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26-28 August, 2016 / Newport, RI, USA

2016 North American Championship

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In a week of shifting and gusty offshore winds, day one of the 49er FX and 49er Gold Fleet series revealed the most hectic conditions yet. The result? Top sailors from each fleet had to earn their stripes, many linking up small shifts and big puffs to pass boats five or even ten at a time to string together a solid day with a few single-digit finishes.

Grael/Kunze (BRA) worked their magic in the FX fleet, using a trademark downwind jibe set to fight back from places in the teens and end up with a 3, 10, 2, to be in second, losing a tiebreaker for first with Bobeck/Netzler (SWE) who faltered with a 24, 1, 16.

Its was the Finish pair of Gronblom and Hokka, however, who stunned the fleet with a spectacular start to the series, a 1, 3, 1. One of the first place finishes went down as the most dramatic race of the day. The pair scraped and clawed their way out of the pack, first to the weather mark, grabbing the final shifts in the erratic waters below the two-story Sailing Aarhus building. They dropped into the teens as the wind built on the run only to fire back to first by the finish, seemingly sailing in their own private puffs. They now have moved up to 10th.

Botin/Trittel Paul (ESP) were faced with the same scenario as the FX fleet, falling on the wrong side of the course several times. While half of the top 10 in each of the three races held onto the pack, the other half were replaced by those who doggedly worked their way through small groups of boats, taking every bit of leverage they could find. The Spanish converted deep places to win races one and two and stand atop the leaderboard.

The highlight of the afternoon was certainly the epic third race where Lambriex/van de Werken (NED) and Rual/Amoros (FRA) ended up in the 20s at one point during the first beat. The French, with tremendous discipline, picked out a few shifts to move slowly into the top pack. They ended the race in fourth while the Dutch were left to wallow in the teens until the last beat and run where, alone on the right side of the course, the pair hit the passing lane and were relieved to finish in fourth.

Though the Dutch have lost their event lead and are six points behind the Spanish, it could have been a much worse day. The rest of the fleet were happy enough to stay out of the weeds as there were many capsizes including, surprisingly, one in each of the last two races by the Fantella brothers of Croatia who still hold onto fifth place.

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