Olympic Worlds: When the Best Strategy is Survival

Published on February 10th, 2016

The 2016 World Championship for the Nacra 17, 49er, and 49erFX – the three fastest Olympic sailing events – is 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 report from February 10…

The Gulf of Mexico can be a challenging playing field, a point that has been firmly reinforced by weather conditions over the first two days of the World Championships. For these high performance classes, the demanding conditions are testing more than tactics. They are testing survival.

After four big races, the Nacra 17 fleet is looking forward to some recuperation time. “We’ve burned more calories than we can consume,” said Germany’s top Nacra 17 sailor, Paul Kohlhoff. “Today was really challenging, very big waves, but tomorrow looks like it’s going to be much lighter winds.”

Even in the bright Florida sunshine, sailors were shivering as they came ashore. “I only brought my summer wetsuit,” smiled Moana Vaireaux (FRA) who sits third overall. “But today’s conditions were good for us, we like the big waves and big wind. It was really shifty during the races but we made good decisions. Upwind it was about choosing your moment to tack in the wind shifts.”

Canadians Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke sit in 14th and continue to lead among the Nacra 17 North Americans. Top US team Michael Easton and Katie Pettibone found the conditions to their liking. “Really, the plan was just to sheet in and sail fast,” noted Easton. “It was exhausting, and we pushed hard, but that’s what Olympic sailing is about.”

But pushing hard was not in the cards for the Olympic skiffs as they continued to be challenged by the conditions.

The 49erFX girls were sent out twice today, with the morning races cancelled after conditions were deemed too extreme. The second attempt at racing, made mid-afternoon, completed one race before several boats limped in with broken masts.

A fourth by Canadians Erin Rafuse and Danielle Boyd has them leading the continent. “We were fourth at the second windward leg, then hit a forest of trees at the top mark. We had no speed going into a tack because of the weeds and so we ended up capsizing, de-weeding, then had to come back up to the mark because we had drifted so low,” said Boyd in a shivering wet state. They were able to make gains downwind to recapture their fourth position across the finish line.

No races were completed for the 49er men.

Event websiteScoreboard49er/49erFX reportNacra 17 reportUSA report

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