Olympic decisions at Nacra 17 Europeans
Published on May 12th, 2019
The Nacra 17 class will take to the waters of the London 2012 Olympic sailing venue for the 2019 Volvo Europeans on May 13 to 19 off Weymouth, England. The Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy will host 57 foiling Nacra 17 teams hungry to secure national selection as the Tokyo 2020 Games grow ever closer.
Since the Nacra 17 became a fully foiling multihull shortly after the Rio 2016 games, Italy’s Ruggero Tita and Catarina Banti have been dominating the international circuit. The question throughout 2018 was who could reel in the flying Italian duo as they secured their second consecutive European Championship, took the 2018 World Sailing Championship and collected wins or runner up each stage of the Hempel World Cup series.
However, 2019 has seen mixed results for the traditionally consistent team.
While still placing regularly in the top ten, they have twice been beaten by their Italian teammates. Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari placed second at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma while Tita/Banti were sixth; 30 points in arrears. At the recent Genoa World Cup regatta which was plagued by extremely light winds, Lorenzo Bressani and Cecilia Zorzi narrowly missed the podium but again the defending World Champions were placed worse in 8th.
Word on the street is that the Italian Nacra 17 teams are totally committed to working cooperatively and the results are beginning to show. With three medal performing teams in their ranks, and one of the strongest international squads in the class, their final results in Weymouth will be heavily scrutinized going forward.
The British Sailing Team is facing one of the tightest selection races seen in the class’s history. 2017 Nacra 17 World Champion Ben Saxton and his crew Nicola Boniface have been trading blows on the scoresheet with their fellow Britons John Gimson and Anna Burnet.
Saxton was forced to rotate crews throughout the latter part of 2018 and into 2019 as Boniface was forced to the sidelines with a shoulder injury sustained in Enoshima. While injuries can often derail a teams campaign, Saxton took the opportunity to keep fresh with crew members from the British Sailing Team development squad while Boniface was recovering from surgery.
The British Sailing Team will be using the 2019 Volvo Europeans as the final selection for which team heads to ‘Ready, Set, Tokyo’ the Olympic test event, while the specifics of their Olympic selection process is a closely kept secret.
Returning to the Nacra 17 international circuit is Australians Nathan and Hayley Outteridge after the sibling duo turned heads at the 2018 World Sailing Championships. With minimal time in the Nacra 17, the Outteridge’s placed second, outperforming the more experienced Rio 2016 silver medallists Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin. Waterhouse and Damanin, have proven that consistency reaps rewards, with three regatta wins in a row; Enoshima, Miami, and Palma.
However, Waterhouse and Darmanin have withdrawn from the Europeans at late notice, which raises a few eyebrows. First is that it makes it tough for Australian selectors to make a judgement between the two Aussie teams, as the Outteridges were not in Palma, and now Waterhouse/Darmanin will not be at the Euros.
The second question on everyone’s mind is about Jason’s back. He has twice had to retire from regattas in the past two seasons, and was subject to quite high forces during the SailGP series last week. Could their late withdrawal be health related, and if so, will the Australian selectors factor that into their decision making?
Meanwhile, the Outteridges are both very skilled sailors, but their time in the boat leading up to the Volvo Europeans has been limited.
Running an Olympic campaign on minimal competition time whilst attempting to defeat a previous Olympic medalling team for selection seems like an impossible task. With an Olympic gold and silver medal, multiple world championships and the current skipper of SailGP’s Japanese team, Nathan Outteridge is the caliber of sailor required to pull off such a feat.
U.S. Sailing’s Nacra 17 pairings have seen some changes in the past 12 months. Rio 2016 Olympians Bora Gulari and Louise Chafee, who up until recently were competing against each other and then reunited have retired their campaign. Therefore, it will be one of the young American teams who will get to go to Tokyo should the USA qualify.
Riley Gibbs, who was sailing with Chafee until late-2018, has teamed up with Anna Weis and appears to have the best performance of the two teams. Riley is also coming off a great performance at SailGP, so is riding on a high.
Gibbs/Weis have already qualified themselves for the 2019 Pan American Games, which doubles as an Olympic qualification event for the American countries.
Add into the mix the teams of Ravi Parent and Caroline Atwood and Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg, who have both earned top ten results in past events and this is a national team knocking at the door for a podium at the 2019 Volvo Europeans.
Other strong contenders for the 2019 Volvo Europeans include the New Zealanders Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders, who placed top ten in Genoa and Palma and will be looking to get into the silverware more often.
Denmark, Germany, and France all have interesting internal squad competitions, with each country having at least two podium potential teams in the running, but with few medal placings so far this year.
With the potential for strong winds and more open ocean conditions, similar to that faced in Enoshima in 2018, Weymouth could give us our clearest indication yet as to who will be the best-placed teams as we set our focus on Tokyo and the latter half of the 2019 calendar. The regatta is also seven days long, with a full racing schedule each day which should also give us a clear indication of who is in form.
Competing from the USA:
Sarah Newberry (Miami, Fla.) & David Liebenberg (Livermore, Calif.)
Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) & Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Ravi Parent (Sarasota, Fla.) & Caroline Atwood (Killingsworth, Conn.)
Nicholas Martin (San Diego, Calif.) & Romy Mackenbrock
Source: Nacra 17 Class