Plasschaert had started the day 11 points clear and only needed to finish sixth or better in the 10-boat field to make gold hers. In the end, she was fifth, but Bouwmeester was fourth and had never been able to put enough boats between them.
“I knew Marit was so good in these conditions, so I was a little bit afraid she would jump over me,” Plasschaert said. “I’m feeling amazing and overwhelmed to win the World Championship. It’s my first big win, it’s my first gold in a championship.
“I thought it was too windy to go match racing and I’m not that good at it yet.”
For the 24-year-old Plasschaert, it is a breakthrough win in a highly competitive field and reward for a week where she has been the best sailor, never finishing lower than 15th in the huge 60-boat fleets.
“The key to winning here was being consistent,” she said. “The conditions are so tricky, and I just needed to be up there every time. I was trying to have good starts and not be too extreme, but also stay attached to the front group.
“I think over the recent months I have just stepped up my mental game a lot and worked on my on-water strategies.”
For the Belgium sailing world and particularly, Evi Van Acker, their previous hero, who was in the TV commentary box in Aarhus, it was a moment to savor. Acker retired last year after finishing second to Bouwmeester in the class World Championships last year for the second time.
There had been a glimmer of an upset at the top mark after the first upwind. Bouwmeester rounded in third and Plasschaert in eighth, 12 seconds later. The fleet was so compressed, with only 50 meters separating the top eight for large parts of the race, that there were always opportunities for big swings. But Bouwmeester needed to get away at the front and could never manage it.
On the second wind, Plasschaert had come back to sit right on her shoulder and she never let her get away again.
Bouwmeester, 30, clearly found it a hard one to swallow. She starts every regatta as the outstanding favorite. She won gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the 2011 World Championships in Perth, Australia, and 2014 World Championships in Santander, Spain. She also won the class World Championships last year. She made no excuses afterwards of being here as part of her Olympic training cycle. She was here to win.
“I left myself a lot to do, 11 points is a lot,” she said. “She (Plasschaert) has been very consistent. I think I underestimated how difficult it is sailing here and did not spend enough time training here.”
“I tried to get on the left side and obviously tried to get ahead. Then she came with me and I thought ok, as long we as bring it back to the pack hopefully I will get a chance if it gets busy or gusty, but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out my way. But to be honest I think this medal race was pretty difficult. I just performed below my own level at the beginning week. So, with all respect for the Belgian girl, I think it’s due to myself that I didn’t win this event.”
The battle for bronze was more intense with just six points separating four boats going into the medal race. Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom started in third, but watched her rivals line-up to take the bronze from her. Canada’s Sarah Douglas had it at the top mark, rounding first with Rindom in sixth. It got worse for the home crowd. Rindom was languishing in eighth after the first downwind and the USA’s Paige Railey was also ahead of her.
But as she had said on the slipway before they headed out into the strong wind, “My nickname is the bulldozer, so they better watch out.” She had hammered her way up to third by the second downwind and bulldozed on to bronze.
In the Laser Standard, Cyprus’s Olympic hero, Pavlos Kontides, will always remember the Bay of Aarhus. He won gold yesterday a decade after he won the Youth World Championships here.
Victory had looked far from certain and Kontides, 28, looked in real trouble in the big winds at the top mark. The fleet were doing their best to keep the boats flat and as he rounded in ninth he healed over, taking on water. Australia’s Matt Wearn was sixth, 19 seconds ahead and looked like he might get away.
Wearn, 22, had trailed by just four points going into the medal race and just needed to put a boat between them. But the wind dropped down to 12 knots on the first downwind (from 25 at the start) and Kontides – who became the first-ever Olympic medalist for Cyprus (in any sport) with his silver at the London 2012 Olympics – kept chipping his way back. He was last at the bottom, but 13 seconds behind Wearn in eighth. The wind increased and by the second upwind, the gap was just two seconds and they were into the match racing situation expected from the start. Wearn had Great Britain’s Michael Beckett just meters in front, all the way to the line but could not get past him.
“I feel amazing,” Kontides said. “It’s hard having to keep someone like Matt Wearn behind you. The quality of this fleet is so high and so deep that you always have to be at the top of your game.”
Hanson was last round the first top mark and was already watching bronze slip away when he picked up penalty for rocking downwind. By the first bottom mark, he was 41 seconds behind Buhl and the bronze was gone.
Laser Radial – Women
Gold: Emma Plasschaert – BEL – 66 pts
Silver: Marit Bouwmeester – NED – 75 pts
Bronze: Anne-Marie Rindom – DEN – 85 pts
Laser Standard – Men
Gold: Pavlos Kontides – CYP – 59 pts
Silver: Matthew Wearn – AUS – 61 pts
Bronze: Philipp Buhl – GER – 70 pts
Full results can be found here: https://aarhus2018.sailing.org/results
Photos can be found here: https://worldsailing.photoshelter.com/gallery-collection/CLASSES/C00003_jqV9_a2kA
Daily videos can be found here: https://aarhus2018.sailing.org/watch