Brits, Danes take 49er/FX World Titles
Published on September 2nd, 2017
Matosinhos, Portugal (September 2, 2017) – The final day at the 2017 International 49er and FX World Championship was dealt an unstable land breeze for the gold medal fleets at their 10 AM start, with both the men’s 49er and the women’s FX skiff starting races in 6-10 knots of easterly breeze, only to see the wind shut off completely as they headed to their respected finish lines.
Some of the 140 teams from 27 nations were jumpy with anticipation and all enjoyed the warm summer Portuguese sun as they waited on the water for the forecast northerly to fill in, and after nearly two and a half hours, it filled quickly.
Eight knots became 12 became 16 gusting near 20 knots, allowing the men’s 49er fleet to pick up four more races and complete their championship. The women’s FX fleet sailed two races before heading back to shore, and with the race deadline drifting close, officials sent the top ten teams out to the medal racing course – a tight, intense racetrack putting boathandling and boat-on-boat tactics at a premium in the three race finale.
It was a full brawl between these top female athletes, with three teams from three different continents battling for the all-important podium spots and the title of 2017 World Champion. It was Rio 2016 all over again, and when leading Rio Bronze Medalists Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen (DEN) capsized with a huge lead during the penultimate race of the event, Rio Gold winners Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze pounced, taking a 2nd place with third place Alex Malone and Molly Meech (NZL, Rio Silver Medalists) taking the race win.
“We actually let the mainsheet go at the top mark to be sure we wouldn’t have any problems, and a huge gust hit us at that moment and took us over,” said Hansen. “We got a little annoyed but it was not the end of the world, and we knew in the final race we just needed to be close to the Brazilians to take the win.”
The Danes did just that, finishing second and ahead of her Rio rivals to take the title. Hansen said her year off from 49erFX sailing was just what she and Iversen needed to win.
“We rediscovered each other this week, and maybe the key to our week was our relaxed feeling. And now it’s on to the next thing!” Hansen will travel to Lisbon to meet with her Volvo Ocean crewmates aboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing next week.
“It was exciting to be battling for the win against the other teams on the podium in Rio,” said Grael, who said she was extremely happy with their result. “It’s way beyond what we expected because of all the other things we’ve been involved with, and we came to this championship a bit unprepared.” She will also be heading to join a Volvo Ocean Race team in the coming weeks.
Kiwi duo Maloney/Meech couldn’t finish the regatta with the form they began with; despite a blistering performance in the earlier rounds and a lead through the first half of the championship, they were relegated to the bronze position.
Reigning European 49er Champions Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR) had a smoother road than the Danish champs to their first-ever World Championship win, but training partners James Peters and Fynn Sterritt still had a mathematical chance to take them down going into the final race of the championship.
“We knew we were guaranteed a silver going into the last race and the only way James and Finn could beat us was to win it with us getting 4th or worse,” said Fletcher, who stayed on top of Peters to the windward mark. “We thought we’d done the job and the job was over, but we let them split from us and it was looking bad for a little while with us pretty far back.”
As they’ve done in race after race the European champions battled right back, eyes glued to Peters and Sterritt on the other side of the course. “We were a little nervous but it was a long way for them to get into the lead, and that’s how it ended.”
Peters/Sterritt would complete the front row lockout for the British Sailing Team by taking their first Worlds podium, with Austrian standouts Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl finishing out the money spots and the 2017 Worlds.
Among the North American contingent, Judge Ryan and Hans Henken (USA) were the top men in 29th and Erin Rafuse and Danielle Boyd (CAN) were the top women in 22nd.
Event details: http://49er.org/event/2017-world-championship/
Source: Class Assn