by Craig Heydon
The 49er and 49erFX World Championships are taking place in Marseille, France, this week. Australian gold medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will return to Olympic class racing for the first time since their London 2012 victory.
Jensen and Outteridge on the podium at London 2012
Outteridge and Jensen have won three of the last four 49er World Championships, with Outteridge aiming for world title number five, but the pair will face stiff competition in Marseille.
At the same time the first ever 49erFX World Championship will be taking place, with three Australian crews contesting the new women’s skiff class.
While Outteridge and Jensen have been away from the 49er for the last year they’ve been kept incredibly busy, sailing with the Artemis team for the 34th America’s Cup.
'It’s definitely a different feeling being back in the 49er boat park,' said Outteridge. 'There’s a lot less media hype here than what we had during the America’s Cup, but the boat park is full of hundreds of sailors working on their boats and training hard for the worlds. It’s nice for us to be back here with our old training partners and are really looking forward to doing some racing after being out of the class for over a year.'
The pair had a 49er with them in San Francisco but the demands of an America’s Cup campaign meant that they only had limited training time.
'We didn’t get a chance to do much sailing while being involved with Artemis,' said Outteridge. 'After being eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup we were able to get a few more days in but clearly we would have liked to have done more. We know we have had a far from ideal preparation for the worlds but it’s just going to be nice to go racing again.
'The 49er demands a high level of skill to sail and also a lot of respect for the boat when it’s windy and we’re back on the learning curve,' he said. 'However it’s a great feeling to be sailing together again and going back to the more pure end of the sport.'
Racing at the 2013 49er and 49erFX World Championships will run from September 24 to 29, and consists of a qualifying series, semi-finals and finals. The final day will see the top 10 crews taking part in three short ‘theatre style’ races, which are worth double points, held on a small course and cannot be dropped.
'This year the class has decided to run a very different race format to previous years,' said Outteridge. 'I am still working out how it’s going to work as the fleets seem to be split and changed to an elimination process with a lot of short course racing, something that hasn’t happed at a World Championship for the class before.
'I have my own ideas at what this might do to the class but will wait until I’ve done some of the sailing before I cast judgment,' he said. 'Either way it’s a very interesting time for the 49er class with many new teams and of course all the 49erFX girls preparing for Rio 2016.'
Joining Outteridge and Jensen in the 99 boat 49er fleet will be fellow Australians Will Phillips and Rhys Mara, Luke Parkinson and Fang Warren, David Gilmour and Sam Phillips, George Davies and Jack Lloyd, and Peter Kendall and Harry Bethwaite.
There will be 52 49erFX crews lining up for the class’ inaugural World Championships, including Australians Olivia Price and Caitlin Elks, Haylee Outteridge and Nina Curtis, and Tessa Parkinson and Chelsea Hall.
Each of the Australian crews features an Olympic medallist with Price and Curtis winning silver in the Women’s Match Racing at London 2012 and Parkinson the 470 women’s gold medallist from Beijing 2008.
'We’ve been happy with our training progress in the lead up to the Worlds,' said Price. 'Apart from a practice regatta here a week ago Caitlin and I haven’t raced since the European Championships in July. There are going to be more boats here which will make for some even better racing and a chance to put our training into practice.
'Being the first 49erFX World Championship, getting a good performance down on paper will be a bonus, with our main aim to continue to progress as a crew and be competitive with the fleet,' she said. 'The conditions for the regatta look to be very light, which is quite typical of what we’ve been having here for the past three weeks. There’s quite a bit of swell around which will add another layer to the racing.'
The 2013 World Championship will be Haylee Outteridge and Nina Curtis’s fourth regatta together in the class, having picked up two top six results so far.
'Haylee and I are feeling great heading into the worlds,' said Curtis. 'The conditions have been tricky leading into the event but we’ve got some quality training done and have collected some good data about the venue.
'We’ve had some time apart since the European Championships with Haylee doing some training in Sydney while I competed at the Nacra 17 World Championships,' she said. 'It’s been great to collaborate what we’ve learnt and get back into the boat feeling fresh.
Outteridge said that the pair is looking forward to getting into racing and testing themselves against the best 49erFX crews in the world.
'Our last few events have involved some equipment complications so our goal for this regatta is to keep everything simple, eliminate the setbacks and put together some quality sailing.
'The conditions here are tricky as the wind is either very light or mistral windy with a bumpy sea state,' she said. 'We’ve had a steep learning curve over the last few days getting the boat downwind in the bumpy conditions. We’re glad we’ve spent a good amount of time in the regatta venue and feel prepared for both of the conditions expected.'
Also representing Australia at the event will be Tessa Parkinson and Chelsea Hall, who both competed extensively in the 470 class before making the switch to the new 49erFX, with Parkinson winning Olympic gold with Elise Rechichi in 2008.
This week’s World Championships will be the pair’s second regatta together, after winning Bronze on debut at the EUROSAF Sailing Champions Cup in June and then finishing 18th at the 49erFX European Championships.
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit Australian Sailing Team Website.