A small but strong Australian team has arrived in Vilamoura, Portugal, ready to compete against the best in their classes at the 2023 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships this week.
After a short lay-off after the World Championships where they finished 20th, the 49erFX team of Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot are set to confirm their place among the world’s best.
“We have just had a solid training block on home waters building some strong foundations coming to Vilamoura both on the water and in the gym,” said Harding.
“We are excited to put this work into play in a range of conditions that we could get for this regatta. We could expect both onshore sea breezes and offshore shifty conditions with the big pressure systems around the Atlantic at the moment.”
The event doubles as an Olympic qualifying event for European nations, so competition is expected to be hot. Australia has already claimed their nation quota in the 49erFX thanks to Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine’s Bronze at the recent World Championships in the Netherlands.
Upon returning from Worlds, Price underwent surgery for an ongoing challenge with her knee and as a result will not be competing in the Europeans. Capitalising on the Australian Sailing Team’s squad-based approach, Haseldine is teaming up with Tash Bryant during these Championships to maximize every opportunity to acquire as much quality international competition experience as possible.
Price is recovering well following successful surgery and will return to sailing with Haseldine following the Europeans.
Australian 49er and Nacra 17 teams will have the opportunity to claim their Olympic nation quotas at Sail Sydney later this year, where the Oceania qualification spot will be on the line.
Currently ranked fourth in the World Sailing rankings, the 49er team of Jim Colley and Shaun Connor will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing World Championships result.
“The venue is likely to offer up similar conditions to those we faced at the worlds, so it’s a perfect opportunity to measure the changes and improvements we have made,” said Colley.
“The venue so far feels typical of southern Europe with moderate onshore sea breezes and plenty of chop. Since we are heading into winter the days are quite short, so the whole sea breeze cycle seems to happen very quickly.”
The Sydney-based team are expecting the competition to be fierce.
“The racing will be as tight as ever and we can’t wait for the challenge.”
Australian Sailing Team Technical Director Michael Blackburn is on the ground with the team, and noted how important the regatta is for the teams as they look to continue their upward trajectory.
“With the Europeans beginning two months after the Worlds, it has given our teams a chance to return home, review, re-set and begin training again on what cost them points at the Worlds,” said Blackburn.
“The European winter is rapidly approaching and with Vilamoura’s exposure to the Atlantic Ocean, there should be a good variety of sea conditions which will make it especially challenging for our young trio of foiling Nacra teams.
“Altogether, the regatta will provide a nice touch point for our teams looking to again measure themselves against the world’s best.”
There will be three days of qualifying races from this Wednesday local time, followed by two days of the Finals Series and the Medal Race on Monday 13 November (early Tuesday morning AEDT).
Australian Sailing Squad (AST), Australian Sailing Squad (ASS) and other Australian (AUS) entries at the 2023 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships:
49er – 92 entries
Jim Coley and Shaun Connor (AST/NSW)
Tom Needham and Max Paul (ASS/QLD & NSW)
Tom Cunich and Jack Hildebrand (ASF/NSW)
49erFX – 55 entries
Tash Bryant and Evie Haseldine (ASF & ASS/NSW)
Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot (ASS/VIC & NSW)
Nacra 17 – 39 entries
Jake Liddell and Lucy Copeland (ASS/NSW)
Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown (ASF/NSW)
Ruben Booth and Rita Booth (AUS)
Full entry list and all information: https://49er.org/events/2023-european-championship/
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