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49er, FX & Nacra Europeans: “McKiwis” win Bronze medal in Vilmoura

by Eduan Roos, YNZ 14 Nov 2023 16:33 PST 13 November 2023
Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie (NZL) - 2023 49er European Championships - Vilamoura - November 2023 © Joao Costa Ferreira

Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie have been denied a chance to strike gold by light winds on the final day of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European championship in Vilamoura, with the pair instead finishing the regatta third overall.

Competitors spent several hours on the water waiting for a breeze that never came with both the final gold-fleet race and the double-points medal race in the 49er competition abandoned shortly after 6am (NZ time).

It left the McKiwis, as locals have dubbed McHardie and McKenzie this week, just 3.4 points short of French crew Lucas Rual and Emile Amoros in first and 3 points behind Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki of Poland in second.

The New Zealanders won four of the 12 qualifying races and claimed top-10 finishes in five others to be among the front of the fleet throughout the event.

An uncharacteristic 20th place in yesterday's final fleet race ultimately proved costly, as McHardie and McKenzie surrendered the lead they had gained with their fourth bullet of the competition shortly before.

“It was a long day today. The forecast had no breeze all day, but that's sort of the forecast we've had all week,” McKenzie said.

“Every day we've managed to sneak in a few races, so we woke up expecting to get out there for some more light-wind races, but unfortunately, the wind didn't play ball and the fleet race was cancelled. We went out on the water for the medal race, but the breeze rarely got above three knots.

“This was probably the lightest regatta we've ever had – the max breeze we saw was probably about seven knots, so a very tricky regatta.”

Despite the disappointment of not having another medal race, the Kiwis were pleased with their progress after narrowly missing out on the podium several times this season.

“We’re stoked with the result and it’s nice to walk away with a bronze medal. It’s a little step up to what we've been used to in the last few major events, with two fourths at the last two worlds and a fifth at the [Olympic] test event. Breaking into the medals is always good.”

The pair spent a lot of time over the last few months working on their starts, which they felt were a weakness previously.

“There was a good training block back at home with the wider NZL sailing team working on our starting procedures,” McHardie explained.

“It was good seeing that pay off quite nicely here, managing to get some good starts and hold some good lanes and use our speed to our advantage.”

The European championship was also the first of two selection trials for next year's Olympic Games, with the 49er and 49erFX world championships in Lanzarote in February the other.

McHardie and McKenzie are vying for the sole New Zealand spot on the 49er start line against teammates Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn, who finished 11th in Portugal.

The duo battled their way back from 43rd overall after day 1 with a string of low scores and they would have been confident of making the 10-boat medal race - and further inroads into the leaderboard - before racing was shelved.

Sam and Pat Morgan (40th), and Seb Menzies and George Lee Rush (42nd) were the Kiwi 49er teams competing in the silver fleet.

Jo Aleh and Molly Meech had earlier ended their 49erFX regatta in 34th overall after impressing with their season-best sixth place at the sailing world championships in August.

Meanwhile, Nacra 17 team Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson were satisfied with certain aspects of their campaign in the Algarve despite finishing fifth - some way off the top three teams.

Nacra 17 pair Erica Dawson and Micah Wilkinson finished fifth. Photos / PROW Media

“We felt like we learned a lot. This regatta, particularly, felt like we made some gains in our upwind speed and even though some days we felt like the luck didn't go our way or we didn't sail our absolute best, it seems like a lot of teams also had a tricky one,” Dawson said.

“What's pretty clear to us… is that the Italians and the Brits are miles ahead of the whole fleet and we’ve got a lot of work to do in our summer block at home to try and narrow that gap.

“We're really stoked to have the Dutch Nacra team coming down to New Zealand to train for the whole summer and we think we're going to make some really good gains.”

Final results and standings at the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European championship in Vilamoura, Portugal.

49er fleet (91 boats)

1st: Lucas Rual/Emile Amoros (Fra) 3 2 11 (17) 10 9 2 4.3 2.3 5 8 2 - 68.6 points
2nd: Dominik Buksak/Szymon Wierzbicki (Pol) 6 5 6 5 4 12 3 4 (15) 11 3 10 - 69 pts
3rd: Isaac McHardie/Will McKenzie (NZ) 1 19 4 1 6 6 17 1 8 8 1 (20) - 72 pts
11th: Logan Dunning Beck/Oscar Gunn (NZ) 16 9 1 (17) 1 14 8 8 14 12 11 7 - 101 pts
40th: Sam Morgan/Pat Morgan (NZ) 9 20 22 18 13 11 (23) 20 6 4 - 123 pts
42nd: Seb Menzies/George Lee Rush (NZ) 3 23 17 23 7 20 13 (28) 15 5 - 126 pts

49erFX fleet (55 boats) 1st: Helene Naess/Marie Ronningen (Nor) 3 4 2 5 4 7 7 1 (24) 7 8 3 7 - 58 pts
2nd: Jana Germani/Giorgia Bertuzzi (Ita) 1 1 6 4 3 3 5 2 (20) 19 15 4 3 - 66 pts
3rd: Támara Echegoyen/Paula Barcelo (Esp) 12 5 6 1 1 4 12 (17) 7 2 13 5 12 - 80 pts
34th: Jo Aleh/Molly Meech (NZ) 22 23 10 8 9 21 6 21 17 2 (31) - 139 pts

Nacra 17 fleet (38 boats) 1st: John Gimson/Anna Burnet (GBR) 1 13 2 1 9 8 1 (14) 1 1 2 1 1 - 41 pts
2nd: Ruggero Tita/Caterina Banti (Ita) 6 (9) 3 6 1 1 6 1 4 8 3 2 8 - 49 pts
3rd: Gianluigi Ugolini/Maria Giubilei (Ita) 2 4 1 7 3 2 2 6 2 (14) 6 4 13 - 52 pts
5th: Micah Wilkinson/Erica Dawson (NZ) 10 8 5 5 15 12 10 10 19 15 4 5 (28) - 118 pts

Full results 49er.org/events/2023-european-championship/#result-49fx

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