Kiel – With the all-important Medal Race cutoff kicking in today for all three fleets at the 49er/49erFX/Nacra17 European Championship in Kiel, Germany, all pressure was on the ‘bubble’ teams to perform at their best. Some rose to the challenge, some quietly snuck in to the last spot, and many were left disappointed after a brutally hard day on the water that included a huge squall and winds from 6-18 knots.
Gold fleet racing began for the Nacra 17 fleet under rainy skies and breeze into the mid teens, with Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin showing the fleet just what upwind foiling means during the first race of the day. In his first day on the helm since the event began, the injured Waterhouse and crew Darmanin won the pin, put the bow down, and flew away from the fleet. The Australian silver medalists crossed behind the first boat after tacking, sailing fast on the foils to the far right. When they came back in contact with the fleet, it became quickly apparent that the foiling mode had serious potential – at least in the 13-15 knot range.
Waterhouse/Darmanin won the race going away, with the SAP Sailing Analytics showing he’d sailed an astonishing 700 meters further – nearly ¾ of a kilometer –than the second place boat. The Aussie duo’s average boatspeed for the race was an even more astonishing 1.1 knots faster than anyone else on the water. For comparison, the 2nd through 18th place boats’ average speeds were within a one-knot range.
Waterhouse/Darmanin’s win wouldn’t allow them to climb into medal race contention, so tomorrow they will be watching the action from the sidelines.
One skipper that easily made the Medal fleet in the high-flying cats – and then some – saw the future of Nacra 17 sailing today, even if she’s not quite there yet. Denmark’s Lin Ea Cenholt Christiansen and Christian Peter Lubeck continued their march up the leaderboard with a blinding Day 5 performance, easily winning the day with a 2,3,4 performance and cementing their second-place spot ten points behind Nacra 17 newcomers Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti.
“At this stage, we’re still a little disappointed that we don’t have faster VMG on the foils upwind, but the Australians proved by winning the first race that it’s the way we’re all going to go in the future,” said Cenholt. “We don’t quite have the technique yet, but that’s just a matter of time on the water and growing our skills.” Cenholt added that she and crew C.P. Lubeck will spend the Northern Hemisphere winter in New Zealand to work on their technique along with several training partners.
The Danish skipper entered the multihull world just 3 years ago, and she says it’s time for more female sailors to take the helm on the Nacra 17. “Now that so many women have more experience sailing these catamarans, we’re starting to be able to compete against very experienced male helms,” she explained. “I hope we will see more girls on the helm soon, and we believe we’re going to prove that in Tokyo.”
Watch an interview with Cenholt – including her explanation of her exciting finish and brief swim – on Facebook here. Click here for the swim.
Germany’s Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer missed the final Medal Race qualification spot by the slimmest of margins, with the final leg of the final race making all the difference. Team GBR’s Chris Rashley with crew Dr. Laura Marimon held off the surging German Red Bull Youth America’s Cup helmsman to squeak through to tomorrow’s all-important chance for the Gold by just a single point.
While no German teams made the Nacra medal races, their strength in the women’s 49erFX was clear for all to see; Rio Olympians Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz continued their streak of top finishes after a bullet in the final race yesterday, scoring a day-winning 1,8,4 today to leapfrog over training partners Lutz/Beuke and Danish Olympic medalists Hansen/Iversen to take first going into tomorrow’s frenetic action. The Danes led for most of the week here in Kiel without registering a double-digit score, and then today, they somehow caught three of them with a scoreline of 18,19,12. When asked what went wrong, Hansen’s answer was illustrative: “You want to know what happened? I want to know what happened!” She explained that they just couldn’t seem to get the boat going with any speed. The Danish team secured their spot in the medal race just 13 points ahead of training partners Nielsen/Olsen, dropping from 2nd place to 9th on the day.
Lutz and Beucke seemed unphased by their drop from first to third place today. “I like it more being behind and being able to attack,” said Lutz – a thought echoed by Beucke, who said she was a little uncomfortable being in the lead. “We definitely like to attack,” she said. With more than 20 knots on call for tomorrow’s final action, Lutz said they’re ready. “Tomorrow is about being well rested and strong, not capsizing, and having good maneuvers, and we’re feeling good about it,” she said.
The narrowest margin at all for the Medal Race cutoff came in the ultra-competitive 49er fleet. Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez-Marra – bronze medalists in the 2016 Euros – overcame an uncharacteristically weak start to their event to claim the final spot on the board. Their 0.5 point margin came despite ‘missing most of the shifts this week,” as Botin explains. “We had real trouble reading the course here, and with racing so close in the Gold fleet, there’s no room for error in the 49er,” said Botin. Crew Lopez said he’s excited to go up against the best in the world tomorrow. “It will be good to get back into the mix, and the short course racing is great training for Worlds later in the month, which has the same format.” You can listen to the young Spanish crew in their own words here.
After an abysmal Day 4, early regatta leaders Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell found their form in the bigger breeze. “Stu made me sail better, I made him sail better, and things went relatively smoothly,” said Fletcher. Bithell explained that it was important to set things up well, but not to be perfect. “We set things up at an average setting and just got on with it,” said Bithell. Check out the interview here.
A monster day of finals racing is forecast with breeze into the 20’s and gusts potentially over 30 knots. It should be the best conditions of the week for fast and furious racing.