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Aug 12-22, 2015 / Rio, Brazil

2015 Test Event

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49er and 49erFX teams have seen two days of class Rio (in August) conditions.  The sea breeze establishes by early afternoon, there is time for some racing and then it calms down as the sun sets early by five-thirty.  The racing is good, as in there is breeze, shifts, and generally fair racing, but it remains fickle.

As an example, the 49er sailors came off the line for race three of the championship, the first race of the championship, hitting the left side hard to claim top spots, but then it was a total reversal for the second beat where the upstart Poles went far right to bounce up into second spot behind Burling and Tuke.  Sailors must keep their nerve, but also be nimble in their strategies so take advantage of the ever changing race conditions, wind, and currents.

The 49er fleet searches for consistency, with no team to date scoring all top 10 results.  Once again, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke find themselves on the top of the leaderboard off the strength of three wins on day 2, however in the other race they came 12th having sailed into a huge hole they just could not get out of.  Team faced variable conditions all day, with different sides paying on every upwind, tide lines roving constantly, shifting winds through up to 20 degrees, and many puffs and lulls.  Team sited a variety of performance ideas for their successes.  The Spanish relied on their skill in reading the wind and water, the Portugese relied on their fleet positioning, while the Austrians relied on their ability to bounce back from tough starts.  In all cases, with a fleet full of only contenders, it is a massive challenge to emerge.

Meanwhile, the 49erFX patience was being tested in another way.  Sent out to sea for a day of racing on the ocean, the wind never materialized so the fleet sat and bobbed in the swell for three hours before being sent into the Sugarloaf course to get racing once the 49er fleet finished.  In a dying breeze they got a chance to continue their series in single trapezing conditions of increasing instability where they only managed one race.

The 49erFX fleet got the best of the racing on day 1 on the Navy course, starting the day in the 10 knot sea breeze and getting their scheduled three races in.  Italy’s Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich continued on from their winning ways at the 2015 European Championship scoring a consistent 1, 2, 3 on the day for a wonderful start to the event.  Continuing the golden run from winning the Pan Am Games, Argentinians Vicky Travasco and Sol Branz sat in fourth place overnight and then won the only race of Day 2 by a considerable margin.

The only race today was a totally right side dominant race, with the wind dying off enough that it could not get over Sugarloaf any more so it funneled down the Yacht Club arm from the right side.  All the top teams in the race either started on Port or tacked early, and teams that could not get right had a tough time.  The most amusing comment of the day came from Kahena Kunze (BRA) who mentioned that after a week in the light airs of Toronto for the Pan Am Games, it was no mistake that both Argentina and Brazil would come one-two in another light air race.

The 49er fleet heads into a rest day and we wait and the 49erFX will sail through to make up for lost races.

The test event, formerly known as the pre-Olympics, is a test for the organization more so than the sailors.  However, many federations and teams take the event very seriously and there has been reasonable correlation between pre-Olympic performance and Olympic performance historically.

Only 1 team may enter from any nation, so the intra-squad competition has been tight for many competitors.  Further, many squads will bring complete support staff to the event to give everyone a full warm up to the Olympics.

Both the 49er and 49erFX regattas will be tightly fought, though last year was a disapointment wind wise and organizationally as the best winds were in the early morning hours and the organization was not flexible enough to conduct the racing then.  The 49erFX raced only 2 days of 4 while the 49er raced 3 days of 4, though one of the days there was only 1 race which is always a good indicator of poor racing conditions.

Much of the focus for the worlds press will be on the pollution in the water of Gunabara bay, but the sailors, like always will be looking at the wind, current, and possibly trash, but certainly their competitors.

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