On the Bubble to Gold
It was a stressful final day of qualifying for the 72 boat 49er fleet, only 25 of whom can make gold fleet. With seven of ten scheduled races completed there were still more than 20 teams on the bubble hoping to sail well enough to keep their hopes alive. The conditions were a combination of side shore and off shore breeze, which gave fits to the race officers and sailors alike to find suitable racing conditions. After the 9th race of qualifying bubble had shrunk from about 20 teams to 8, only separated by six points with half going to make the gold fleet and half stuck on the outside looking in.
The tightly pack group of teams started the day as follows:
A few teams added solid races to their tallies to ensure they’d be include in the top bunch, getting a chance to relax. None more so that Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign of the British Sailing Team who must chase hard all week to catch up to their countrymen in order to remain in the conversation about Rio selection. Relegation from Gold fleet could have whipped out their chances, but with a 6th, and 8th, they were up to 16th overall and safe. Poles, Tomasz Januszewski and Jake Nowak who had a 10th, and 1st to move up all the way to 19th.
Feeling the opposite side of the pressure were Tim Elsner and Moritz Klingenberg who with an 18th and 28th were back to 28th overall from 13th, needing a good race to rescue their earlier success.
Unluckily for some, the conditions were too shifty and the final qualifying race was left off the program to allow racing in the 49erFX fleet. Carl Sylvan and Marcus Anjemark of Sweden, on a high from Palma after Sweden took the final Olympic qualifying berth, were left on the outside looking in by only a single point. They lodged a protest for an incident between them and the Poles, POL 52, aiming to get the additional spot up the rankings to make gold fleet, as did Portuguese Olympic bound sailors Jorge Lima and Jose Costa who felt the conditions should have forced the abandonment of the 8th race of the series, a race where they were 3rd from last and that they could not discard due to their previous DNF. The Portuguese duo sit only 3 points out of the Gold fleet.
The Swedes won their protest, forcing the Poles out of Gold while the Portugese lost their protest and stay below the line. Check out full results for the final line up. The qualifying scenario above is standard fare in the 49er class; the most competitive qualifying series in the world bearing in mind lasers take 60 into their gold fleets. So many great team, so few berths, every point is critical.
Things were intense for the 49erFX racing, but for different reasons. The conditions got windier but just as shifty and incredibly puffy. Only two races were able to be held after three hours on the water, with few teams making it through the day without any capsizes. Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich remain in the lead but moving up to second with the best day on the water were Argentinian’s Vicky Travascio and Sol Branz. The Argies have been doing really well in the breeze for the past few months and continued that trend in qualifying this week.
Teams got back to shore and with only two races completed had enough energy to share their wilder capsizing tales. American Olympians Paris Henken and Helena Scutt managed to back wheelie their skiff while fighting to rescue a capsize. Others told of making it around the forestay and taking leaps downwind off the swell headed in the wrong direction, typical skiff shore sharing.
The format for the 49erFX is a bit different due to the small fleet size. All 36 teams will now proceed to gold fleet from the 18 boat qualifiers, which means that the meaty part of the regatta is on its way. There are only 12 points separating the top 9 teams, so the race for the championship truly begins with gold fleet.
It’s not all racing intensity in the skiff fleets, it’s also a whole bunch of figuring out how to deal with a sailing partner through life!
Gold Fleets Next
Gold fleet will race for the final three days, 25 boats in 49er, 36 boats in the 49erFX. The 49er Silver fleet will be split into two equal fleets who will continue to race on an equal footing for places 26 through 72.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke extended their lead on the day with two more race wins in the 49er.
There will be live tracking and SAP analytics of the gold fleet racing, results, videos, articles and photos on: http://49er.org/2016-european-championship/