The qualifying series could not have been more challenging for the teams vying for Gold fleet inclusion, Olympic berths, and Olympic selection. Starting the day, the teams vying for Olympic berths were huddled at the top of the 49er leaderboard, with four of the top six teams looking to qualify their nation. By the end of racing today, seven nations are looking for the three (and possibly up to five Olympic berths) with Argentina and Poland both having two teams in the hunt.
The real fleet depth in the 49er is on display here in Buenos Aires as only Championship favorites, Burling and Tuke (NZL), are sailing to expectation and at the top of the leaderboard. Many of the rest of the presumed top 10 had to fight hard, right down to the final race just to make gold fleet with Fletcher/Sign (GBR), Outteridge/Jensen (AUS), Seaton/McGovern (IRL), Dyen/Christidis (FRA), and Warrer/Thomsen (DEN) all in danger of falling out of the Gold fleet split in the final race of the day. Of the bunch, the Brits and Outteridge proved clutch, with Fletcher/Sign winning the final race while Outteridge/Jensen pulled off two second places to close out the qualifying series.
Local young guns, the Lange brothers, looking good in their yellow leaders jerseys, sailed a decent day only falling a few places to fourth overall. With their home club looking on, their double-Olympic medalist father in a spectator boat they have proved up to the pressure so far. The first three days of the championship have been really unstable, especially for the 49er fleet, and their local knowledge may have come in handy at the most important time.
In the hunt for Olympic berths are the two favored nations, Germany and Poland. German’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel did not compete together in Santander 2014 due to a last minute injury to Thomas, but have come through so far at this years qualifier. They won the first race of the day by a wide margin and followed through with two solid races to move up into third. Poland sees both top crews in the gold fleet, with Lukas and Pawel (POL) comfortably in sixth while Thomas and Jake are back in 18th but still able to contribute to the nationality fight. The Japanese team of Makino and Takahashi were back in 27th with one race remaining of the series but pulled off a 3rd place to keep in contention for their third straight Olympic appearance.
The two more surprising teams in the gold fleet still in the hunt for berths are Croatia and Belgium. The Croatians have been running a much lower key campaign than usual, both sailors being family men now. Their years of experience allow them to keep competing at a high level and they’ll be looking for their third straight Olympic berths as well. The Belgians have been at the 49er game for years, and the pair of Lefebre and Paelsmaker only recently teamed up, and to good effect so far. They will certainly be under huge pressure in their first gold fleet as a duo to maintain their position.
In the fight for country selection, the Brazilian 49er berth has been locked up today by Marco Grael and Gabriel Borges. The duo had a comeback win over Dante Bianchi and Thomas Lowbeer last week at the South American’s to score the first one on one point and sailed very well today with a 6, 4, 14 to slip easily into Gold Fleet in 14th. With their Brazilian rival missing the gold fleet by just a couple places, they have now secured two of three victories and so have been selected for the Brazilian berth at their home games. Marco is the son of Torben Grael, one of Brazil’s most famous sailors, and was under huge pressure for the past two weeks. He’ll join his sister Martine at their home Olympics. Great for sailing and the 49er Class as there will be huge interest by the Brazilian media during the Games.
The British trials have been thrown for a loop here, with only Fletcher and Sign making gold fleet. Peters and Sterritt seemed certainties for a few moments, but got bumped down to 26th when a scoring error to Phillips and Phillips was discovered. Further down is a surprising Pink/Bithell who got stuck on a start line collision for the first race today and could not put a series together. They had been front runners in the British system with their Silver in the Europeans in Porto. While the British keep their system secret it likely relies on scoring points at major events, with accelerating points allocation to medal performances. Fletcher and Sign will be working all they can to claw back into the race.
The day started out boisterously, with 14 knots of wind and a reasonable chop as the system breeze had been flowing all night. As racing began, however, it dropped so the first race finished with only 8 knots of breeze and sailors working the waves hard downwind to surf whenever they could catch something. The wind continued to die with a 7 to 10 degree right shift through the first race, before picking up for the third and final race to about 7 knots and ‘Good skiff racing conditions,’ according to Will Phillips (AUS).
49erFX Summary to follow their racing.
Here is the AST's release:
All Australian Sailing crews have qualified for Gold fleet racing on the third regatta and last day of qualifying at the 2015 49er/FX World Championships in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, 18 November local time.
It was the first day with a rather consistent breeze and far as results were concerned, it was a day of recovery for most of Australia’s sailors after a couple of challenging days in very light breeze, posting average results and dealing with illness.
Three races were completed in the 49er fleet with Olympic gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) moving up the results ladder from 18th into eleventh. An unfortunate crash caused by another boat in the first race of the day added a 27th to their scorecard but backing it up with two second places the pair had one of their best days thus far.
“It was nice to get two good races in today. It started off pretty breezy with 16knots and slowly died in the first race and the rest of the day we sailed in mostly five to eight,” Nathan Outteridge said about the conditions of the day. “In the first race, while we were ducking everyone, there was an Argentinian boat, which didn’t give us room, which resulted in a big crash and a couple of boats were all stuck together for 30 seconds. By the time we got untangled we had a lot of catching up to do and finished 27th in that race. We didn’t get any damage, so there wasn’t any redress, but that’s just how it is in sailing. So we had to suck that one up and get ready for the next race.”
“In the following two races we managed to get two second places on a predominantly right-hand favoured track and we sailed quite well, which puts us into Gold fleet going forward.”
Iain Jensen is still recovering from a gastro illness after many sailors across the international fleet have fallen ill with stomach and gastrointestinal issues and with the less clean than predicted water having been targeted as the reason.
“Gooby (Iain Jensen) is still not really well,” Nathan Outteridge said. “He was taken straight home from the boat after the race again today and I sailed in by myself. During racing he’s fine, but it’s really difficult to maintain energy levels when you can’t eat. He really hasn’t eaten for two days now, so hopefully he can get some more rest and be ready for Gold Fleet next.”
After three days and a total of eight races in the qualifying series all Australian crews have made the top-30 Gold fleet cut with Australian Sailing Squad’s Will Phillips and brother Sam ranked 15th after a strong day three posting a twelfth, sixth and ninth place. Australian Sailing Team’s David Gilmour (WA) and Rhys Mara (VIC) go into Gold fleet racing ranked 17th with Queenslanders Joel Turner and Lewis Brake following in 21st.
After a bad start to the regatta, Turner and Brake were excited to complete the Australian contingent in the top-30 Gold fleet. They were able to jump up from 57th into 23rd on the second day of the event and with a second, 23rd and twelfth on day three secured overall 21st to proceed to Gold Fleet.
“We were under fair bit of pressure today to make sure we had some half decent results. We didn’t have to do anything spectacular but at the same time we had a couple of shocking results on the first day, which meant we had to perform well today to ensure we make it into Gold fleet,” Joel Turner explained.
“We managed to get a couple of good results and after our bad day one we’re stoked to be in the Gold Fleet. Gold fleet racing will be a good challenge and it will be pretty exciting to get out racing against the top half of the fleet. There’s plenty of breeze forecast so it could be very interesting and exciting over the next three days.”
In the 49erFX Australian Sailing Squad’s Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) also have recovered from gastro issues and had a strong day three, posting two second places and a ninth place, which moved them from 21st into eleventh place overall and into the top-22 Gold fleet.
“It was our last day of qualification and it was great to get two really good results. We needed a consistent day to move us up on the leader board,” Tess Lloyd said.
“It was a lot more consistent breeze today than some of the other days. And after all the rain, which made the water quite dirty and both Caitlin and I getting sick, we seem to have recovered from that and have been getting back into the racing quite nicely.
“It was really good to today to get some good results under our belt. We just have to keep having some consistent days and hopefully we can make it into the top ten to get into the Medal Race, which is what we are aiming for.”
After concluding three days of Qualifying Races, racing at the 49er/FX World Championships now continues in Gold and Silver Fleet Races scheduled for Thursday, 19 – Saturday, 21 November. The Medal Race is scheduled for 14:55 local time on Saturday, 21 November (AEDT Sunday, 22 November 3:55 a.m.).
The 2015 49er/FX World Championships are the men’s and women’s skiff season highlight and a total of four Australian Sailing men’s skiff crews are competing in Argentina including Australian Sailing Team’s (AST) Olympic gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW), David Gilmour (WA) and Rhys Mara (VIC) as well as Joel Turner (QLD) and Lewis Brake (QLD). Australian Sailing Squad’s Will Phillips (VIC) is joined by his brother Sam Phillips (VIC). The 49erFX crew of Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) complete the Australian contingent in Argentina.
– Cora Zillich/AST
Australian Sailing at 49er/FX World Championships:
Men’s Skiff – 49er
– Nathan Outteridge (NSW) & Iain Jensen (NSW) – AST: 10, 5, (UFD), 7, 17, 27, 2, 2 – 13th
– Will Phillips (ASS – VIC/VIS) & Sam Phillips (VIC): 12, 22, 10, 3, (BFD), 12, 6, 9 – 15th
– David Gilmour (WA/WAIS) & Rhys Mara (VIC/VIS) – AST: 5, 16, (16), 10, 15, 13, 5, 11 – 17th
– Joel Turner (AST – QLD/QAS) & Lewis Brake (ASS – QLD/QAS) – ASS: 27, (UFD), 11, 1, 4, 2, 23, 12 – 21st
Women's Skiff – 49erFX
– Tess Lloyd (VIC/VIS) & Caitlin Elks (WA/WAIS) – ASS: 11, 10, 12, 3, (16), 2, 9, 2 – 11th