The final day of the 2015 49er and 49er FX World Championship. The beautiful venue of Club Nautico in San Isidro hosted the 6 day event without a hitch resulting in 16 fairly sailed races, one newly crowned FX champion, and one long time favorite 49er boat coming in for the win.
The 49er regatta was decided before the medal race even began with Burling and Tuke of New Zealand having already wrapped up their third straight 49er World Championship by a 30 point margin. They came out to battle in the medal race and took the pin to get off to a good start, ever the gamers.
The real race was for the Silver medal, with four teams within striking distance of the Silver. The journeymen Alsonso brothers struggled all day, but based on the strength from their amazing day 5 they were still sitting in 2nd position, three points clear of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of Australia. Behind them were Heil & Ploessel of Germany and finally the Lange brothers.
The Lange Brothers followed Burling and Tuke off the pin end of the start line and headed for the left corner. Being local sailors they were betting on their experience in these waters, but it did not pay off, as the right again paid heavily leaving them well behind the fleet.
The Aussies, Spanish, and Germans all headed right a number of back markers, with the Alonsos in the controlling position. By the time they hit the corner, however, it was the Aussies who had sailed by far the best gold fleet out of anybody, and had the boat speed to get to the top mark in third overall. A funny thing happened down the first run however, as the Aussies were rolled first by the Austrians and then by another Spanish team, Botin and Turrado. The Aussies are rarely slow, so there was speculation of something being wrong as the Aussies rounded the leeward mark just ahead of the Alonso’s, and falling back.
The Alonsos adopted a strategy of staying close to the Aussies, hoping they could keep the distance close and follow immediately behind them, to take the silver. The strategy couldn’t hold, however, as the combination of good upwind speed for the Aussies meant the gap widened. On the final downwind, it was still all to play for. Botin and Turrado were threatening the Aussies right to the finish and the Alonsos were just behind.
At the run to the finish it was neck and neck. Nathan, cool as ever, had noticed that Dylan Fletcher and Alaign Sign of the British Sailing Team had passed the Alonso’s to put yet another boat between them and the Alonsos, so the Aussies took the Silver by three points, with the Alonsos striking bronze.
The kiwis should once again be the real story leaving Argentina, with an unprecedented 22nd Olympic class victories under their belts. This surely puts them into the top echelons of Olympic class dominance with the likes of Ainsley and Scheidt, who each had exceedingly long unbeaten streaks in the Finn and Laser respectively. It’s never been done quite like this in the 49er before, with three years of uninterrupted dominance. We can’t overlook the advancement of Outteridge, however, who overtook illness in crew Iain Jensen early in the week to post by far the best gold fleet and fantastic upwind boat speed for all of the final day. It’s not a fair thing, but if Burling and Tuke don’t win in Rio, will the world recognize what they have done.
In any case, the rest of the 49er fleet has a few good chances to beat them in the run up to Rio, with major events every two month. Next up are the 2016 World Championships in Clearwater, then the European Champoiship in Barcelona, and finally the South American Championship in Rio only 3 weeks before the games begin.
49er Olympic Qualifiers
The end of Gold fleet secured six teams Olympic qualification, three from 49er and three from 49erFX. The 49er countries of Poland, Germany, and Argentina are all in the top 7 overall, exactly where they started the week and never seemed in doubt of losing the positions they coveted so greatly.
Heil & Ploessel from Germany started the regatta looking to cap a stand out week that now includes nation qualification and are hoping to maximize the number of selection points they can earn within the German qualification system. For the Polish, the qualification is significant, as any miss step would be a huge blow for a nation that has invested heavily in 49er sailing recently and for the most part has delivered excellent results in the previous 18 months. The Polish team of Lukasz Przybytek and Pawel Kolodsinski who’ve qualified their country noted, “We felt our starts were strong, but we made some bad decisions, but overall we are in the medal race and we are happy.” Which ever team qualifies from Poland they will surely be looking to step onto the podium in Rio.
The final team to qualify are the local Lange brothers, whose home club hosted the event. The youngsters are following in their fathers footsteps on the Oympic path, and they too will be looking for medals in Rio. A very emotional pair were the two as they wheeled their boat into the boat park and immediately hugged their legendary father. Tears of joy flooded their faces as Yago Lange emotionally commented,
“It’s been a dream of for us; we’ve been dreaming about this for ages. I’ve cried many times watching my father get a medal there, and it’s a long way, but I think we are closer to there [the olympics]. Doing what we like, and doing it with my brother and with my whole family there and the town, it’s amazing.”
The Croatian team finishes as the 4th country, and will likely earn their berth in two weeks’ time assuming no Oceania teams attend the Oceania country qualifiers at Sailing World Cup Melbourne.
No single team managed to seize the moment and put a string of top results together resulting in the log jam at the top between 3 Danes, Brazilians, Italians, and British. Yesterday’s leading Danes, Ida Marie Baad Nielson and Marie Thusgaard Olsen, fell from the lead to sixth after struggling mightily in their starts and being forced to claw back through each race today. With 6 teams within 13 points of the victory, racing came down to the wire.
With the right side of the course favored the whole fleet started on port and drag raced to the right course. Ida and Marie (Danes), the Brazilians, the Italians and the Spanish. Jena and Katja (Danes) were forced to tack early and headed to the left, which was the last the fleet would see of them as the right side was greatly favored.
It looked for a while like the Brazilians might have enough speed to take the group, but they fell back and the Italians surged into the lead. Down the first run there were five boats dueling and the Spanish jumped into the lead with the Italians leading around the other mark, with the Brazilians right behind them. They were no match for the Italians in terms of speed however, and the Italians powered to an emphatic victory, their second major this season after taking the European Championship.
The bronze medal was still up for grabs, and Ida and Marie sat after the finish unsure of their placing. Finally, after a day that must have been very difficult and already full of come back, they approached the committee boat to see if they’d taken a medal. Smiles burst over their faces as they realized they had secured the bronze, only one point ahead of their team makes Hansen and Iversen.
Following up in fifth pace were Dobson and Ainsworth of the British Sailing Team. Fifth is their best placing at a regatta since Ainsworth has returned from injury.
49er FX Olympic Qualifiers
In the 49erFX the picture was very murky heading into the final day to decide which team would earn the spots and it remained so through to the final race. With the breeze up, some questioned whether Argentinians Vicky Travascio and Sol Branz would falter, but they held wits and sailed the best day of anyone to secure the top country place. When asked how does it feel to not only qualify your country for Rio, but to also do it while in Argentina, a very cheerful Sol Bronz said, “It feels awesome, like we had a whole group of people cheering on us on the finish line, so it was amazing…I’m just going to rest at home for two weeks and embrace it!”
Just behind them are Singapore’s Griselda Khng and Sara Tan. The Singapore squad has a number of talented sailors moving into the FX fleet and Griselda was extremely pleased to secure a spot mentioning, “It feels really good. It’s been our main objective since last year to qualify here. Many mistakes were made, but many lessons learned as well, so we’ll keep building everything up and hopefully prepare ourselves for the games.”
The final guaranteed spot in the 49erFX came down to the protest room, in a protest between Ireland and Canada. The Irish crew were sitting in the third country position with the Canadians tied for 4th country position with the Norwegians. Canada protested the Irish for an incident in the first race of the day and won, leaving the Irish crew disqualified. Canada moved up to third country, claiming the guaranteed spot while the Irish move down to fifth in a tie with the United states. Norway and Ireland will now be watching continental qualifiers to see if there are vacancies, which there are likely to be in both Oceania and Africa.
The 2015 49er & 49erFX World Championship is in Buenos Aires, Argentina from November 16-21, 2015 The event website including results is http://49er.org/event/2015-world-championship/
– 49er Worlds Media