Going Deeper into a Difficult Day 4
Some deeper analysis of the tight racing in the 49er and 49erFX Gold Fleet competition on Day 4, the first day of the Finals…
Race 1: In the light sea breeze the first race saw a clean start and the fleet split left and right. The right side of the course played marginally better and Rual/Amoros (FRA 8) along with Botin/Marra(ESP 97) took a decent lead around the top mark. It was typical light wind sailing all the way down with teams picking their way through the best of the breeze and then splitting at the bottom gate. Probably the most notable part of initial legs of the race was Burling/Tuke (NZL 77) deep in the pack for the first time so far in this regatta.
On the second upwind the breeze built and came in from the right side so teams like the French and Spanish – who stuck to that side – extended their lead. Fletcher/Bithell (GBR 6) could have been caught out as they took the go-left gate but they smartly consolidated with the leaders and ended up being the farthest boat right when the shift came in. At the top windward mark the Spanish went into an immediate gybe-set. But the Brits went into an EVEN MORE immediate gybe-set, looking to pounce on Botin and Marra and try to roll them as they accelerated away under gennaker…
Ultimately the French extended to win and the Spanish held off the British challenge for the one, two, three. Heil/Ploessel (GER 4), the regatta leaders grabbed a 4th place while Burling and Tuke, as they are known to do, limited their losses by moving back through the fleet to finish in 11th.
Race 2: The wind had built a couple of knots by the start of the second race and teams were fully trapezing for the second race; the type of conditions where every Gold Fleet team can go fast, making for a very close-fought beat.
As the leaders gathered at the top mark it was Heil/Ploessel (GER 4) who narrowly beat out Schneiter/Cujean (SUI 10), each from opposite ends of the upwind. The Germans went on to claim a smooth victory in the race, but with the Swiss we had an interesting example of ‘tack/cross’ claims on the first beat. Fletcher/Bithell (GBR 6) tacked outside them and the Swiss were faced with forcing the Brits to tack underneath them or give them a pass (and maybe a beer in the bar afterwards). The Swiss took the more generous/ lower hassle option, choosing to duck the Brits and ended up winning their side of the beat.
By Race 3 the breeze had built a couple more knots and a few waves built up with teams starting to depower, but still well in control. Botin/Marra (ESP 97) had another great beat. They stuck to the left side of middle and used their great upwind speed to take a one-boatlength lead over the two French teams. With a great set the Spaniards extended.
The Germans had another good beat, but were a bit farther to the left than the Spanish and ended up in the second group to the top mark, back in around 6th, but still an extension of their stellar day.
Playing the tide game!
Race One – most of the big names were, for lack of a better word, buried. However Grael / Kunze, Bekkering / Duetz managed to keep their noses clean enough to stay within the top ten, while Dobson / Tidey & Naæss / Ronningen were back in the high teens. The teams heading left managed to get away from the worst of the tide.
POL 888 – Melzacka/ Loboda led for much of the first lap but NED 6 – van Aanholt and Janmaat – split marks with the Poles at the leeward gate and by the final top mark the Dutch had moved into the lead. The vast majority of the fleet did a straight-set on starboard on the run to the finish, making it an easy race to defend for NED 6. However ARG 19 (Travascio/ Branz) broke away to the left on their own, a risky manoeuvre that paid off by the finish as they crossed in third just behind NED 1 who crossed in second behind their compatriots NED 6.
Race Two – The top mark was incredibly crowded and a few teams didn’t quite get it right. Lim/Low (SIN) tacked too close and barely got around the mark, then Grael/Kunze (BRA) had to take all the sterns and ended up rounding second to last.
USA92 – Paris Henkin/ Anna Tobias – sail a stunning race and are doing a great job of keeping NED 1 Bekkering/ Duetz at bay. The Americans round the final windward mark with a lead of a few boatlengths, but have a complete brain fade on the final downwind leg. They overstood by an insane amount; the commentators called it a ‘club error, a schoolboy error’ gifting the race to NED1 on the final downwind. USA92 finish 6th. Ouch!