49erFX: Brazil win, but Dutch survive pressure to win ticket to Tokyo
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze won the Open European Championships, the Olympic Champions from Brazil in a different class this week in Weymouth. The greater interest for the Medal Race was which of the chasing pack would succeed in taking the silver and bronze. There were six teams in contention for the minor medals, but the team that needed to climb on to the podium more than any other were the reigning World Champions from the Netherlands, Annemieke Bekkering and Annette Duetz. On the back foot after their Dutch rivals won the previous regatta in Italy, the Hempel World Cup event in Genoa, Bekkering and Duetz need to pull out all their experience and ability to withstand pressure as they lined up on the Medal Race start line.
The Dutch won the pin end of the line and cruised off towards the left-hand side in the soft, 6 knot breezes. They reached the windward mark in first place and looked set for a straightforward win until they were beaten to the final windward mark by the Norwegian crew, Helene Næss and Marie Rønningen. The Norwegians held the lead on the last downwind leg and crossed the finish line ahead, sufficient to give the 2018 European Champions the bronze medal. The Dutch held their nerve to cross the line in second place, making them the European Champions (excluding the Brazilians) and earning them a place at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Grinning from ear to ear, Bekkering and Duetz hugged each other in relief at their double victory.
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech of New Zealand finished fourth, one place ahead of the big discovery of the regatta, the 2018 Junior World Champions from Sweden who have flourished at senior level in all conditions this week. Vilma Bobeck and Malin Tengstrom were really fast in the strong wind but getting better by the race in the light winds.
The 49erFX fleet have enjoyed all kinds of sea state and wind conditions that has been a true all-round test, one that will linger long in the memory of Bekkering and Duetz in particular.
Saxton and Bonniface ride light air role to pole position
With 6 boats all within 12 points of the gold medal, this Nacra 17 medal race was always going to be a difficult one to predict and a big battle on the water for all teams involved.
One postponed start meant the nerves and anticipation from all the sailors was rising whilst the wind swung from a steady South Westerly 5-6kts to a very shifty and patchy Northerly 4-6kt breeze. After an hour waiting around on the water the 10 boat medal race fleet finally got underway in some very light and difficult conditions.
Staying true to form in the light winds over the last few days it was Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface who dominated the race from start to finish, coming off the middle of the line and managing to use their boat speed to control most of the fleet around them – everyone seemed keen on the left hand side of the track. A commanding lead at the top mark and keeping their cool throughout 3 Paris 2024 Equipment voted in:
Our leaders going into the day Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) seemed to falter in their start, struggling to get off the line and being very heavily punished for a slow tack out in these light airs. Never managing to recover and coming in 9th meant it was up to the rest of the medal contenders to pounce – and pounce they did. John Gimson/Anna Burnett (GBR) headed intot he day in 3rd spot and with a 3rd place in the medal race pulled up into silver medal position over all. A fantastic result for this pair who have made significant strides this winter training down in South America with the current Olympic Champions Santi Lange/Cecilia Carranza (ARG).
The battle for bronze was a hard fought fight from Denmark’s Lin Cenholt and CP Lubeck battling past a couple of boats around the race course to take 4th in the race and sneak just in front of Tita/Banti for 3rd place over all.
An incredible weeks racing and a fantastic job by all the sailors here this week. Toughing it out through every type of wind condition from big wind and waves at the start of the week; to much lighter, flatter conditions towards the end. A real all round venue here at Weymouth and Portland and a great event put on by the club, sponsors and volunteers – Thank you all!
The Kiwis do their work while Brits battle
The final day of the 2019 Volvo European Championships began with one final Gold fleet race for the 49er Men, their 20th race of the week! After a short postponement, the fleet was off in a light Southwesterly in the inner harbour. GBR’s Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, who’d moved up into 2nd on the penultimate day of racing, clearly wanted the pin and the left-hand side, (Catch the move here) and were rewarded for their local knowledge with a top spot at the top mark. The other two podium teams, NZL’s Burling/Tuke and ESP’s Botin/Marra were well deep at the top mark, with plenty of work to do to catch up during the race to stay in medal contention.
Back in the pack, the kiwis were able to do their work, climbing steadily throughout the race from a deep 22nd (which would have put Fletcher/Bithell into the overall lead), all the way back to 9th by the finish line, staying on top of the overall podium. Fletcher/Bithell won the race to maintain second overall, while last year’s World Championship bronze medallists, Germany’s Fisher/Graf, snagged a second second place in a row for the gold fleet racing, but it wasn’t enough to move them into the medal race, showing just how tight and close the racing this week has been.
A 5th place in this race for the other Brits Peters/Sterritt moved them into bronze position overall, as the Spaniards weren’t able to recover past 17th, and had to eat their previous throwout. The battle was then set for a final medal race showdown between these four teams: the kiwis in the lead, followed by the two Brits and the Spanish.As the last in the lineup for the medal races for the day though, it was not to be. They were sent out at 4pm after the FX and Nacra medal races, but the breeze died to nothing and ultimately, the scores from the morning remained. 2016 Gold Medallists, NZL’s Pete Burling/Blair Tuke, shortly upon return to the class have thus won the 49er European championship and the Open European title, with GBR’s Fletcher/Bithell chomping at their heels in second place and the first Europeans, and Peters/Sterritt coming away with bronze. The home country should be happy with their teams’ performance, and the battle is set for a good fight to see who wins British 49er Olympic selection.
Nacra 17 Top 5 – Full Results
1 GBR Ben Saxton, Nicola Boniface 61
2 GBR John Gimson, Anna Burnett 67
3 DEN Lin Cenholt, CP Lubeck 71
4 ITA Ruggero Tita, Caterina Banti 73
5 ARG Mateo Majdalani, Eugenia Bosco 76
49erFX Top 5 – Full Results
1 BRA Martine Grael, Kahena Kunze 76
2 NED Annemiek Bekkering, Annette Duetz 79
3 NOR Helene Næss, Marie Rønningen 83
4 NZL Alex Maloney, Molly Meech 90
5 SWE Vilma Bobeck, Malin Tengstrom 93
49er Top 5 – Full Results
1 NZL Peter Burling, Blair Tuke 72
2 GBR Dylan Fletcher, Stu Bithell 81
3 GBR James Peters, Fynn Sterritt 94
4 ESP Diego Botin, Iago Marra 97
5 GER Eric Heil, Thomas Ploessel 123