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In the 49er medal race, 40 minutes before, the men had enjoyed steady 11-13 knot southerlies and the Croatian brothers, Šime & Mihovil Fantela made sure there were no surprises for the gold – the battle for silver was another matter entirely – as they controlled their opponents from start to finish.

“It’s been an amazing last year sailing with my brother,” Šime said. “It’s been a challenge some days coming from the 470, so winning the World Championships is beyond my dreams.”

The Fantelas went into their medal race 13 points clear of the young German pair, Tim Fischer and Fabian Graf, in second. Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel, the bronze medallists in Rio were third, 18 points behind. France’s Mathieu Frei and Noe Delpech in fourth were nine points further back. If bronze for the French looked tough, silver looked like a real stretch.

The first upwind was predictable. The Croatians shepherded both German crews all the way up and rounded the top mark fractionally ahead of both. Thereafter they did not have to worry as the German challenge went backwards fast as they took bigger and bigger risks to get back into contention. They finished a long way off the pace in ninth and tenth place respectively as the Frei and Delpech, in the lead group from the start, surged to front at the end of the final downwind to guarantee silver.

France have specialised in ambushes at these World Championships, having won the men’s 470 after starting a long way behind in bronze.

For the Fantelas this has been a fairytale start to the beginning of their new partnership. They have only been sailing the 49er together for 18 months and were eighth at the Test Event in Aarhus a year ago.  

Šime, 32, has switched from an illustrious career in the men’s 470 – where he won two class world championships and the gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics – to partner his younger brother Mihovil, 28, an ex-windsurfer. Their form in 2018 did not point to gold here, but they have dominated the fleet.

“Our goal since I changed class was a medal in Tokyo (2020 Olympics),” Šime said. “We know how many more hours in the boat we have to spend – our boat name is “ten thousand”, which is a symbolic name for how many hours we need to spend in the boat if we want to win a medal because. I’ve been there once and I know how much hard work it takes to have even a chance to shoot for a medal.”

And for them being brothers has only been a help.

“Šime asked me if we could sail together in the 49er and we thought we would trial it for a bit,” Mihovil said. “It worked so well, and we make a good team.”

Šime agreed, “Probably we can say more to each other than the guys who are not so close, and of course later we can discuss it more easily than some other crews that have some borders.”

After a bit of drama in the first beat, it became increasingly clear that the Gold would go to Croatia. The battles for silver and bronze was getting much closer that expected.

Going into the race, Olympic Bronze medalists from Germany, Heil and Ploessel, would have been odds on favorites to move up to Silver. They sailed a good first beat but got a little unlucky on the final shift to move them into the back group rounding the top mark. They then had to deal with some bad hoist and lost their air after a good set, and decided to gybe  inshore to free themselves up. From that moment on, every option they looked for to move up just seemed to move them farther back, opening the door to their countrymen and the fouth placed French team.

Frei and Delpech (FRA) were having a fantastic race. After a middling first beat, they had a great first downwind and managed to move up into the top group on the second beat along with their countrymen. With Fischer and Graf sharing a similar fate to their German countrymen, the French were in the hunt for silver.

On the last downwind, they were in second place with teams immediately behind and ahead. They were first to gybe, and it initially looked like the worse option. However, they got enough of a shift and puff when they gybed back to get room on the leaders, be clear ahead of the team in third, to take the win. With 2 points to spare they took the Silver medal. 

Frei is the 2012 European Champion, but this is the first major medal this team has won as a pair.

·         “We called our boat ten thousand because we know the hard work it takes” – Šime Fantela

Mathieu Frei and Noe Delpech – France – 49er (silver)

Frei:
“We don’t know what happened, we just tried to sail as well as could. We understood the wind shifts well and decided to take the right shift.

“We managed to take the lead on the last downwind, with a nice jibe in the middle of the last downwind.

“We had to keep things simple because they were four or five boats fighting for the bronze and silver medal. Our decision was to take the right side, as a classic race.

We are very happy but it’s going to hit us in a few hours once we call our families.”  

Tim Fischer and Fabian Graf – Germany – 49er (bronze)

Fischer:
“We took the wrong side of the course and quickly realised that we’d lose some places. We did our best to climb back up. Even though that was the case we are so happy to get a podium spot at the World Championships.

I recently had an injury on my ankle, and we were out for two months. From March to May, and it was hard to get back into things.”

Graf: 
“The week was almost perfect for us. We are on the podium and we are happy with that.”
Nations Qualifying for Tokyo in 49er
1.    Croatia
2.    Denmark
3.    France
4.    Germany
5.    Great Britain
6.    New Zealand
7.    Portugal
8.    Switzerland

Across 86 entries, 31 nations were aiming for qualification.

The 2018 Hempell Sailing World Championship in Aarhus. Follow all the action via the event website – 49er.org – nacra17.org

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