49erFX Down to Final Race – Crews Steering – Austrians Demolish in 49er

After 19 races in the first event 49er Intergalactic Championship of Rio, the final race was the decider for the 49erFX fleet was who beat who wins between Charlotte Dobson with Sophie Ainsworth versus Frances Peters and Nicola Groves.  The sailors decided this morning that the final race of the championship would be a crew driven, double points, windward-leeward-and-in race.  All the racing on the day was done on the medal race course right beside the beach with standard 2 lap windward-leewards of 15-20 minutes.  Little did they know that the 49erFX championship would be decided on the race in about 15 knots of breeze challenging all the teams.

The challenge of a crew race was just as great for the 49er fleet, but the regattas was not nearly so close.  The Austrians finished this regatta as they started, with another dominating performance over some of the best teams in the world.  Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign pushed them hard today, but Nico and Niko sailed flawlessly, with great speed, confident maneuvering, and a good command of the racecourse and fleet.  They extended away to win the championship by 20 points.  The brits got a small measure of reward by winning the crew race.

The 49erFX sailors were locked in a battle throughout the day, with the lead changing hands twice before the deciding final race.  Charlotte and Sophie managed to overhaul Frances and Nicola in the penultimate race leading to the heads up final.  With both teams tentative, they each sought out plenty of open space to make their start.  Charlotte and Sophie had the better upwind pace at the beginning of the leg and managed to survive the downwind to be just a few boatlengths ahead by the leeward marks.  The final leg to the Yacht club was almost a fetch so they only needed to keep it upright to win, and they did!  There were lots of smiles onshore as the teams are new to 49erFX sailing in general, let alone switching helm and crew in some breeze.

The fleet dwindled somewhat by the end of the.  The Germans had been using an older chartered boat and during a gybe they broke a bolt on their wing.  The race before, the Irish had to retire for the day as Matt McGovern, who had been nursing a bicep injury for the event fell from the boat and grabbed on with his bad arm.  He will be off the water for a month now in recovery according to his physio.

Somewhat tarnishing an otherwise perfect day of sailing in Rio was the trash in the water.   Sunny skies and 15 knots of wind should make any sailor smile, but the fleet got stuck on plastic bags throughout the day.  Dylan and Alain got caught up in 3 of the 5 races but were charitable about the experience.  Less patient was Alan Norregaard was fed up with the garbage on course by days end.

The entire fleet owes a debt of gratitude to Thomas Lowbeer and the Iacht Club de Rio Dejaneiro for hosting this unique championship.  The sailors had a great time, got some great racing, and will all be looking forward to a return visit.

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