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49ers, Finns, Nacra 17s, VOR, AC and More

by Dan Ibsen and the Sail-World Team on 8 Jul 2014
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen sailing in the 49er. Australian Sailing Team
Today Sail-World Australia's guest editorialist is Dan Ibsen, our Sail-World Europe editor. When it comes to high performance sailing in Europe Dan is probably the best connected sailor in Europe, an Olympic sailor and National Coach, Dan was for 27 years the Secretary General of the Danish Sailing Federation. He is the Vice President of the 43 nation EUROSAF, the Chairman of their Events committee.

Over to Dan Ibsen

This week, three of the fastest Olympic Classes are sailing their European Championships – the 49er and 49er FX in Helsinki, Finland and the Nacra 17 mixed in La Grande Motte, France. Both championships attract many sailors from around the world, and you could call the events a final rehearsal before all the Olympic Classes meet in Santander in September for the ISAF Sailing World Championships, where it is not only the title and the medals, but also Nation qualification for the 2016 Olympics.

This is the 18th running of the 49er European Championship and it is the third time the event has come to Helsinki, Finland with the previous events being in 2011 and 1998.

One very exciting aspect of the championship is the chance to watch two of the world’s best high performance sailors go head to head - Peter Burling (NZL) versus Nathan Outteridge (AUS). These two sailors have won the past five world championships between them in 49er, and have raced each other in a number of other classes as well (Moth, AC45, A-class). They are also about to go head to head in the next America’s Cup. While nobody, especially them, would say this is a two horse race, odds are they will both factor in heavily.

The chasing teams from European countries are from Great Britain, France, Denmark, Germany, and it will be exciting to see if they can match the down under sailors.

2014 marks the second ever 49erFX European Championship. The fleet is 50 boats strong this year and changing quickly. Unlike in 2013, most of the teams are now truly racing instead of just sailing, as the level of boat handling, boat setup and skiff IQ has increased massively. The skiff boat handling skills gave 29er converts a leg up initially, but now there are teams from all backgrounds being successful on the race course. Additionally, there are few countries with massive squads like in 49er - so there is a realistic possibility that many countries may win a medal.

The stand outs for 2014 have been Brazil’s Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, but they will for sure be challenged by European Teams from Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Great Britain. But the class and the crews are developing rapidly and there are so many upcoming talents.

Four GBR 49erFX teams compete in the championship.

This Class was indeed one of the most welcome and important changes to the Olympic Sailing Program in recent years for the women.

The other new exciting Olympic Class having its European Championship this week in La Grande Motte in Southern France is the Nacra 17 mixed – the first real mixed class in the Olympics. Many people were hesitant about having a mixed class in the Olympics, but looking at the show up of former Olympic medal winners, world champions etc., this has indeed also been a welcome change of the Olympic Sailing program for 2016.

With some 74 competitors representing 28 nationalities, this European Championship is in fact an international rehearsal prior to the world championships due to take place in Santander this coming September.

British, Italian and Dutch who form part of the elite are logically in La Grande Motte, it may seem more surprising to find the New Zealanders, Australians and even Argentinians here. On the other hand those teams only find such tough competition in Europe. Watch out for Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis in this event, after a string of podium placings 'Bundy' thinks its their turn on top.

We are getting close to the start of the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race and recently the Spanish entry was confirmed as the sixth boat.

Team Campos have until now confirmed five experienced sailors to the crew list: Iker Martínez (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), Nicolas Lunven (FRA), Rafael Trujillo (ESP) and Antonio 'Ñeti' Cuervas-Mons (ESP).

But will there be a seventh boat in VOR? If - one should expect a very experienced team, skipper and crew, who had already done an around the world races before. Everybody would of course like to see seven boats at the starting line in Alicante, Spain on October 4th. But who would enter at such a late stage?

Things are starting to happen around in the 'camps' of the potential European America’s Cup challengers. Latest news is from Team Luna Rossa, who continues its training on board of the AC45 Luna Rossa Piranha following the modifications of the appendages (daggerboards and rudders) and they are now foiling both upwind and downwind and maintaining a relatively high average speed that they wouldn’t have expected on after only a few days of testing. They are focusing on manoeuvres, especially on the foiling jibes and on boat handling.

On - as well as the key events above and others from Australia, during this week you can also follow stories about Half Ton Classic Cup, Tour de France a Voile, Dragon Edinburgh Trophy and Finn Silver Trophy.

Stay up with the latest sailing news, as it happens, on our websites around the world

Good Sailing,

Dan Ibsen, Sail-World Europe and UK editor

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