Despite a long onshore delay and shifty and unstable conditions on the water today as the Finals began in the 2018 49er and Nacra 17 European Championship. With the fleets split by their ranking into gold and silver fleets, the top twenty-seven Nacra 17 crews and top twenty-five 49erFX teams hit the water under an angry grey sky in around 10 knots of Northerly breeze.
For Spanish 49erFX sailors Carla and Marta Munté, the racing was well worth the wait in their first ever European championship. The former 29er world champions (2014, 29er) have been quietly stalking the leaders in the class all week, but today’s breakout performance, combined with inconsistent finishes from some top competitors, meant not just the lead for the Munté sisters, but an 8 point gap back to overnight leaders Helene Naess and Marie Roningen. That’s the biggest lead we’ve seen in the FX all week.
Carla Munté said that awareness was one of the keys to winning the day with a 5,4,2 including an impressive comeback in the final race of the day. “With two winds fighting each other, the pressure was so different across the course,” said Carla Munté. Her sister Marta said that they never stopped looking for wind. “We had to be constantly looking all over for the best pressure and to try to stay out of the worst of the waves too.” If the lightweight sisters can hang on to this lead for two more days, they would become the youngest-ever European Champions in FX history.
Reigning European Champions Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke (GER) looked to be making a run at defending their title, storming off to an easy race 1 victory before giving back many of their gains with a 16 in the second race. The third race of the day gave the accomplished Germans the chance to shine, and after a good start and beat, the pair sailed two tactically brilliant downwind legs culminating in a last-gybe pass of Australian duo Tess Lloyd/Jaime Ryan just meters from the finish. With two bullets in three races, it was the first time all week we’ve seen Lutz and Beucke back on the form that’s carried them so far over the past 12 months, but their happiness wouldn’t last long: Coach Evans pulled up to the boat and informed the team they’d been called over early and disqualified from the race.
Tina and Susann immediately realized their first place had become a 25th, and their anguished sighs rang out over the now-calm water. The top Germans may still have a mathematical chance to win here in Gdynia Poland, but what was once a real possibility became a massive mountain to climb in the blink of an eye. The sportsman’s old refrain is as applicable as ever: “You can’t win a regatta on the first day, but you can lose it!”
While the FX fleets struggled with light air, a massive thunderstorm system erupting over the mainland helped create a brisk, 15 knot Northeasterly that allowed the foiling Nacra 17 fleet to reach speeds well over 20 knots at times. With characteristic aggressiveness and a willingness to take what seemed at the time like high-risk moves, Italy’s Ruggero Tita and Catarina Banti threw a hurt on the fleet, proving their speed and smarts in both the light air and heavy with two wins in two races! Tita/Banti’s strategy was simple and powerful: Start on port tack, take transoms, and go hard right. The Port Tack Option worked out well for him both times.
It worked like a charm, and Banti and Tita take the lead over Jones/Saunders (NZL) by just 2 points with more light air ahead.
After a long layoff resulting from a serious condition and resultant brain surgery, Rio 2016 skipper Paul Kohloff (GER) feels he and 18 year old crew Alica Stuhlammer are getting more and more settled as the year goes on. “When you’re a heavier crew like we are it’s really easy to go fast, so we got away with maybe not having the best settings today,” said Kohloff, who said sailing has been one of the keys to a successful recovery long recovery. “There’s nothing better for me in the world right now,” said Kohloff.
No 49er racing could be conducted as PRO David Campbell James sent the 49er fleet home almost immediately after they arrived at the race area due to the approaching storm.