Croatia tops the 49ers, Germany the 49erFX

49er OPEN: Croatia leads but it’s tight at the top

Just seven points separate the top 10 in the 60-boat 49er men’s fleet after three highly testing races in wildly variable breeze on the races courses closest to the Union Yacht Club Attersee. Despite the seemingly random nature of the racing, somehow the 2018 World Champions from Croatia, Sime and Mihovil Fantela, emerged from the melée to hold top spot on the leaderboard.

A point behind are the German crew of Tim Fischer and Fabian Graf, followed by the Dutch crew Bart Lambriex and Pim van Vugt. Incredibly for such a strong sailing nation, Lambriex and van Vugt will be the first team ever to represent the Netherlands at the Olympic Games in 20 years of 49er skiff history.

The Dutch Federation holds its athletes to a high standard before they can be considered for sending to a Games, and now they have achieved that. Their performance in today’s conditions suggests they can keep their heads in high-pressure situations. They executed a brave port-tack start across the fleet in one race, although a protest by the Estonian crew means the Dutch will have to sweat for a while in the protest room this evening before they find out their fate.

The home team 49er favourites, Ben Bildstein and David Hussl (AUT), had to scramble to keep their winning hopes alive. Hussl has been taken ill by a stomach bug that has kept him away from racing. As an emergency substitute, Ivan Bulaja, their long-time coach, jumped into crew for Bildstein on the opening day. They hope to have Hussl return to the boat as soon as he is able.

49erFX WOMEN: Kiel Week victors continue their winning ways

Inspired by the most enormous rainbow over Attersee in the dwindling daylight, Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke sailed a stellar first day in very different conditions to those in which they won a breezy Kiel Week a couple of weeks ago. Newly qualified to represent Germany at the Olympics, Lutz and Beucke are proving themselves very adaptable to all kinds of breeze if today’s performance is anything to go by. The Germans opened their account with a 5th and then two first places on their side of the qualifying split.

Julia Gross and Hanna Klinga also put together a very strong opening two races with a 3,1, but then slipped down the rankings with an 18th in the last race of the early evening. The highlight for the Swedes was holding the lead in their second qualifying heat. Already leading by a comfortable margin, a private gust came along and lifted their boat on to the plane down to the finish. The private gust gave them a winning margin of about 500 metres while the rest of the fleet drifted downwind. 

Another Swedish team, Klara Wester and Rebecca Netzler, put together a more consistent set of scores to finish the day in third overall, on equal points with second-placed Norwegians Helene Næess and Marie Rønningen. The reigning World Champions from Spain, Tamara Echegoyen and Paula Barceló, are well in the hunt and sit in sixth overall. Despite a disappointing day, somehow the 2018 and 2019 World Champions from the Netherlands, Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz, were able to laugh off their 22nd overall. 

NACRA 17: Young Swedes show the Top Guns the way around Attersee

Emil Järudd and Cecilia Jonsson (SWE) showed the world-class Nacra 17 fleet the way round a very tricky Lake Attersee race course on day one of the 2020 Forward WIP European Championship in Austria.

The young Swedes have made the most of their training period during the Coronavirus summer to look like serious threats to the more established crews in the hydrofoiling catamaran fleet. Järudd and Jonsson hold a four-point lead over the reigning Olympic Champions, Argentina’s Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli. A point behind in third overall are the 2019 World Champions from Italy, Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari. 

Järudd was understandably delighted about today’s surprise result. “It kind of clicked for us out there,” said the 22-year-old who said the key was to stay relaxed and not try to chase the breeze on the far side of the course. “We went with what we saw and we had a lot of fun and that enabled us to make the decisions we did. When you’re not having fun, you’re not prepared to take the risks you need to make in wind like that. When you don’t care only about the result, you can have fun making decisions and that can help you do better.” 

Jonsson said they had been lucky to be able to keep on training in Sweden almost uninterrupted while athletes in other countries have had to comply much stricter coronavirus restrictions. “We’ve done so much speed work, and this summer was really a golden opportunity for us,” said the 29-year-old. “We’ve increased our training load by 50 per cent.”

Hear more from the Swedes, Finland and Bissaro/Frascari in post-race chatter…

Eight points behind their Italian compatriots in fourth overall are the 2018 World Champions, Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti, who dominated the catamaran fleet at Kiel Week just a couple of weeks ago in Germany. Further back in 9th overall are the reigning World Champions from Great Britain, John Gimson and Anna Burnet.

The unwanted presence of a forked twig on one of their rudders did them no favours in the third race but Gimson joked that “stupidity cost us quite a bit too”. Austria’s Thomas Zajac and Barbara Matz have had a horrible start to their regatta on home waters, lying in 19th out of the 30 boat fleet. No one is going to have it easy this week.

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