settling for bronze.
The President of the IOC Trophy
For the second Sailing World Championships running, the Netherlands emerged as the most successful nation, claiming the President of the IOC Trophy for the best nation.
In addition to gold medals for Luuc van Opzeeland in the iQFOiL Men and Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken in the 49er, they also took silver in the 49erFX courtesy of Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz.
That saw them finish ahead of Israel who were second nation thanks to gold and silver in the iQFOiL Women, with Australia, France, Italy, Japan and Sweden all level in third.