The 2015 49er & 49er FX World Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina is now one day away from crowning World Champions, along with announcing three more countries who will be heading to the Rio 2016 games.
The Gold fleet was sent out to a beautiful morning on the water with a light Southerly wind, but even though the sun was shining and the sailors were ready, the light conditions prevented the sailors from racing more than one race until midday. Yesterday's thunderstorms put a hold on racing for both the Gold and Silver fleets after Silver was caught out amongst the stormy weather subsequent to the only race they completed that day. Sailing in unstable conditions was what the venue delivered, and only a few in either fleet really got a handle of what was going on out there.
Unstable and light conditions saw 49er crews cast to the front and back of races all day long, except for the Alonsos. The Spanish brothers, Federico and Arturo, have been journeymen of the class for more than a decade and chose a perfect day to get it right. “For sure it was our best day ever,” said a humble but happy Federico. “At worlds in gold fleet this is more than anyone can ask for.” Their shoreline of 1, 6, 2, 4 was unrivaled on the day and moved them into the lead at one point before the gold fleet drop race kicked in.
They trail only perennial leaders Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who hold a 12 point lead. When asked if the Spanish duo think they can take on Burling and Tuke, true to their understated nature they answered no! “We are just here to race against gold fleet and see what we can do. If Burling and Tuke fall into us, that would be great, but we are just focused on our racing.
The Alsonso are no strangers to the company of grateness. They were the sparring partners to Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez for the best part of five years during that duos run of dominance from 2004-2010. They never really got a look at an Olympic berth themselves, though for a while it seemed like 2012 might be on the cards for them until Iker and Xabi decided to return. They have chosen a great time to sail at their best as this event is part of the Spanish Olympic trials.
The leading Kiwis had two poor races by their standards, but even when they were struggling late into races they managed to claw back to post decent poor results instead of disasters. In the second race of the day, they had a great leeward rounding to gain a small bunch and then a solid final downwind to pull back to mid fleet. In the third race of the day they pulled an unorthodox early gybeset on a screwed run to sail the short side first passing half a dozen boats to get them back into contention. They started the day on a second and finished with the win to remain in commanding position of the championship.
The Alonsos had a strategy of winning the boat, heading right until they got a shift, moving back to the middle and playing the shifts from there. Even on the final beat, Burling and Tuke were heading one way while Outteridge and Jensen were the other, then both team switched side for the next beat. It was the type of day where patience and pluckiness paid off.
Outteridge and Jensen had a commendable day, pulling into 7th overall and within striking distance of the medals. In the fight for country qualification, Germany, Poland, and Argentina look poised to claim the three automatic bids, with Croatia, Belgium, and Japan all fighting for the spots they hope will open up from empty continental spots. There are enough points to be scored tomorrow that any of the team could still win an automatic bid – the pressure is on!
The FX fleet saw some challenges across the board today with shifty conditions toying with a lot of the sailors mental games. Leading for most of the regatta, Danish team Neilson/Olsen had been knocked out of 1st and into 2nd by the start of the final race in today's sequence. Marie Olsen noted that today was definitely a tricky one for the two Danes, finishing well into the teens for two out of the four races today. The past world champions Brazil's own Grael/Kunze, who had a slow start early on in the regatta but have found their groove as the first three races of the day they've finished in either 1st or 4th. The pair was knocked back into 2nd by Neilson/Olsen as they finished one point ahead in the last race for the day. Four points separate the two boats, but the two boats have been biting at each other's heels.
Rounding out the top five are Italy's Conti/Clapcich in 3rd; Great Britain's Dobson/Ainsworth in 4th; and finally Hansen/Salskov-Iversen in 5th sitting just one point apart from the 6th place Spanish team of Echegoyen/Betanzos.
The British ladies, Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth, were sitting in tenth going into the day, but decided early on they wouldn't be sitting there for long. Sophie Ainsworth commented, “We said today when we got out there that it was going to be a really tricky day and that we hoped we were wearing our 'Jagger' pants. It's pretty much how we summed up the day, because you know you can try and make your own luck, but sometimes you get dealt a better hand.” Better hand indeed for these two, apart from their final race of the day in which they took a bit of a digger into 21st, the pair sailed their own races and finished 5th, 1st, and 3rd. These two were definitely wearing their Jagger pants, Mick would be proud!
The Danish pair, Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen, who were sitting in 4th going into today, only dropping one place felt the mental pangs early on starting off with a 16th. The shifty conditions and uneven pressure were getting ahold of Hansen's mental confidence and affecting her style. She notes, “It was tough mentally like, trying to see the right things, trying to make the right decisions, that was really tough because maybe sometimes when you look at other boats it seems like 'ok left is going really good, oh no, now right is going really good,' it was difficult to choose.”
The ladies both decided to stop trying to reinvent their style and stick to what they know works – clean starts and getting ahead of the pack early to be able to control what they wanted to do instead of being controlled. When asked about what why she felt she couldn't start the day on the right track Hansen also mentions, “We were a bit too reserved today in the starts, and normally thats not like us.” The last race Hansen was able to let her aggressive side out and get off the line enabling the pair to win the start and finish 2nd overall.
Countries looking to qualify sit just outside of the top ten. Singapore (11), Argentina (13), Norway (15), USA (17) and Canada (19) all sit just inside the top twenty. These teams know what they need to do, but can they do it at this 2015 World Championship?
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/.
– Regatta Media