USA skiff teams lead from the front in Auckland
The USA 49er and 49erFX skiff teams blitzed day one of the Hyundai 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Oceania Championship, the women’s pairing of Stephanie Robel and Maggie Shea posting a low score, thanks to two wins and a third, to lead the fleet and Rio 2016 Gold Medallists Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze of Brazil by 7 points.
Reigning European and world champions Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz (NED) are two points off second after three races on Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand.
On their opening performance Roble said, “It was 10-15 knots and as the day went on the current started building from the north, and that made it choppy and tricky all-round. We really focused on good start execution, keeping eyes forward looking at what pressure was coming down the course and trying to sail big lanes upwind, to let it rip and get to the pressure. We are excited about how we sailed.”
The talented FX sailors spent a couple of weeks learning the course areas at the beginning of the month and today was their first day back on the water after that training block.
“We learned a good bit about the current and just tried to spend time getting familiar with the race courses. I think it’s a pretty unique venue with all the land, so it’s hard to make ‘rules’ for different courses,” Roble admitted.
Many of the teams competing at the warmup Oceania Championship and World Championship, December 3 – 8, not only have to concentrate reigning in the best sailors in the world, some have to beat up on their mates to be selected for the Tokyo 2020 country spot.
Athletes need world-class training partners to become Olympic medal contenders, but cruelly there is only one country spot available for each class of boat. The US switched from having a single Olympic trial regatta to using a range of world championships and pre-Olympic events for selection, and Auckland is the first of a critical two-event series.
“This is the start of our trials, a two-event series of these worlds and the next at Geelong in February. The team with the lowest points will go to the Games.” When asked about the pressure of internal qualification Roble adds, “We’ve just been focusing on our own process and getting better each day, and each event. It’s a world championship and we are here to win.”
Also wrestling for selection to the U.S Olympic Sailing Team is Paris Henken and Anna Tobias who had a day one outing they will put down to experience, posting an 18th, UFD (black flag disqualification) and rounding out with a very promising second in race 3.
For the men’s 49er, the world championship is particularly important as they are also the country qualifier for the Olympics, as well as being part of the U.S Olympic trials.
The full schedule of Oceania Championship day one racing was streamed live to a global audience by broadcast partner SidelineApp. Hosted by New Zealand’s Jesse Tuke and featuring commentary from the likes of three time Olympian PJ Postma and match racing expert Chris Steele, viewers were treated to previously unforeseen coverage of a continental championship.
Live and free coverage will continue over the next two days of racing, (find at 49er.org/live) with viewers tuning in from 10:00am Auckland time (NZDT / GMT+13).
Live coverage of the 2019 Hyundai World Championships will be available for 9.95 euro if purchased before November 30, or 14.95 euro thereafter.