• Kiwis And Danes Draw First Blood In Clearwater.

    Kiwis and Danes draw first blood in Clearwater.

    Clearwater, Florida. The grey morning sky introduced day one of the 49er and 49er FX 2016 World Championships. Even though the previous 2015 Worlds in Buenos Aires, Argentina was contested less than three months ago, the athletes are approaching this event with as much anticipation and earnest effort as ever before.

    With the day slated to begin just before noon, the race committee decided to send out the men first. The breeze was a manageable 14 knots and, with the Nacra 17s also given the go-ahead, the men started rigging up on the beach. The men’s 49er fleet took to the water, sailing from the Clearwater Community Center Beach out through a sometimes treacherous channel. When the wind decides to meet the waves, the result is a battle royale for the 49er fleet.

    With building pressure from a manageable 14 knots to a ripping 18+, the 49er fleet kicked off the first race of their 2016 Worlds. It was a dramatic start in tough conditions. Irish sailors Mathew McGovern and Ryan Seaton were all smiles up until the top mark, but were more cautious downwind. “We were having a blast sailing up until that point. After we rounded, it clearly became dangerous to light it up and go real fast because then there’s a good chance you’ll be swimming. There’s a fine line between being able to heat it up and gain speed, while still playing it safe.”

    Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen exemplified how even the most seasoned sailors were struggling with this challenging first race. The Danish pair got around the top mark in 2nd place, but then Warrer went for a bit of impromptu waterskiing on the downwind leg when his trapeze adjuster slipped out of its cleat, dunking the Danish skipper in the water. The 2008 Olympic Champion managed to recover his composure and dignity without capsizing, although he had dropped a few places with the minor mishap.

    However, Warrer and Thomsen made amends on the next windward leg, spotting how skewed the course had become after the massive left-hand windshift. “We tacked earlier than some of the other boats in front of us,” said Thomsen. “It doesn’t pay you to overstand the layline in really strong winds, so we came in underneath them and took a few places back.” They then held off from hoisting the spinnaker straightaway on the final run to the finish, sailing high before getting the kite up and blasting across the line in first place. The 2015 World Champions, Burling and Tuke, also charged through to win their half of the qualifying fleet, putting Denmark and New Zealand in an early tie for first. Rounding out the tie for third is Great Britain’s Pink/Bithell and France’s D’Ortoli/Delpech.

    Over the course of the race, the pressure consistently mounted. The fleet just about made it across the finish line in one piece, it wasn’t long before the race committee made the call to cancel the second start and send the racers in for an onshore postponement. The FX women waited on shore, keeping tabs on the building pressure. More and more, the women’s FX fleet are erring on the side of caution, mindful of just how easy it is to break a mast in the shallow waters of Clearwater. Look up through the boat park and you may just find a beach ball or colorful flotation device taped securely to a top mast. These women know that capsizing in these conditions is a very likely possibility, so the old adage: better safe than sorry, seems like a good idea when it comes to break a mast, or not to break a mast. As the sailors made their way from the course back into the channel they learned early in the regatta that by dropping their mainsails they avoided capsizing in the treacherous channel. The opening to the channel leading into the racing area is particularly shallow, and shallow waters are the 49er’s ultimate enemy. A total of six masts were snapped after today’s boat-breaking conditions.

    The women are scheduled to start racing at 11am tomorrow EST. Weather reports seem to appear a bit lighter for tomorrow, although it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of the big breeze this week.

    Big shifts and big breeze blasts besson to Victory.

    It was a big and blustery opening race that kicked off the Nacra 17 World Championships today in Clearwater, Florida. The first race started in a fairly benign 11-12 knots, although the 43 crews probably had an inkling that something big was going to happen when the breeze suddenly shifted 30 or 40 degrees to the left with less than a minute to the start gun.

    This played nicely into the hands of the defending World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) who had been fighting hard for position at the left-hand of the start line. The French put the hammer down out of the line and tacked on to the layline for the top mark, and they never relinquished the lead. Somehow, even with the big wind shift, a number of the usual suspects still found their way to the front of the pack, with the Swiss team of Matías Bühler and Nathalie Brugger chasing the French around the track, coming in second ahead of the Spanish pair of Iker Martinez and Julia Rita.

    As the race progressed, the breeze built and built, with the shallow waters of Clearwater kicking up a vicious, steep chop. This created perfect conditions for high-speed pitchpoling and it caught out a number of teams including the top Kiwi crew of Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders who came a cropper towards the bottom gate. “It’s a shame because we like the big breeze normally,” said Jones. “But we fell in twice today. Not good.” The capsizes dropped the New Zealand duo out of the front pack and back to 25th at the finish.

    The Australian team of Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin were one of a number of crews who had come down to the boatpark this morning to discover that some of their kit had either been damaged or disappeared altogether. Stormy winds and a high tide had washed the water high up the beach, with a few boats actually afloat on the shallow sands. Some teams’ sails were buried below the sand, there was damage to some hulls, but for the Aussies their sail and equipment box had floated away completely. Fortunately it showed up in a marina further down the coast and Waterhouse was able to use his waterlogged equipment to notch up a 4th place finish.

    With the breeze whistling up to over 20 knots, and the waves becoming more treacherous by the minute, the race committee was forced to abandon any further racing for the day. So only one race complete, and even then the results remain in doubt after some teams have submitted protest forms claiming that most of the fleet failed to go around the spacer mark at the top of the second windward leg.

    The race committee had moved the windward mark to take account of the big wind shift, but most of the sailors failed to see the small spacer mark that had been situated nearby and assumed that there was no space mark at all. One coach commented: “The only reason why some of the boats towards the back of the fleet went round the spacer mark was because they couldn’t bear away properly.” The implication being that it was only boat handling incompetence that led to some boats going around the spacer mark by happy accident.

    Tomorrow’s forecast promises more moderate and manageable breezes, and the sailors will be hoping they will be able to catch up on the schedule and get some solid scores on the board.

    Qualifying from the 9-11th of February. Silver and Gold fleet racing from the 12-14th with the Medal races on the 14th. The main hub of information will on www.49er.org
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Kiwis And Danes Draw First Blood In Clearwater. started by Photoboy View original post