The Nacra 17 is the newest boat in the Olympic classes, it has attracted large fleets at the last two Sailing World Cup regattas, 72 boats in Palma de Mallorca and 77 in Hyeres on the Cote d’Azur.
Amongst those sailors campaigning towards Rio 2016 in the Nacra 17 are two familiar names in Canadian sailing Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke.
In the most recent regatta on the second to last day of the Gold fleet racing, the two Royal Vancouver Yacht Club sailors, who have only been sailing the high tech multihull for a little over a year, impressively won the day with a seventh and a second placing.
A great result when you consider the level of experience at the front of the fleet the Canadian bested that day. Darren Bundock, the Australian Nacra 17 skipper who led for much of the regatta, has 14 multihull world titles having been sailing multihulls for 35 years, while the current Nacra 17 World Champion started in the Olympic Tornado class fifteen years ago.
Nikola Girke has competed in three Olympic Games, first up in 470’s then in Beijing 2008 and most recently the London 2012 Games in RSX windsurfer, while Luke Ramsey sailed 470 in London 2012.
The pairing started sailing the catamaran, in January 2013. Luke who is helming the boat explains, 'So far it has been a really good combination. Nikola also in the 470s so she comes from a double handed background but she’s in the windsurfers and used to fast boats and stuff like that and I like the technical aspects of the Nacra and the fun exciting class and we are learning fast. It’s going well. We enjoy it.’
Nikola, ‘I am crewing, I am reasonably strong from my RS: X background, but it’s all a bit different. For sure I didn’t have those physical issues and while my height was a bit of a disadvantage in the RS:X because of the weight, but in this boat, it is definitely an advantage to be a tall crew.’
Luke explains, 'We are training with the Americans Sarah Newberry and John Casey and we have got a good coach with them who has a lot of catamaran experience and they come from a strong catamaran background so we work well as a team together because we provide a lot of Olympic and campaigning experience and they have a lot of catamaran experience, boat speed, how to sail the boats, that sort of thing. We worked really closely with them as a team and that is how we have approached learning.’
Nikola added, ‘In Miami we finished seventh overall, won some races in the mix and made the medal race but we really enjoyed the breeze. In this boat, different wind conditions dictate what tactics and strategy will happen. The tactic is to go as fast as you can using the pressure rather than the shifts. The speed differences are so great from when you are in a puff and not in a puff. One knot makes so much more difference.’
‘After having a slow start to the Hyeres World Cup event, we found our stride mid regatta posting a seventh and a second in Gold fleet - having us win the second last day of Gold fleet racing, that was the highlight of this event. (They finished 31st overall)
Nacra 17 fleet action at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres - © Franck Socha
Now we are heading back to North America and into training again. We want to give a huge thank you to KryptoKit for helping us get to Europe!
‘After this we have a lot of home based training in North America and then we are doing the Europeans, a little bit of training in Europe and then our peak event is the worlds in Santander. If we get top six we qualify for a new level of funding which is still outside the Sail Canada system. It comes from Sport Canada. The top six result is what we are aiming for and that’s where the funding would come into play.
‘Funding is a big struggle for us largely because we lie outside the Canadian system. We made the National Team Standard but the Nacra is not one of their identified classes and so they don’t provide any financial support for the boats or coaching or anything like that so we really struggle. It takes time and effort and all that stuff fundraising. We have had a few people and companies step in and be really helpful so far.
Nikola summed up ‘Wind Athletes Canada is our biggest support and Helly Hansen stepped up as well and provided us with all their gear and Krypto Kit. Simply Choices is also our nutritional sponsor for out on the water and our home Yacht Club Royal Vancouver Yacht Club supports us quite a bit as well.
‘You can find more about our Rio campaign at www.nikandluke.com