Nacra, 49er and 49erFX Worlds hold special importance for Aussies

It is World Championship time again for the Australian Sailing Team with the 2016 World Championships for the Nacra 17, 49er, and 49erFX (9-14 February 2016) kicking-off at Clearwater, Florida, USA on Tuesday, 9 February 2016 EST local time.

Six months out from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games it is the final World Championship for these classes and a major milestone on the road to Rio for Australian Sailing Team’s already selected crews of Nacra 17 World #1 Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW) as well as 49er Olympic gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW).

Waterhouse and Darmanin started the new year in strong form after taking home silver at the Sailing World Cup in Miami two weeks ago. Also selected in December to represent Australian at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games were London 2012 gold medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, who finished the Miami World Cup in eighth. 

In the Women’s 49erFX the crew to represent Australia in Rio 2016 is yet to be decided. With Olivia Price (NSW) and Eliza Solly (VIC), Haylee Outteridge (NSW) and Nina Curtis (NSW) plus Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) at the start line in Clearwater, three crews will be aiming to put in convincing performances at these World Championships with selection ongoing over the next couple of months.

While Australian Sailing has already qualified all of the nine Olympic classes it aimed to qualify for Rio 2016 as well as in all of the three Paralympic classes, final selection is still open in all but the 49er, Men’s 470 and Nacra 17.

This combined double-handed championship is the first time all three of the fastest Olympic boats have teamed up for a championship together. The 49er men’s skiff has been on the Olympic program since Sydney 2000, while both the 49erFX women’s skiff as well as the Nacra 17 mixed-gender multihull will premier on the program at Rio 2016.

Over 120 teams from more than 37 countries will be competing in front of the Pier on Clearwater Beach, Florida. Racing is scheduled from February 9-14, 2016, with the first three days used for qualifying and the final three days for Gold Fleet racing, followed by the medal race on the final day.

The racing will be live broadcast on youtube for the final three days.

The Nacra 17 and 49er/FX World Championships in Clearwater, Florida, USA will be followed by another highlight on the pre-Olympics racing calendar, the 470 World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Defending World Champions Matt Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD) will contest the event with racing scheduled from 22 – 27 February 2016.

Nacra 17

Australian Sailing Team’s World #1 Nacra 17 crew of cousins Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin come to Clearwater after a Silver medal at the Sailing World Cup in Miami a couple of weeks ago.

As the World Cup showed, competition is tight in this fleet and Miami’s medal winners as well as defending World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou from France and World #2 Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) will be ones to watch.

In Miami, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin were the most consistent racers over the 15-race series and went into the final Medal Race in the lead. There they ended up tied on points with the Dutch crew of Mandy Mulder and Coen de Koning, but missed out via the Medal Race countback, having to settle for silver. Switzerland’s Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger completed the Nacra 17 podium in Miami.

“We did pretty well in Miami winning the Silver. We would have liked gold, but it was a tricky week, so we were pretty happy with a podium there, which is a good lead in into the World Champs and it was a good way to start 2016,” Lisa Darmanin said

“Obviously Jason and I set high standards for ourselves and this event is right up there with expectations. We’re in the Olympic year and we are here to win this World Championship and believe we have put in the work to do so. We have showed great trajectory over the last few years and it would be great win the Worlds in the Olympic Year, after we won silver last year and bronze the year before, so we’ll really push for the top spot on the podium at these Worlds.

“We haven’t done a lot of training here in Clearwater and this regatta is looking to be a challenging one. We have only sailed a few days, but the winds have been up and the waves have been pumping. Our speed is up to scratch and this event will definitely reward boat handling. There were a few breakages and capsizes going on out there, so knowing the limits and pushing as hard as you can, but keeping it upright will be quite important.

“Jason and I are confident across the ranges and we know we have the skills to take on these rough conditions under pressure. It’s going to be a tough week but we’re looking forward to it.”

Australian Sailing Squad’s Euan McNicol (NSW) and Lucinda Whitty (NSW) will also contest the event after finishing 24th in Miami.

Men’s Skiff – 49er

The 49er competition is full of the World's big names in sailing, with a battle to be expected between Olympic silver medallists and defending World Champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand and Olympic gold medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen.

Both of these two teams are helmsman and trimmers for America’s Cup teams (Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing respectively). They will be going head to head for the win, with another eight or so teams that could challenge seriously from the fleet.

These include Australian Sailing Team’s David Gilmour (WA), who recently teamed up with Australian Sailing Squad’s Lewis Brake (QLD) to finish seventh at the World Cup in Miami.

While the selection pressure is off for Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen with a confirmed spot in the Olympic Regatta, the World Championships will be about refining equipment and testing the opposition as Nathan Outteridge explained.

“It’s the final world champs before the Olympics and in six months we’ll start racing in Rio, so it’s obviously an important regatta. Everyone here is trying to put in their best performance and all the top contenders here and it’s the final chance to check in with the fleet. After this, everyone spreads out and we’ll all reconvene in August in Rio.”

We’ve been here for about a week now and it’s been really good for Goobs and I. We’ve got our boat back from Rio after not having it in Miami last week and got out on the water a few times, going through the final prep of picking a main and a mast for this event. As everyone knows the 49er class is always tight at the top so to get those last little bits right is really important.

And about the conditions and weather forecast he added: “The weather hasn’t really been kind to us since we got here and it’s really shallow out here. So far we’ve had over 20 teams break rigs trying to get to and from the race course. So every time it’s been over 18knots we’ve just stayed on shore trying to look after equipment and bodies.”

“Looking at the mixed forecast of quite a lot of wind and a few days of not much at wind at all, hopefully we’ll get a good range of conditions, some bumpy stuff and some flat water. The long-range forecast is looking like it will get slowly colder with ten degrees here at the moment and in a few days time we’re looking at a maximum of six degrees. So the most important thing at this event will be to go and buy more clothing and our Zhik ‘superwarm’ wetsuits will get put to the test this week for sure.”

Joel Turner (QLD) and Tom Siganto (QLD) and Harry Price (NSW) with Harry Morton (NSW) complete the Australian skiff contingent in Clearwater.

Australian Sailing Squad’s Will and Sam Phillips (VIC) will miss out on the World Champs after Will Phillips injured himself in training at the beginning of the year.

Women’s Skiff – 49erFX

Both the 49erFX and Nacra 17 fleets will premier on the Olympic sailing program in Rio. Three Australian Sailing Squad 49erFX crews will contest the Worlds, with the Rio 2016 spot still up for grabs and to be decided over the next couple of months.

Haylee Outteridge and Olympic silver medallist Nina Curtis missed out of the medal race at the Sailing World Cup in Miami ranked 13th but finished their first international regatta back together as the highest ranked Australian 49erFX crew.

Olympic silver medallist Nina Curtis reunited in the 49erFX with her former sailing partner Haylee Outteridge after she missed out of selection to the Australian team in the Nacra 17 together with skipper and dual Olympic silver medallist Darren Bundock at the end of last year.

It has been two years since the women paired up first in the 49erFX – women’s skiff class and they are aware that they have left their run late.

“Miami was Nina’s and my first event back together and it went quite well. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we managed to keep in there and ended up with a quite pleasing result and are looking forward to build on it here in Clearwater,” Haylee Outteridge said. “The event will be quite important for Nina and I. We came in quite late, so it’s even more important for us. The FX is still open and hasn’t been selected yet, so we’re taking this one seriously. In the end of the day we can only do what we can do in this time, but we’re not sitting back on the fact that we’ve lost time. We’re coming in hot and are hoping for a really good one.”

Also for teammates Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price (NSW) and crew Eliza Solly (VIC) Miami was the first international event after the pair only returned to the water in November following Eliza Solly’s knee injury at the Sailing World Cup in Weymouth in July last year.

Olivia and Eliza most recently won the Australian Nationals and had a challenging week at the Sailing World Cup in Miami finishing in overall 28th, but are looking forward to the World Championships.

“Miami was one of the first major regattas for Eliza and I in a while and we had to be happy with where we came in our first event back together. We’ve been quite hard on ourselves, because we obviously want to do better and better and we really want to make it into the top ten.” Olivia Price said. “It’s been good have our equipment back here in Clearwater that we were lacking in Miami. It’s good to have a bit of a selection to figure out what exactly we’ve got to use. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do and keep building on that communication and relationship and are looking forward to get racing again.”

Australian Sailing Squad’s third 49erFX crew of Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks finished Miami in 23rd and complete the Australian contingent at the World Championships.

– Cora Zillich/AST

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