Challenge of Gold Fleet Racing Brings Out the Best

The story in 49er land was all about navigating small talented fleets and trying to string together good races.  With only 25 boats in top flight 49er sailing literally everybody on the water can take a race.  This regatta, like most it’s all about putting up a good day in order to march up the leaderboard.


Having the best day, a bounce back day, were Spaniards Tamara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos.  They scored a meagre 9 points from three races on hump day of gold fleet to bounce back from a poor day before and move into second overall.  This Spanish duo has had other great days in past event but it’s been rare for them to put together really top regattas.  The rest of the fleet should be quite worried, however, as that’s much how the Match racing scene viewed Echegoyen prior to her Gold medal performance in London.  If they can continue to refine their game and improve their weakest days they could be a team to watch out for.

Sandwiching the Spanish are a duo of Danish 49erFX sailors each having scored 16 points on the day.  In front, for possibly the first time ever at a major championship are the Schutt sisters, Maiken and Anne-Julie.  The Schutt sister have been the least celebrated Danish team, somewhat overshadowed by their country women to date, but they have been marching up the leaderboards steadily for the past 12 months, and are typically in the top 10.  They are an incredibly fit duo, fully dedicated to their fitness programs and often seen leading the fleet in morning Zumba, especially in the sea breeze venues.  If they can make the leap to podium potential in the first half of 2015 their country selectors would have no choice but to consider them fully into the race for the Olympic berth.

In the fight are fellow Danes and current European Champions Ida Nielsen and Marie Olsen.  Ida and Marie had a relatively slow start with a UFD on the first day but have been moving up the rankings ever since.  Overnight leaders and the third Danish pair Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen had a poor day by their standards with three races in the teens to drop down to sixth overall.  The points are still close so they have an opportunity to move up or down on the final day of gold fleet racing.



Tearing it up on the 49er side today were Frenchmen Julien D’Ortoli and Noe Delpesh with scores of 1, 1, 8 for ten points on the day moving them into ninth overall.  You can tell how deep the 49er fleet is when a team mid pack has the best day on the water, and it’s often like that in the 49er.  Also mid-pack and moving up were Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen with scores of 3, 2, 10 for fifteen points moving them into tenth overall.  With only 1 day left the 2008 Gold medalist will be looking to hang on for the medal racing on the final day.

Still in front are ever present Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who sailed well but were caught out in a rare mistake on the second race of the day.  They won the first race and finished 4th on the final race of the day but were Black flagged on the second start.  Interestingly, they were the only boat caught out on that start so an even rarer unforced error for the Kiwi dynamos.  With another solid day was Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel who scored 21 points on the day to consolidate their second place overall ranking nicely.  Barring larger mistakes for the top two they are both in great position to secure medals ahead of the medal race.

One of the nicest storylines this week has been the performance the Brazilian teams, especially so third overall’s Dante Bianchi and Thomas Low-Beer.  Dante and Thomas are Rio native and former Snipe sailors who moved over to the 49er to shoot for Rio.  They have worked hard and been very imaginitve in their campaign to date and it seems to be paying off.  Dante works almost full time as a Doctor in Brazil, yet manages to squeeze in time for a sail most afternoons.  Thomas has persued a tactic of inviting top sailors down to Rio, which of course is in high demand, and trading local knowledge for solid training time.  He spearheaded the wildly successful 49er Interglalactics and if they can keep improving will be able to fulfil their Olympic dreams.

Chasing them hard are another Brazilian duo, Marco Grael and Gabriel Borges.  These two grew up dreaming of racing 49er and have had a couple of top 10 results in 2014, and sit in seventh overall so it’s a great fight for the home Olympic spot.  Both teams also qualified for the Sailing World Cup Hyeres based on their performances already in Palma so will get that chance to race again against the best, a group both teams are quickly becoming part of.



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