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Thread: 49er & 49er fx Worlds Gets Wild

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    49er & 49er fx Worlds Gets Wild




    Porto, Portugal (31 August 2017) -- For four years, three teams have worked together as training partners for the benefit of them all, even as they battled at every event for gold and glory in the 49er FX, the women's Olympic skiff class. They've fought over World and European Championships, they've fought over World Cups, and their battle for Olympic Gold wasn't over until the final leg of the final race in Rio De Janeiro – and all three teams medaled.

    We're talking about Rio gold medalists Martine Grael/Kahena Kunze (BRA), silver winners Alex Maloney/Molly Meech (NZ), and Bronze winners Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN), and it's no surprise to anyone that three perennial performers top the 2017 World Championship leaderboard at the conclusion of the Qualifying Rounds for the 49er FX.

    Meech says she was surprised with their blinding 1,2,1,1 performance in 15-20 knots of Portuguese Trades and combined seas of 2 meters. "We've always liked windier conditions, but still we were surprised with our performance in such a tough fleet without the best starts" said Meech, who runs the front of the boat while Maloney helms at the back. "We were aiming for good, consistent results to finish out the qualification rounds, but Alex and I were really in sync with each other and sometimes that can be the most important thing."








    Maloney and Meech showed an incredible turn of speed on every downwind run in the sporty seas, but still Meech was a bit surprised with their speed advantage over nearly every other team in their split fleet. "Normally we're in the front with the top boats upwind, but downwind was really tricky today just trying to deal with the big waves," said Maloney.

    Due to the fleet splits, the two Kiwi standouts haven't yet faced Grael and Kunze at this Worlds, but they're sure that the Brazilian gold medalists - along with Denmark's Hansen and Iversen – will bring their best to the 20-boat Gold fleet tomorrow morning.

    "We've trained with the Brazilians quite a lot over the past four years and with Katja and Jena as well, and whenever we've been sailing together with them, we're always pushing each other to the edge," said Meech. Hansen agreed; 'we're fast in part because they've helped to make us fast, and they're fast because we've helped them too," said the Danish skipper.

    Past World Champions and Rio Olympians Tamara Echegoyan and Berta Betanzos suffered in the big breeze – a surprise to many who've followed these powerful, experienced sailors for years. Several ragged capsizes made it a long, wet day for the Spanish duo, but they held on to 13th place, escaping the gold fleet cutoff of 20.








    As the women's fleets returned to the Club de Vela Atlantico, the breeze picked up yet another notch, settling in at a brisk 20 knots from due North. Capsizes, gear failures, and even seasickness beat up numerous crews, but none of it fazed newly crowned European Champions Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell at all. The British Olympic skipper and his new-for-2017 crew (a former Olympic medalist in the 470 Class) couldn't put a foot wrong today, taking all three races on the Alpha course and carrying a four-point lead into the Gold Fleet action tomorrow morning.

    It was moving day for Diego Botin and Iago Lopez, the young Spanish duo notching a 2,3,5 score to overcome yesterday's UFD and move into second place overall – their best ever current position at a Worlds. For Botin the position is good but he knows it doesn't mean much, especially with two boats tied with them on points. "Everything will be decided tomorrow and Saturday, we're basically starting over now," said Botin, who nearly threw away Race 5 with a capsize at the top mark. "I dropped the tiller at the last tack at the top mark so we flipped, but we were lucky the wind was so strong and so many of the other boats had problems," said Botin. Lopez explained that the runs were extremely tough to handle; "The waves were nasty downwind, requiring big eases of the gennaker every five seconds or so," he said. "Also finding a flat spot for the gybe was rare, and that's why you saw so many teams overstanding the bottom marks."







    The strong German sailors we wrote about yesterday continued to excel in the big breeze, with two veteran and two youth teams advancing to Gold Fleet at the end of the day – double the number of any other nation. While the success of Schmidt/Boehme (3rd) and Heil/Ploessel (6th) after Day 4 surprised no one, youth sailors everywhere should rejoice to see two young German teams advance to the Worlds Gold Fleet for the first time. Nils Carstensen (22) and Jan Frigge (23) pulled an ultra-consistent 8,7,7 in the ultra-chaotic conditions to take 15th place after 6 races, while Jakob Meggendorfer and Andreas Spranger squeaked through into the semi-final round in the last available position – 20th place.

    The 20 and 21 year old phenoms seem to eat big breeze for breakfast – they showed poise and speed far beyond their years in Kiel when the winds came on at the European Championship, and they continued their heavy weather excellence today in Porto despite several capsizes and a major equipment issue. "Strong wind is so fun, but we didn't expect to be so fast against some of these teams," said Meggendorfer. And fast they were; the duo recorded some of the highest speeds on the water today, recovering well from their capsizes to advance to the next round. "Our coach says boat speed is king, so even if we have some problems, at least we have that!" said Spranger.


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    New World Champions Crowned




    Matasinhos, Portugal (2 September 2017) – Another day meant another obstacle from mother nature at the 2017 International 49er and FX World Championship, where an unstable land breeze teased the gold medal fleets this morning for their 10 AM start. Both the men's 49er and the women's FX skiff started races in 6-10 knots of Easterly breeze, only to see the wind shut off completely as they headed to their respected finish lines.

    Some of the 140 teams from 27 nations were jumpy with anticipation and all enjoyed the warm summer Portuguese sun as they waited on the water for the forecast Northerly to fill in, and after nearly 2 and a half hours, it filled quickly. 8 knots became 12 became 16 gusting near 20 knots, allowing the men's 49er fleet to pick up four more races and complete their championship. The women's FX fleet sailed two races before heading back to shore, and with the race deadline drifting close, officials sent the top ten teams out to the medal racing course – a tight, intense racetrack putting boathandling and boat-on-boat tactics at a premium for thousands of beachgoers just meters from the action and tens of thousands more watching online.







    Spectators were treated to a full brawl between these top female athletes, with three teams from three different continets battling for the all-important podium spots and the title of 2017 World Champion. It was Rio 2016 all over again, and when leading Rio Bronze Medalists Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen (DEN) capsized with a huge lead during the penultimate race of the event, Rio Gold winners Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze pounced, taking a 2nd place with third place Alex Malone and Molly Meech (NZL, Rio Silver Medalists) took the win. "We actually let the mainsheet go at the top mark to be sure we wouldn't have any problems, and a huge gust hit us at that moment and took us over," said Hansen. "We got a little annoyed but it was not the end of the world, and we knew in the final race we just needed to be close to the Brazilians to take the win." They'd pass Grael and Kunze anyway, and as they hoisted their Danish flag over their heads their boat capsized, the duo popping up quickly on the overturned boat, hugging and laughing. Hansen said her year off from 49er sailing was just what she and Iversen needed to win. "We rediscovered each other this week, and maybe the key to our week was our relaxed feeling. And now it's on to the next thing!" Hansen will travel to Lisbon to meet with her Volvo Ocean crewmates aboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing next week.

    "It was exciting to be battling for the win against the other teams on the podium in Rio," said Grael, who said she was extremely happy with their result. "It's way beyond what we expected because of all the other things we've been involved with, and we came to this championship a bit unprepared." She will also be heading to join a Volvo Ocean Race team in the coming weeks.

    Kiwi duo Maloney/Meech couldn't finish the regatta with the form they began with; despite a blistering performance in the earlier rounds and a lead through the first half of the championship, they were relegated to the bronze position.






    The championship wrapped up with an award heavily featuring the volunteers who played a huge part in keeping the championship on track, followed by a party for all the sailors.

    Reigning European 49er Champions Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR) had a smoother road than the Danish champs to their first-ever World Championship win, but training partners James Peters and Fynn Sterritt still had a mathematical chance to take them down going into the final race of the championship. "We knew we were guaranteed a silver going into the last race and the only way James and Finn could beat us was to win it with us getting 4th or worse," said Fletcher, who stayed on top of Peters to the windward mark. "We thought we'd done the job and the job was over, but we let them split from us and it was looking bad for a little while with us pretty far back," he said. As they've done in race after race the European champions battled right back, eyes glued to Peters and Sterritt on the other side of the course. "We were a little nervous but it was a long way for them to get into the lead, and that's how it ended."

    Peters/Sterritt would complete the front row lockout for the British Sailing Team by taking their first Worlds podium, with Austrian standouts Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl finishing out the money spots and the 2017 Worlds.


    One secret spectator was especially interested in the results: Rio Gold Medalist, new America's Cup champion wing trimmer, MAPFRE Volvo Ocean Race crew and 4-time World Champion crew Blair Tuke watched the finals from the water before joining the broadcast team in the studio to discuss the reasons for his trip to Porto. "We've made it no secret that Pete and I love sailing the 49er, we'll wait until the Volvo is over, see how the Cup shapes up, and we'd love to give the 49er fleet another crack," said Tuke. When commentators pressed him to commit to his return, he made it clear it was a priority, but stopped short of giving a date. "It'll be a year before the Volvo is finished, so we'll have a chat then and figure out if we're ready for the challenge of the 49er again," he said.

    ********************





    Porto, Portugal (1 September 2017) – The Portuguese tradewinds were in full howl this morning over Matosinhos, Portugal as Day 5 dawned on the 2017 49er/FX World Championships. With the top 20 qualifiers advancing to the gold fleet semifinal round and the remainder battling for silver, only the teams who could keep their boats upright would avoid falling in the results.

    Olympic silver medalists Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen (DEN) have never won a World title, but the only top women's team to avoid a capsize today may be on the verge of their first. The powerful Danish team achieved a middling first race today in 12-15 knots, but there was no looking back from that point on as they went on to a 1,2,1 in the final three races.

    "Katja and I talked a lot about the techniques and maneuvers so we were always on the same page," Hansen said. She added that they 'fell down on our butts a few times in the middle of a gybe, but we were always able to save it."

    Hansen and Iversen were still in the boat park hours after racing ended. We're making some new trapezes to make sure they last for tomorrow," Hansen explained to a reporter. "Confidence in our gear is one of the most important things to have in this breeze." When asked what message she wanted to send to her fans, Hansen pulled no punches. "Tomorrow you'll see more kicking butt, we'll be fully switched on as we are every day out there."





    Hansen/Iversen may sit on a significant 5-point lead today, but if not for a single capsize from each of the three teams just behind, they might still be in fourth place. The most heartbreaking swim came surprisingly in the slightly lighter air of race 2, when the British Sailing Team's Charlotte Dobson and Saskia – who'd sailed a perfect race to that point with a huge lead – flipped just meters from the finish. "We had an awkward angle for that final gybe right on top of the gate mark, and with the skewed waves it was a tough maneuver and we didn't get it done," said Dobson.

    Dobson/Tidey would currently lead the Championship had they sailed that final 20 meters without a hitch, but Tidey says it's all part of sailing. "That's the game of sailing, isn't it, and we've got another day to go out and give it our all," she said. "You have those moments and you just have to put them out of your mind and reset, and just go out and give it everything you've got again." Tidey and Dobson did just that: Their 3,4,4 results in the other races have them sitting in fourth place , and while it's an uphill battle to get to the top of the leaderboard, Tidey says there is no quit in them. "We're gonna go out there and send it around the course as the strongest team on the course, and give it socks!" Tidey said cryptically.








    Olympic gold and silver medalists Grael/Kunze and Maloney/Meech each capsized once in the final, ultra-windy race, finishing seconds from each other in 10th and 11th position. They sit in the silver and bronze positions going into the final day of action.

    As the FX fleets finished racing for the day, PRO David "CJ" Campbell-James abandoned all racing for the day. "31 knots on the course, massive seas, and no real prospect of any relief until sundown...it's frustrating, but going out there now would be unsafe so we'll resume in the morning," said CJ.


    Surprisingly for a team with a solid lead for what would be their first-ever World Title, 2017 European Champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell were disappointed to have missed more sailing. "With the way we've been sailing in this breeze, we were looking forward to the opportunity to put more good finishes on the board and go have some fun," said Fletcher as he inspected every inch of their boat. The team scored three straight bullets to take the lead on Thursday, and with their boat in perfect preparation, they're feeling good about their chances. "Yesterday was awesome fun – it's exactly why we sail the 49er, and a big confidence builder with the upwind and downwind pace we had," said Fletcher. "We hope the breeze plays ball and we can put on a bit of a show for everybody."


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