It’s been almost exactly one year since the relaunch of the Nacra 17 to a fully foiling boat and hordes of the world’s top talents are storming into the class along with ambitious newcomers.
The 2018 European Championship will be contested this week from Gdynia, with 58 boats, including almost all of the class contenders.
Most noteworthy among the competitors is a return to the fleet of Lin Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN). Lubeck was injured this winter from a foil strike while racing in Auckland, and after rehabilitation is back in the game. As a class we are thrilled to see he has made a full recovery and is back where he is happiest – racing.
The Danes actually made their return last week at Kiel Week, finishing fifth, so all that time out of the boat doesn’t seem to have affected their performance.
Odds on favourite for the Championship must be the understated Italian duo of Rugerro Tita and Caterina Banti. The blazing Italians did not compete at Kiel last week, but have been the clear standouts in the class since foiling began, and are defending European champions.
This season they’ve also won Palma, Hyeres, and the Sailing World Cup Final in Marseille. With an undefeated streak like that, they have a good chance of defending their title.
The Italian duo is silky smooth through all conditions, stable on foils and great off the line. There seems to be no hole in their overall game, so will be tough to beat.
Chasing the Italians hard is a hoard of Olympic medallists from Australia and Spain. Fernando Echavarri, the 2008 Tornado gold medallist, and crew Tara Pacheco, won Kiel Week just a week ago, and took the Bronze at least year’s European Championship.
Iker Martinez, the 2004 49er gold medallist, and crew Olga Maslivets, have also been racing hard this spring.
From Australia are Rio silver medallists, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, who finished runners up last week in Kiel, so are clearly on the pace.
Fellow Aussies and London 49er gold medallist and Rio silver medallist, Nathan Outteridge, teamed up with his sister, Haylee at their first major competition at Kiel Week and raised a few eyebrows by finishing ninth – not a bad start.
Despite fewer than 20 training days, some are claiming they’re already the fastest team downwind. Obviously Nathan’s time in the America’s Cup foiling multihull is helpful.
It seems the Nacra 17 is becoming one of the destination classes for top Olympic talent. Across the fleet there are six each of gold, silver and bronze medallists competing.
While historical achievements are noteworthy, there are plenty of other contenders looking for their first medals. Ben Saxton has recently reunited with Nicola Boniface. As last year’s world champions, they are clearly a threat, but will be challenged by countrymen John Gimson/Anna Burnett, who won Kiel Week and have been steadily climbing up the rankings.
From America, Bora Gulari/Helena Scutt getting back into regular racing after a rash of injuries between the two since their campaign began. Fellow Americans Riley Gibbs and Louisa Chaffee are also moving into contender status with top 10 finishes in each of the past two major competitions.
There will be 57 teams racing at the 2018 European Championship in Poland and more than 70 next month at the World Championship in Aarhus, Denmark.
While the transition from the 2016 boats to these fully foiling boats has been challenging, the fleet size is now up by almost 60 percent from the end of last quad.
The 2018 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships, at Volvo Sailing Day Gdynia, are from July 8 – 13.
Follow all the action via www.49er.org – www.nacra17.org