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49er and 49erFX World Championships at Lanzarote - Day 2

by Andy Rice 6 Mar 14:22 PST 4-10 March 2024
Erwan Fischer and Clément Pequin (FRA) on 49er and 49erFX Worlds at Lanzarote day 2 © Sailing Energy / Lanzarote Sailing Center

The French Tricolor was flying strongly on day two of the 49er and 49erFX World Championships in Lanzarote. On each side of the Yellow and Blue Qualifying Groups in the 49er, two different French teams put in some world-beating performances.

In Yellow Group, Julien D'Ortoli and Noe Delpech enjoyed an almost perfect day with scores of 2,1,1 to move up to 5th overall in the standings.

Meanwhile in Blue Group Erwan Fischer and Clément Pequin put the hammer down to score 3,1,3 and move to the top of the leaderboard. The French share equal points with reigning world champions Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken who hold second place with an 8 point gap on the Polish team, Mikolaj Staniul and Jakub Sztorch, in third.

In the 49erFX Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz won the 2021 and 2022 Worlds before yielding their world title to Sweden at last year's Championship in The Hague. However after two more qualifying races the Dutch have taken top spot on the leaderboard away from China's Xiaoyu Hu and Mengyuan Shan who are now in second.

Although the leaderboard shows the Dutch advantage to be just a single point, if you count all races and ignore the discard, their scores are significantly better as van Aanholt and Duetz have 1,3,1,3 from their four races so far. Only the Polish team of Aleksandra Melzacka and Sandra Jankowiak in 5th overall come close to matching Dutch consistency with their scores of 2,5,6,3. Every other FX team has a score outside of the top 10.

"We're super proud with how we have sailed so far," said van Aanholt. "We're getting off the start lines well, our speed is good and we're reading the conditions well. Yesterday we had a lot of breeze and it was quite stable, today was a lot more shifty and uncertain. But we're ready for whatever breeze and conditions we get."

Defending World Champions from Sweden, Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler, move up to third and are growing in confidence. They see themselves as conservative operators compared with some of the other leading lights on the race course. "We like to rely on our speed and not take too many risks," said Bobeck, who has been observing the Chinese team's success with interest.

"They have a different technique for sailing the FX," said the Swedish helm, "whereas I think in Europe we all start copying each other. It's interesting to see how the Chinese sail. I think they are very strong when it's a right-favoured race track, they sail that very well. I like to think we are pretty good all-round but maybe we are a little bit more towards the left-side of some race courses."

Steph Roble and Maggie Shea would not be particularly happy to be in 18th overall. The USA team is certainly capable of much better. But the consolation is that they are at least ahead in the Olympic trials, with their USA rivals Paris Henken and Anna Tobias back in 31st. While they're in race mode, however, it's all about being in the moment, not thinking about the opposition, just focusing on keeping the boat going fast and navigating the gusts and lulls across a sometimes treacherous race course.

"It's about trying to keep a cool head," said Shea who works the front of the boat while Roble works the strategy and tactics, glancing around at the rest of the fleet and for the next line of favourable breeze. "Everyone's panicking just as much as the next," said Shea. "And whoever can keep their head cool and not lose their mind is going to do well on days like this.

"Today there was a huge swell and you're burning a lot of energy just trying to keep the boat moving smoothly. When the waves are smashing into the boat it's hard to get into a rhythm, but that's my job to keep the boat moving as well as possible while Steph keeps her head out of the boat."

The two FX groups completed two races and were in starting sequence for a third when the wind turned inside out and played havoc with the race committee's attempt to set a fair course. The FX fleet was sent ashore early, but the hope is that tomorrow will provide good enough conditions to complete the Qualifying phase of the competition.

With more moderate northerly breezes on the cards for Thursday we can expect more wacky races in the deep blue waters of the Canary Islands. The plan is to conclude Qualifying before the fleets get regrouped into Gold and Silver Groups on Friday for the second half of the regatta.

The Lanzarote International Regatta is organized by Marina Rubicón and has the collaboration of the Royal Canarian Sailing Federation, as well as the institutional support of the Tourism area of the Lanzarote Cabildo through the sports product European Sports Destination (managed by SPEL-Turismo Lanzarote), Promotur Turismo de Canarias, the Yaiza City Council and the private entities Dinghycoach, Naviera Armas and Cabrera Medina (Cicar).

Find out more at 49er.org/events/2024-world-championship

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