The story of the week at the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships was the unseasonably light winds, so it almost seemed fitting that the final day of racing was cancelled as the winds died right out at Vilamoura in Portugal.
That meant no Medal Race for the Australian Sailing Squad 49erFX team of Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot who finished the regatta in ninth place. While they were delighted with the result, like most of the fleet they would have preferred to finish the regatta on the water.
“It would have been our first Medal Race of the year,” said Wilmot after a day of waiting.
“It would have been nice to do, but we can’t complain as it has been a personal best for us so we will take that and try to put the learnings into the next regatta.”
In the Nacra 17 class it was the Australian Sailing Futures team of Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown who finished the best of the Aussies in eleventh place.
“It’s a bittersweet result for us as it’s our best result ever in the Nacra 17 fleet, but we were so close to cracking into the top 10 and making our first medal race,” said Liddell.
“Throughout the week we had some great race results but also made some critical errors by not executing our races and getting caught up in the mess with other boats.”
The regatta doubled as an Olympic qualifying event for European nations, so there were some testing times as swathes of the fleet were fighting for their Olympics campaigns.
Vilamoura usually presents a consistent breeze at this time of year, but learning to sail a full regatta in light winds was an experience the entire Australian squad will find valuable as they develop towards Paris 2024.
The Australian Sailing Team 49er pairing of Jim Colley and Shaun Connor were left to rue a couple of bad qualifying results that sent them back to Silver Fleet.
“We had no more than six knots the whole regatta, which is a bit of an anomaly for this place,” said Colley.
“We certainly thought we’d get wind, and we trained here in wind, but that’s just how it goes sometimes with the sport.
“In terms of our regatta we were disappointed to not make Gold Fleet, we just had a couple of bad races halfway through qualifying and that was that. This fleet is red hot, and you can’t give anything away and we missed a few critical decisions and that was that.”
The Paris aspirants aren’t walking away empty handed though.
“We’ve got a lot to work on and as always, we come away with a good list (of improvements).
It has been a long European season for the three classes, stretching right back to the Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma in early April.
They will now turn their attention to the domestic season, where the 49er and Nacra 17 teams will attempt to secure Olympic Qualification quota spots for Australia at Sail Sydney in December.
The 49erFX have already secured Australia’s quota spot thanks to Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine’s bronze medal at the 2023 World Championships in The Hague.
After that, it is back to Europe for the 49er and 49erFX World Championships in March.
“Over January we are planning to come back over here to Lanzarote where the worlds venue is and we’ll get another couple of weeks training there,” finished Colley.
“There is plenty of work ahead.”
Australian Sailing Squad (AST), Australian Sailing Squad (ASS), Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) and other Australian (AUS) results at the 2023 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships:
49erFX – 55 entries
9th – Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot (ASS/VIC & NSW)
37th – Tash Bryant and Evie Haseldine (ASF & ASS/NSW)
Nacra 17 – 39 entries
11th – Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown (ASF/NSW)
17th – Jake Liddell and Lucy Copeland (ASS/NSW)
22nd – Ruben Booth and Rita Booth (AUS)
49er – 92 entries
31st – Jim Coley and Shaun Connor (AST/NSW)
51st – Tom Needham and Max Paul (ASS/QLD & NSW)
66th – Tom Cunich and Jack Hildebrand (ASF/NSW)
Full results: https://49er.org/events/2023-european-championship/
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