On race day 3 of the SAP 49er and 49erFX Europeans the tension mounted here in Aarhus, Denmark as the men’s 49er fleet started the first day of the Fleet Race stage where they are seeded into gold, silver and bronze, and the women’s 49erfx fleet wrapped up their qualification stage.
Day 3 - 49er and 49erFX Europeans 2013
A tricky day with the light wind forcing fleets to hold ashore, until the breeze filled in enough for racing. But only the lightest of breezes filled in, with puffs occasionally getting above 6 knots.
All change at the top of the 49er leaderboard, with the leader’s yellow jerseys now on the backs of Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign who opened the first day of gold fleet racing with a win and followed up with a seventh place finish.
Fletcher was a happy man. 'Today we had a really good day. It was tough out there, really shifty and really light. We had a good first day in similar conditions and today we had another good day with a first and a seventh. We were really trying to aim to get off the line on the shift and not really worry about the other boats, and get our boat to the windward mark as quickly as possible, and when we had to duck big groups, just duck big groups.'
Excitement however almost got the better of Fletcher round the track, but his crew kept him steady. 'It went well for us today,' he smiled. 'Alain was having to calm me down, as I was getting very excited. Sometimes you are like, `are we winning’ or `are we tenth’. It was tense, but really good to have a good day in the gold fleet.'
Fletcher is enthusiastic about the format being trialled at the Europeans. 'Hopefully it will be good. We have never had a format where we have gone from quarter-finals to semi-finals. We have done the top eight before, the theatre style, and sometimes we enjoy it and sometimes it is not so good. We will see here. We are looking forward to sailing in the top 16 with four races. Never done that before and we are excited to see how it will go.'
Overnight leaders, Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski from New Zealand couldn’t repeat their form of yesterday, which saw them burst to the top of the leaderboard, but they remain comfortably in second overall.
Shooting up to third on the leaderboard, from 15th going into the day, are Great Britain’s David Evans and Edward Powys from their 7,1 scoreline. A needed breakthrough for this pair, which should see them safely through to the semi-finals on Saturday.
From a fourth place in race 1, to a 20th in race two was the scoreline for the 2012 Olympic bronze medal helm Allan Nørregaard, as the quality of the gold fleet racing really jostles everyone around the fleet.
'Today we had a very light day, most of the time below 6 knots and a few times just over. That was when we could get racing, but we only managed two races. I think it was four hours before we finished the first race, so a very long day for only two races,' explained Nørregaard after a long day on the water.
Friday is all about making the top 16 cut, and whilst Nørregaard and Anders Thomsen are well inside at the moment in seventh overall, they are only 22 points ahead of the 17th placed team. So the pressure is on as Friday’s final day of fleet racing is an all or nothing decider, with only the top 16 advancing to the semi-finals on Saturday. 'Tomorrow we have one team moving up from silver, so there will be 32 in gold and we have one day like this and then we have the cut of the 16 best boats going into the next round on Saturday,' commented Nørregaard. 'The goal now is to stay in the top 16 and still be in. We are counting the points all the way through so it is important to stay in the game all the time and be the top 16 after tomorrow.' As one of three home nation teams in the gold fleet, all eyes are on this pair. 'We hope on the last day we will still be in the fight for the medals,' he concluded.
On the cusp of the semi-finals cut are defending 49er European Champions and the world number 1 ranked team of Mathieu Frei and Yann Rocherieux, who sit in 16th on the leaderboard after disappointing 14th and 31st place race finishes. Since winning the 2012 49er Europeans, they have been in the finals of almost all events they have competed in, although they did bomb out at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres, getting stuck in the silver fleet. They will feel the pressure tomorrow.
Three races are scheduled for the 49er fleet on Friday 5 July, with a possible fourth race if weather conditions allow.
49er Men Top 10 Leaderboard – Provisional Overall Results
1. Dylan Fletcher/Alain Sign (GBR) - 26 pts
2. Marcus Hansen/Josh Porebski (NZL) - 37 pts
3. David Evans/Edward Powys (GBR) - 42 pts
4. Jonas Warrer/Peter Lang (DEN) - 47 pts
5. Erik Heil/Thomas Ploessel (GER) - 51 pts
6. Will Phillips/Rhys Mara (AUS) - 52 pts
7. Allan Nørregaard/Anders Thomsen (DEN) - 55 pts
8. Lukasz Przybytek/Pawel Kolodzinski (POL) - 57 pts
9. Peter Burling/Blair Tuke (NZL) - 59 pts
10. Jorge Lima/Jose Luis Costa (POR) - 59 pts
Whilst Denmark’s team of Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgarrd Olsen maintain their grip at the top of the women’s 49erFX leaderboard with a 14, 11 scoreline from today’s two races, their points margin is reduced as other teams close the gap.
Brazil’s world number 2 ranked pair of Martine Grael and Kattena Kunze have moved up from fourth to second on the leaderboard, after scores of 3 and 13. Sitting just one point behind them in third overall are the world number 1 ranked pair of Alexander Maloney and Molly Meech from New Zealand.
'It was pretty light and really shifty again today,' commented Meech. 'The first race went OK for us, but we missed a big shift on the right up the first beat, but managed to come back from that on the next few legs and finish that off quite nicely,' she added, referring to their seventh place in race 7. 'They were really tricky conditions, so everyone was quite up and down.'
The Kiwis carry the most consistent scoreline of the top 10 teams, and up until the second race of today were carrying all top 10 finishes. 'The next race the wind dropped off so much,' said Meech. 'It was so light out there and really tricky on the last downwind. We missed out unfortunately on a massive gust. But it is just skiff racing I guess.'
If the world number 1 team continue to deliver consistently they will carry the advantage, as the majority of the other top teams are already carrying multiple high point scores.
The Kiwis have won two of the ISAF Sailing World Cup events they have contested in the 2012-2103 series, returning to New Zealand for training between events.
'Coming from New Zealand, we sail by ourselves down there, so it is nice to come over and train against all the other girls and just line up with the rest of the world and see how we are fitting in,' explained Meech. 'We are looking forward to the next couple of days, the fleet getting a bit smaller. We hope to make it to the medal race and have a go at the stadium style races.'
Making an impression with a race win in the day’s opening race 7 were Australia’s Tessa Parkinson and Chelsea Hall. Parkinson won Olympic Gold as crew in the 470 in 2008. They followed up with a 26th in race two to move on up to 20th on the leaderboard, but still way off the top 16 who will race in the semi-finals tomorrow.
In qualifying race eight, it was 2008 Olympic gold medallist in the Laser Radial class and former match racer sailor, Anna Tunnicliffe, with crew Molly Vandemoer, who took the bullet and secured their place in the top 16. They go into the semi-finals in 11th overall after their best day of racing so far.
Three races are scheduled for the 49erFX fleet on Friday 5 July.
49erFX Women Top 10 Leaderboard – Provisional Overall Results
1. Ida Marie Baad Nielsen/Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) - 37 pts
2. Martine Soffiatti Grael/Kattena Larsen Kunze (BRA) - 46 pts
3. Alexandra Maloney/Molly Meech (NZL) - 47 pts
4. Jena Mai Hansen/Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) - 60 pts
5. Annemiek Bekkering/Claire Blom (NED) - 62 pts
6. Charlotte Dobson/Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) - 64 pts
7. Tina Lutz/Susann Beucke (GER) - 64 pts
8. Giulia Conti/Francesca Clapcich (ITA) - 66 pts
9. Victoria Jurczok/Anika Lorenz (GER) - 67 pts
10. Frances Peters/Nicola Groves (GBR) - 79 pts