Grael and Kunze Show Their Mettle on Day Four
For Brazil’s Martine Soffiati Grael and Kahena Kunze, the fourth day of the 2017 World Cup Series Miami presented by Sunbrella started on a sour note, with a 14th in a 16-boat 49erFX fleet.
“It was crazy,” said Kunze when asked about the wind in the first race. “It was going to the left and to the right, changing all the time.”
But even that result wasn’t enough to dampen either the spirits of the resilient Brazilian duo or their chances of winning the 49erFX division in this regatta for the first time since 2013, when the class was so new that just nine teams competed.
A slight change of venue and the filling of a southeasterly sea breeze before the second race were welcome changes for Grael and Kunze. They finished fourth and second in the day’s final two races. They will start Saturday’s Medal Race with a nearly insurmountable 17-point lead over second place.
A live broadcast of the Medal Races starts at 12:00 local time on World Sailing’s YouTube Channel – www.youtube.com/worldsailingtv
The only way that the second place team in the 49erFX, Norway’s Ragna and Maia Agerup, could take over the lead in the double-points Medal Race would be if Grael and Kunze finished last and the Norwegian pair finished first.
The most interesting battle during the Medal Race is likely to be for the lesser podium places. Victoria Travascio and Maria Branz (ARG) are in third, just five points behind second with another Norwegian pair, Helen Naess and Marie Ronningen, three points further back in fourth.
Travascio and Branz had their best day of the regatta to move into contention. They finished seventh in the first race and won the next two.
“The racecourse was really [strong] on the left, so it was crucial to have a good start and have a good lane to go to the left,” said Branz.
Like his countrywomen, Brazilian Finn sailor Jorge Zarif struggled in the first race of the day. “It was really hard because we had a very light breeze,” said Zarif, who won this regatta last year and then experienced the heartbreak of a fourth in his home-country Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “The wind was shifting a lot, a lot of differences in pressure. I had a good start and I didn’t find a good gap. I tried the left of the racecourse and it didn’t work and it was really hard to pass someone in the downwind. I had a yellow flag [for a kinetics violation] and if I got a second I had to retire from the race so I was really calm trying to not get a second yellow flag.”
But just like Grael and Kunze, he too was able to rebound, recording his fifth win in eight races in the day’s second contest and building a 12-point lead over Ben Cornish (GBR), who sits second. The Finns, along with the 470s, Lasers and Radials, will continue full-fleet racing on day five and have their Medal Races on Sunday.
The Nacra 17 fleet made the most of an early breeze and cranked through four races to complete its opening series. Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves (GBR) left no doubt who is the class act of this fleet recording three firsts and a second. They also lead a strong internal squad, with four British teams making the medal race. They start the Medal Race with a nine-point lead over Tom Phipps and Nicola Boniface (GBR).
Nico Delle-Karth and Laura Schöfegger (AUT) are third, eight points further back and look to stand on the podium in just their first ever Nacra 17 regatta. The duo join together and make the switch from the skiffs and seem to have found a new challenge that suits them. The Italian team of Lorenzo Bressani and Caterina Marianna Banti are fourth and in contention for bronze, though it will take a lot of help. Riley Gibbs and Louise Chafee (USA) and John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR) are tied on points for fifth, but out of medal contention, provided the Austrian team finishes the race.
Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell’s lead in the 49er took a significant hit in the last two races of the opening series with a 16th and 20th. But nonetheless, their 21-point margin over second means the British pair will start the Medal Race guaranteed a regatta win. The British pair we’re squad mates in the Rio quad, battling each other for the lone British Olympic berth for four years, and now team up and look dangerous. Bithell is a Silver medalist in the 470 from London 2012, and Fletcher finished a heart wrenching fourth in the 49er in Rio after a capsize in the medal race ruined his chance at a come from behind medal.
The battle for silver and bronze comes down to Carl Sylvan and Marcus Anjemark (SWE), with 71 points, Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl (AUT), with 72 points and Diego Botin and Iago Lòpez Marra (ESP), with 77 points. Yago and Klaus Lange (ARG) and Lucas Rual and Emile Amoros (FRA) have outside chances at a medal.
The Medal Races for the 2017 World Cup Series will be broadcast live via World Sailing’s YouTube channel starting at 12:00 local time and shown on a big screen at Regatta Park in Coconut Grove. Admission to the park is free and food trucks will be on hand to ensure sailing fans don’t go hungry.
By Stuart Streuli