Porto, Portugal: The Portuguese tradewinds were in full howl this morning over Matosinhos, Portugal, as Day 5 dawned on the 2017 49er/FX World Championships.
With the top 20 qualifiers advancing to the gold fleet semifinal round and the remainder battling for silver, only the teams who could keep their boats upright would avoid falling in the results.
Olympic silver medalists Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen (DEN) have never won a World title, but the only top women’s team to avoid a capsize today may be on the verge of their first.
The powerful Danish team achieved a middling first race today in 12-15 knots, but there was no looking back from that point on as they went on to a 1,2,1 in the final three races.
“Katja and I talked a lot about the techniques and maneuvers so we were always on the same page,” Hansen said. She added that they ‘fell down on our butts a few times in the middle of a gybe, but we were always able to save it.”
Hansen and Iversen were still in the boat park hours after racing ended. We’re making some new trapezes to make sure they last for tomorrow,” Hansen explained to a reporter.
“Confidence in our gear is one of the most important things to have in this breeze.” When asked what message she wanted to send to her fans, Hansen pulled no punches. “Tomorrow you’ll see more kicking butt, we’ll be fully switched on as we are every day out there.”
Hansen/Iversen may sit on a significant 5-point lead today, but if not for a single capsize from each of the three teams just behind, they might still be in fourth place.
The most heartbreaking swim came surprisingly in the slightly lighter air of race 2, when the British Sailing Team’s Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey – who’d sailed a perfect race to that point with a huge lead – flipped just meters from the finish.
“We had an awkward angle for that final gybe right on top of the gate mark, and with the skewed waves it was a tough maneuver and we didn’t get it done,” said Dobson.
Dobson/Tidey would currently lead the Championship had they sailed that final 20 meters without a hitch, but Tidey says it’s all part of sailing.
“That’s the game of sailing, isn’t it, and we’ve got another day to go out and give it our all,” she said. “You have those moments and you just have to put them out of your mind and reset, and just go out and give it everything you’ve got again.”
Tidey and Dobson did just that: Their 3,4,4 results in the other races have them sitting in fourth place , and while it’s an uphill battle to get to the top of the leaderboard, Tidey says there is no quit in them. “We’re gonna go out there and send it around the course as the strongest team on the course, and give it socks!” Tidey said cryptically.
Olympic gold and silver medalists Grael/Kunze and Maloney/Meech each capsized once in the final, ultra-windy race, finishing seconds from each other in 10th and 11th position. They sit in the silver and bronze positions going into the final day of action.
As the FX fleets finished racing for the day, PRO David “CJ” Campbell-James abandoned all racing for the day. “31 knots on the course, massive seas, and no real prospect of any relief until sundown…it’s frustrating, but going out there now would be unsafe so we’ll resume in the morning,” said CJ.
Surprisingly for a team with a solid lead for what would be their first-ever World Title, 2017 European Champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell were disappointed to have missed more sailing.
“With the way we’ve been sailing in this breeze, we were looking forward to the opportunity to put more good finishes on the board and go have some fun,” said Fletcher as he inspected every inch of their boat.
The team scored three straight bullets to take the lead on Thursday, and with their boat in perfect preparation, they’re feeling good about their chances.
“Yesterday was awesome fun – it’s exactly why we sail the 49er, and a big confidence builder with the upwind and downwind pace we had,” said Fletcher. “We hope the breeze plays ball and we can put on a bit of a show for everybody.”