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Santander 49ers- Olympic Gold Medallist says two into 90 does not go!!

by Rob Kothe & Jedda Murphy on 15 Sep 2014
2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup, Hyeres, France - 49er Men, AUS Thom Touw
A chaotic battle is looming in Santander as the big Olympic Skiff fleet battles against the numbers in the qualifying stage of this 2014 World Championship.

The 49er boat park is full to overflowing in Santander with 90 boats currently entered and possibly 92 likely to be racing and there is a big spread in the experience and quality

ISAF and the regatta organisers in their wisdom have put those 90 plus boats into just two fleets for the qualifying series. There will be 45 or so boats per fleet and they are going to sail just six race in two days. They are then going to reduce down to a Gold fleet of just 25 boats.

As Class Representative Ben Remocker says ‘The 49ers normally sail for safety reasons in fleets no larger than 30 and the big qualifying fleets make the chances of mishaps very likely.’

It is going to be a Battle Royale with much more tension in the first few days, which is normally for most classes, for the top contenders, a bit of a cake walk.

We talked today to a sailor who knows his way around a few fast sailing classes, Nathan Outteridge, the 2012 Olympic 49er Gold Medallist, 2010 and 2014 Moth World Champion and Artemis America's Cup skipper.

Outteridge is firmly of the opinion that the regatta organisers and ISAF have compromised the 2014 ISAAF organised 49er World Championship experience in the way a class run World titles would not have done.

'Not a single person in the whole fleet is happy with it to be honest. The 49ers have always raced with 25 boats for the last 16 years and ISAF pushes into these formats of two days of racing five races in 45 boats to qualify. That is not a good solution for the class. It worked ok for the girls because they have the right number of boats to do that but for the boys we really should be in three groups.

'Racing in fleet of 45 boats for one it is dangerous if we get any breeze and two the racing is completely different to what it would be with 25 boats. The class has a limit on the number of boats in the fleet for a reason and when ISAF changed the rules to suit the ISAF Worlds, ten classes all at one venue, because they can’t have enough race courses., that means the racing won’t be as good as it would be if we had our own World Championships run by our own class.

'Remember what they did in Perth. It was perfect. We had five fleets do the first week and five fleets do the second week and therefore we were racing once everyone’s medal race had occurred so at Perth they knew there wasn’t enough water space that would run ten courses so they dealt with it in that way.

'Its disappointing that they didn’t do the same here because that system in Perth worked perfectly.

'We had three groups in the 49er class and we all got a perfect qualifying series in, maximum races, no issues. Here I feel like we could struggle.

'Of course we have in the past raced in big fleets, more at Holland regatta a few times and Weymouth a few times. I think the important thing is when you race in a bigger fleet that they make the course suitable.

'If we are trying to get 25 minute races in with 45 boats the fleet just gets so compressed and it is intense racing whereas if it is 40 boats you stretch the length of the race out to forty minutes and you have the longer beat and the first fleet will spread out accordingly.

'Looking at where one of the race course is here, which is just off in the river. It could be some compressed racing. We did some racing today, just practice race with 25 boats in our racecourse area and there wasn’t a whole lot of space.

'The qualifier is just about making the cut. The points between first and 25th is going to be about 15 points at this event. It’s going to be really close. It’s not really how many points you carry into the gold fleet. It’s about making it because if you are that 26th boat because you had one bad race that you had to count you can’t ever catch up after that.

'Our goal is to make sure we are in the gold fleet and work forward from there because you can’t win the regatta in the first two days but you can lose it.'

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