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49er & 49er FX Europeans & Nacra 17 Worlds at La Grande Motte, France - Day 2

by 49er and Nacra 17 Sailing 8 May 11:06 PDT 7-12 May 2024

Olympic Trials Tussles continue at Nacra 17 Worlds

Big breeze and massive wind shifts of day two of the Nacra 17 World Championship delivered plenty of drama in La Grande Motte, the South of France.

Selection trials continue for three countries at what is the last big event of the season before the greatest one of all, the Olympic Games just over two months from now. While the destiny of most of the 148 teams in Nacra 17, 49er and 49erFX has already been determined, for the catamaran crews from Austria, Sweden and the USA this is a critical and decisive regatta.

Lying in second place overall behind those runaway Italians are the Swedish team of Ida Svensson and Markus Dackhammar. This crew went into the final selection regatta behind their fellow Swedes and rivals for the Olympic berth, Emil Järudd and Hanna Jonsson. But Svensson claims she's not getting too caught up in the Olympic tussle, instead concentrating on their routines and processes on the water. "We're just going to focus on doing as well as we can for this regatta," said the helmswoman. "It's an ongoing selection but it's going to be decided after this regatta so all we can do is just do as good as we can and we'll see what happens afterwards."

Austrian rivalry

Meanwhile Laura Farese and Matthäus Zöchling scored an important race win at the end of a hectic afternoon of strong, shifting northerly wind. The Austrians move up to 11th overall in the Nacra 17 standings and now sit 10 places in front of their rivals for Olympic selection, Lukas Haberl and Tanja Frank in 21st overall.

"It was another windy day like the first day," said Farese. "We just focused on our goals and had quite a consistent day, even winning the last race." As for the selection battle: "Both of us are quite good teams and we are just trying to do our best at these Worlds. We're fighting the next days and then we'll see [who is selected]."

After two brutal days of high-wind action, the forecast suggests that the competition will shift from bruising boxing match to a more subtle game of chess in lighter breeze. "We hope it's still foiling winds," said Zöchling, "because that suits us better but I think we also improved a lot in the light stuff and we will be competitive in anything that comes our way."

Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson are sailing a solid regatta to put themselves in fifth overall after the first two days. "The first race was moderate, really nice," smiled Wilkinson. "Then it kicked up to around 17 or 18 knots for the last race. We had a few top mark moments that might have cost us a few places. A couple of nosedives, and the last one I was kind of hanging on to my trapeze in between the hulls - about three metres behind the boat. So probably not the best way to bear away. But we managed to land it somehow and then survive, so all in all, pretty happy."

The two Italian teams enjoyed excellent scores on opposite sides of the qualifying draw, with Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei scoring 1,2,4 and Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti with 1,1,2. Even that last-race second place was almost a victory for the defending World Champions, as Tita explained: "The Spanish were leading around the last windward mark, and we and the British did a gybe-set in the other direction. At the end it was a photo-finish between us and John [Gimson], but I think they got it."

Banti looked as relaxed as ever about what most considered to be a hard day on the water. "The last race was a bit stronger but in this flat water it's easy sailing and very fun."

49erFX: Change of lead in favour of Poland

With lots of capsizing in the 49erFX fleet, the women's skiff completed just one race today. Despite winning the only race, Jana Germani and Giorgia Bertuzzi slip off the top spot due to the Italians' slightly worse scores on tiebreak. Instead, a second place across the finish raises Aleksandra Melzacka and Sandra Jankowiak from Poland into the top spot.

49er: Change of lead but Britain still on top

Three more races in wildly shifty conditions of up to 40 degrees variation have done nothing to dislodge Great Britain from the top two spots in the men's 49er. It's just the order of those British crews has changed with new pairing of James Grummett and Rhos Hawes now moving to the top and displacing James Peters and Fynn Sterritt to second overall.

After finishing fourth at the Worlds earlier this season, Grummett and Hawes have enjoyed instant success together. Surely their world-class chemistry must have taken even them by surprise? "Er, not really," said Hawes. "We've probably spent a few years planning to do it and not ending up doing it. So it's nice to be there now."

Grummett puts part of the chemistry down to a solid friendship. "We've been pretty good mates quite a while. We obviously only teamed up six months ago or so, but I think a lot of it is just our teamwork. It comes to us pretty naturally. We get the boat going pretty quick, and I think a lot of it is just how we work together."

Today was a significant moment for Marseille as the Olympic flame arrived in the city that will host the Olympic Regatta 69 days from now. Newly selected Olympic representatives for France and the reigning World Champions Erwan Fischer and Clement Pequin acknowledged the growing excitement in the south of France.

"It's really something special to have the Olympic flame arrive in France," said Pequin, as Fischer added: "We have a lot of work still to do after this week, coming back to Marseille for training in the venue and preparing ourselves and our equipment as much as possible. And it's good that we are looking at a forecast for lighter winds tomorrow as this is an area we need to work on for the Games."

Thursday is indeed forecast for lighter breeze as the regatta reaches the final day of qualifying before the Nacra 17 and 49er men get regrouped for the gold fleet finals.

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