Rising Standard at 49er and 49erFX European Championship

Published on April 14th, 2016

Barcelona, Spain (April 14, 2016) – The final three days for the 49er and 49erFX European Championship will define the podium, and with the Rio Games just four months away, perhaps the next Olympians too.

For Spaniard Tamara Echegoyen, who claimed the Gold medal in the women’s Match racing in 2012, the timing to excel could not be better. After teaming in the 49erFX with Berta Betanzos, a 470 World Champion, they stumbled and struggled somewhat in the transition to skiff sailing, but now find themselves atop the rank.

In the lead up to Rio 2016, when the Danes, Brazilians, Kiwis, and Italians are seen as favorites, it’s the Spanish showing they should be seen as top contenders. In the final race of the 2016 49erFX World Championship in Clearwater, the duo waited until the last lap to secure their first World Championship as a team.

The Spanish fans went crazy online, posting over 1000 messages of support on the live YouTube link sending their love and support across the Atlantic. As the Olympic circuit shifted to Barcelona, the Spanish fans are able to show their support from much closer proximity as they surged into the lead.

Sporting a 3, 7, 1 in the three races today to open up the Gold fleet racing, which included a capsize in the race they finished 7th, Echegoyen and Betanzos are showing they are contenders. Unlike in the 49er, where Kiwis Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are once again a country mile ahead of the closest competition, the 49erFX title fight is bound to be close for the duration.

Post-race discussion with the Spaniard gave clues as to how well they are trusting what they see on the water, a critical skill in sailing. After two straight races where the fleets marched left on the course to find more wind, the Spaniards spotted the right looking good in before the final race, noted a small shift in the wind direction, and changed their starting plans accordingly to take advantage. The right proved mighty, and they took the win.

But only one point back in second place are 2015 World Champions and defending European Champions, Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich of Italy. The Italians are becoming some of the most consistent performers in the fleet, rarely having a bad day and certainly not a bad event. There seem to be so many teams that could take the title in Rio, by the Italians putting themselves in the medal fight regatta after regatta could really increase their odds of pulling a medal in Rio.

In spite of what the top of the scoreboard might say, it’s the Dutch team of Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz that are sailing the best right now. They won Palma last week by a large margin, and have already won 6 of the 10 races they’ve competed in here in Barcelona. But in an odd move, the Dutch duo decided to take the day off yesterday.

Thinking that they had so many championships this month that they didn’t want to burn out, they returned to racing today to post a 1, 1, 3, and climb all the way back up the table to 5th. By regattas end, if they keep sailing in this manner, it may not matter and they could still claim the title, whether they’re aiming for it or not.

The 49er course also completed three races, where Burling and Tuke continued to put on a master class the likes of which sailing may never have seen if they can hold through to London. If they win out the rest of this this regatta, Hyeres, the South American’s and then of course Rio itself, Burling and Tuke will have won 28 straight 49er regattas, and won every regatta of an entire quadrennial.

While teams were impressed with their performances back at the 2013 World Championship in Marseille or the 2013 European Championship in Aarhus, it was generally assumed that once the fleet really got into the quad and everyone was at top capacity, the fleet would claw them back, as it always seems to be able to do in Olympic classes with so many minds fighting for every inch and relatively few equipment variable to leave systemic gains hidden.

Clawing back the Kiwis has not happened, far from it. Their wins in Buenos Aires for Worlds 2015, Clearwater for Worlds 2016, were both by untouchable margins by the end, and they are 34 points ahead of second place already.

Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) sit nicely in second overall after a pretty great day of gold fleet racing having scored only 18 points from three races, but must face the fact they fell 10 points farther back of their biggest rivals. It must be uncomfortable territory for the London 2012 Gold medalist, but with another three months of solid 49er work to put in there is no counting them out.

Having the second best day of all was one of the teams tied on 103 points last night to squeak into gold fleet. The Lange brothers of Argentina – Yago and Klaus – were only a point away from missing the gold fleet cut off, but in a showing of how deep the 49er fleet is these days pulled all the way up to 12th after scoring a 7, 3, 2, on the day.

“We would have won the last race, but Burling and Tuke just kept shortening our lead. Every tiny error we made they would pull back some meters, until they were passed us. They are incredible.”

Lange and Lange have been out to New Zealand to train quite a bit lately as Burling and Tuke invited them to train. Unlike four years ago when Outteridge and Jensen opened up quite a bit to Burling and Tuke, the Lange brothers aren’t brought all the way into the Kiwi camp, but even training with such great talents is enough to rub off it seems.

UPDATE: The Lange brothers were disqualified from race 10 (first race of the day) for a boat on boat incident with James Peters/ Fynn Sterritt (GBR). Lange’s now carry a DSQ-3-2 today which drop them to 17th overall.

On a bright note for the Danes, CP Lubeck, new crew of 2008 Gold Medalist Jonas Warrer won his first 49er Gold fleet race today by taking the second race of the day.

In the British selection fight, Pink and Bithell had an average day but sit in the Bronze medal position. All the way back in 16th are their rivals, Fletcher and Sign, 50+ points behind. If Pink and Bithell can hold and unless Fletcher Sign pull off some magic it could be over for the 2016 Worlds bronze medalists. With 6 races and potentially a medal race the final two days will be pretty intense.

Among the North Americans, Judge Ryan/ Hans Henken (USA) slipped to 25th place while Paris Henken/ Helena Scutt (USA) continue to climb up the rankings to now sit in 12th overall with Erin Rafuse/ Danielle Boyd (CAN) also bumping up to 20th position.

Racing was double delayed to start the day, initially for 90 minutes while the race officers waited for the sea breeze and then for another 60 minutes on the water while it stubbornly refused to build as expected. When it did finally arrive, it made for fantastic conditions, up to 12 knots in the first race and then 18 knots in the second race finally subsiding to 15 knots in the third race. The waves build up to challenge the sailors without ever pushing them to back off, all making for an epic day of open water racing.

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Racing for the 72 men’s teams and 37 women’s teams is planned for April 11-16. The first three days are for qualifying, after which the fleet will be divided for three days of fleet races with the Medal Race on the final day.

Source: 49er/49erFX class

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