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2021 Lanzarote International Regatta - Day 1

by Lanzarote International Regatta 21 Mar 22:46 PDT 19-26 March 2021
European and African continental qualification regatta for the Tokyo Olympic Games - Lanzarote International Regatta © Sailing Energy

The Irish, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, have been the first to take first place in the 49er, while the French Lili Sebesi and Albane Dubois are positioned in the women's 49er FX. The Germans Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer got in the last minute the first place in the Nacra 17 class.

The Spanish team, which already has a place for Tokyo in all three classes, is positioned in the top 10 in all three classes. The Canary Islander, Tara Pacheco, takes sixth place after finishing first in the second leg. The competitors agree that they have been pleasantly surprised by the trade winds of the Canary Islands.

Lanzarote welcomes sailors from more than 30 countries with trade winds of between 10 and 14 knots and swell, very good conditions for racing. The 49ers were the first to complete the 3 qualifying races of the day, each consisting of 4 windward-leeward legs, in which the Irishmen Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove won, who said he was "very happy but there are still many races to go".

The Spanish team in this modality that will represent Spain in Tokyo, made up of the Cantabrian Diego Botín and the Galician Iago López, finished in fifth place, after a difficult start, "it was a good regatta, but we had problems at the beginning, it was difficult to get off from the start line". The Spanish duo, current world champions, have been training in Lanzarote since November, being the island "a discovery", especially for "the conditions in these winter months, as there is always wind, there are many waves and you can choose the conditions to train", says the Cantabrian sailor.

Many sailors had the same feeling: it was a complicated day, with many wind shifts and changes in intensity, with changes in direction of between 30 and 100 degrees and varying between 6 and 17 knots. "The most complicated thing was to be regular in the three races, with days like this it's easy to fall behind the fleet in some of the legs and lose the chance to make a comeback", explains Pepe Lis, coach of the 49er ESP.

For the Spanish 49er FX team, current world champions in this Olympic discipline, the wind was "playing all day". Galician Tamara Echegoyen and Mallorcan Paula Barceló say they are "very happy, although the day has been very complicated for all teams, but also for the race committee". There weren't many waves on the 49er FX course, but on the other two courses "there were big waves, and it was more difficult to sail", says Echegoyen.

Lanzarote has surprised the competitors in the Nacra 17 race course, as they have had to leave the water, although finally the waters of the strait between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura have allowed them to compete. "I tried to make two starts, but unfortunately the wind changed direction by 30 degrees, and they did well to postpone", said Tara Pacheco from the Canary Islands, who together with Florian Trittel from Barcelona, are third in the world ranking.

Sailing: the art of knowing how to read the wind

The trade winds coming from the north have pleasantly surprised the more than 240 competitors coming from more than 30 countries from all over the world. The channel located between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura is a race course with a very strong wind with respect to the direction and intensity of the wind, so the sailors have not had an easy time in this strait. "The conditions offered by the Canary Islands are very variable, Lanzarote, and more specifically Marina Rubicón, has ideal conditions for sailing, and on many occasions it is really similar to Japan", says Tara Pacheco, who highlights "the advantage of training on the islands 365 days a year".

The sailors have to choose which side of the race course they are going to choose to move towards the windward mark. There are two key conditions on the race course in the strait between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura that make it similar to the Olympic race course in Tokyo (Enoshima): strong wind and waves, and shifty winds. The competitors are "pleasantly surprised" with the weather conditions of the islands and their people, as well as the goodness of the trade winds, especially because the Canary Islands are the only place in Europe where they can sail driven by these winds.

49er: Ireland and Belgium take early lead in search Olympic berth

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (IRL) had their best day of racing ever on the senior 49er circuit to lead overall after day one of the Lanzarote International Regatta. This duo are the 2018 Junior World Champions but are still seeking an Olympic berth for Tokyo 2020(1). The top European team not already qualified will gain a spot in Tokyo, and the Irish pair have built a 19 point lead over Italy and Belgium, and larger leads over Estonia, Russia, Greece and others.

The battle for the final berth in the 49erFX is closer than the 49er right now, Isaura Maenhaut and Anouk Geurts (BEL) one point ahead of Noora Ruskola and Mikaela Wulff (FIN) and three points ahead of Enia Nincevic and Mihaela Zjena (CRO). Close behind are Russia, Sweden, and Poland. The Italians are in tough, with all five of their entries significantly off the pace in today's racing.

In both competitions many of the heavy hitters on the world stage are racing for the first time since September of 2020. Lili Sebesi and Albane Dubois (FRA) sit on top of the 49erFX leaderboard, but are chased by five World or European Champion teams, each within six points. Champions from Norway, Netherlands, Brazil, Denmark and Spain with the Kiwi's just a small step back in ninth. So almost everyone at the top of the 49erFX world is racing.

Chasing the young Irish team on the 49er side are Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell (GBR), Erwan Fischer and Julien Thibault (FRA), the Fantela Brother (CRO) and Botin and Mara (ESP). In sixth overall are Ian Barrows and Hans Henken from the USA. America has not yet qualified for Tokyo but are the next team 'on deck' if any nation does not take up their spot in the Olympic lineup.

The conditions in Lanzarote have been amazing day after day. With strong winds, warm weather, and wavy conditions, teams have been relishing the build up to racing and day 1 delivered amazing racing. Racing continues through the 26th and concludes with a live broadcast medal race. The Nacra 17 fleet is also racing with Olympic berths available for both Europe and Africa.

Nacra 17: Kohlhoff/Stuhlemmer (GER) show class in the breeze

Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer (GER) dominated early going at the Lanzarote International Regatta to take a ten point lead after the first day or racing. In windy, wavy and shifty consitions these two showed they are ready for challenging weather, and that might scare Tokyo bound teams.

Lanzarote was chosen as a training destination by many Olympic fleets in part because of it's similarities to Tokyo conditions, and if that's the case the Olympic fleet should be worried about the Germans. Kohlhoff and Stuhlemmer have been fast in big breeze all quad long, expecially in flatter waters, but it seems their big wave skills are also elite and if the right conditoins show up in Tokyo it may be to their advantage.

Sinten Kurtbay and Janne Jarvin (FIN) sit in eighth overall, narrowly ahead of van der Meer and Bouwer (NED) who sit in ninth. Greece, Russia, Croatia, and Hungary all follow in the chase for the final Olympic berth.

Racing continues until March 26th with a medal race that will be live broadcast.

Full Results available here.

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