49er Worlds: Monumental Showdown in Clearwater

Published on February 8th, 2016

The 2016 World Championship for the Nacra 17, 49er, and 49erFX – the three fastest Olympic sailing events – will be held together on February 9-14 in Clearwater, FL. Over 120 teams from more than 37 countries will be competing in front of the Pier on Clearwater Beach. Here’s a preview report on the 49er event…

Will Kiwis Peter Burling and Blair Tuke ever lose…like ever? Will they run the table to the Games, will they win in Rio, will they keep on winning and take the America’s Cup too for Team New Zealand? After their silver medal at the 2012 Games, Burling and Tuke seem just that unstoppable now, with 22 49er wins in a row, undefeated for 1305 days and counting.

Burling and Tuke have also never been so busy after being named World Sailors of the year in 2015. Their success has come with innumerable opportunities in the sailing world, increasing sponsor commitments, personal appearances, moonlighting in other extreme classes like the moth and A-Class. Dominant of course is their America’s Cup commitments…it wasn’t long ago that an America’s Cup campaign was something to be done after Olympic retirement.

Now that the racing is as fast paced and intense as 49er racing, AC teams are bringing in active sailors at the top of their game to make sure their racing skills are at their peak, not just AC specific skills. It adds to the time burden facing Pete and Blair who have been steadfast on their goal of Olympic Gold.

A fleet of 70 teams from 25 countries are looking to upset Burling and Tuke and end their unprecedented streak. While the World title will provide valued momentum for the top team leading into the Rio Games, just getting to the Games is on the mind of many of the sailors, chief among them the Americans as the Worlds is the final event of the US selection series.

Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris are looking to stay on top after their solid performance at Sailing World Cup Miami. “We have spent a lot of time in Clearwater and feel comfortable here,” reports Morris. “We’re paying attention to the forecast, but not putting too much emphasis on it. We will be excited for any condition that this great venue has to offer.”

Barrows and Morris will need to keep eye on Brad Funk and Trevor Burd, as Funk is now sailing on his home waters. “We do have more time here [in Clearwater] than the other teams,” Funk acknowledged, “but we’ve had a lot of weird weather here in the last few weeks, so it will be tricky for everyone.”

The US system is based on a team’s finishing result, so Funk/Burd must finish five positions better than Burrows/Morris at the Worlds to get the nod, with newcomers Judge Ryan and Hans Henken sitting three places further back. Click here for the tracker to follow the US selection series.

For those with their eyes on the prize, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) served notice at the 2015 World Championship that they are rounding back into top form when they scored the fewest points in gold fleet racing, only held back into Silver by a poor qualifying series in part due to illness.

The Aussies had a poor (for them) finish at Sailing World Cup Miami but were on chartered old equipment, so we have not yet seen them at full strength since their Gold medal in London 2012, until now. Of course Nathan and Iain are arguably busier than Burling in Tuke, with even more responsibility within their America’s Cup team – Artemis Racing. Nevertheless, they are full of motivation to put some doubt in their kiwi rivals before Rio.

Aside from the two big names in 49er, there is a huge amount of talent in the fleet, and plenty of teams ready to show the sailing establishment to turn their gaze beyond the boys down under.

On building form are Britain’s John Pink and Stuart Bithell. Pinky missed going to London 2012, but Stu went in the 470 and claimed a Silver medal on home waters, a surely inspiring experience. Inspiring is how this duo has been sailing of late, emerging from the mix in a talented British squad and putting the pressure on their squad rivals to come up with top performances at big events in order to be usurped from their leading position.

There are literally too many nations to mention with the possibility of having a great regatta. The Spanish squad is one worth discussing as they have delivered some top performances for the first time since legends Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez won the Worlds in 2010. The Alonso brothers took the Bronze medal at the 2015 Worlds, while Diego Botin and Iago Llopez won the World Cup Miami to kick start this Florida swing. They are chased by the Paz brothers as well, and this regatta will be a big part of their Olympic selection, so the rewards for a good event here will be huge.

The Danes are set, with 2008 Gold medalist Jonas Warrer with Anders Thomsen looking for a good event. The German team has the second leg of their trials, so early favorites Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel must have a good event in order to fend off up and comers Justus Schmidt and Max Boeme, who beat them in the first leg.

Racing is from Feb 9-14, 2016, with the first three days used for qualifying and the final three days for Gold Fleet racing and the medal race on the final day.

Event details: http://www.saillife.com/#!2016-nacra-17-49er-and-49erfx-worlds-/c3yw

Source: 49er class

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