The 2019 49er, 49erFX & Nacra17 European Championship, this year to be competed on the waters off Weymouth, will see Olympic hopefuls pushing to qualify their countries and themselves for the ever nearer Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. There is one team however, who aren’t as concerned with qualification, as they are with enjoying the ride.
Father and son duo, Roger (65) and Simon (35) Coles from Lee on Solent Sailing Club will be competing for one last time together in the 49er, before Roger ‘hangs up his harness’. First stepping foot on a 49er in 1998, Roger says he’s accumulated “about 15 years” in a class that is “simple to setup, physically demanding but very rewarding when you get it right.”
In a country such as England, where double handed boats are many and varied, it’s a fair question to ask ‘Why the 49er?’ As the helm, Simon says “Once you have planed upwind on the wire, as a helmsman you won’t go back to sitting out. With the upgrades to the carbon rig over the years, the boat just got better and better to sail. It’s still one of the few boats that just going for a sail in can be as rewarding as racing.” Simon’s first foray into 49er sailing was aged 16, and he owned his first boat aged 17, in 2000.
Being an Olympic class, it can be a daunting prospect for club sailors committing to sail a boat against full time professional sailors. But there is a silver lining that is often overlooked amongst many sailors. While the Cole’s both agree it can be tough racing against the pros, putting yourself in the mix or in front of full time atheletes is what makes racing this boat so rewarding.
“It can be daunting at first, but once you relax its amazing to be able to test yourself against some of the best sailors around, and the majority of them are really helpful in the dinghy park,” Simon says.
Roger agrees that there’s plenty of benefits having access to some of the best sailors in the world. “The Pro’s are happy to help with tuning tips, and often there is a training day before the events where an Olympic coach will be available. We have been helped by John Pink & Mark Asquith at these sessions”.
The other positive side effect of the 49er being an Olympic class is the access and affordability of used boats and gear. With most top teams running multiple boat programs and renewing equipment regularly, you can pick up a lightly used set of sails for a fraction of the price of new ones. Complete or ‘bring-your-own sails’ 49ers are often available for charter in most major sailing regions, meaning that the international event you had your eye on now only requires you to jump on a flight with your sails and go sailing, without the costs and logistics of packing and shipping your own boat.
Roger highlights that the 49er is a great option for club sailors looking at the class as their next boat. “49ers can be picked up relatively cheaply in the UK, and you can be going faster than almost everything else out there, and having more fun! It can be a challenge to sail, especially if you have waves where you sail, but the rewards are so high it’s defiantly worth it.
Unlike other high performance boats, there isn’t a million and one bits or rope to pull, just sheets, kicker and Cunningham, so you spend more time sailing and less time worrying if this or that is right (or fixing things!)”
At 65 years young, Roger is a testament to the class and its use-ability for a wide range of sailors. The sheet loads are light and easy to handle, and the ergonomics which set the boat apart when it was first released in 1996, ensure’s the potential for injury is minimal compared to other double handed high performance classes. With the introduction of the 49erFX rig in 2012, which is set atop the standard 49er hull, there is also the option for lighter sailors or those wanting a more manageable setup.
For the grass roots 49er sailors who are sitting on the fence about heading to Weymouth for the Europeans in May, Simon & Roger encapsulate what you can expect from the week of racing.
“You can expect some fierce racing, set on some of the best 49er waters in the world, especially if we race inside Portland, and also a great camaraderie from us weekend warriors. You will also have a chance to test yourself against the best 49er sailors in the worl… there is not many other sports where you can line up against Olympic champions on the same course.”
The 49er Class wishes the best of luck to Roger and Simon at the 2019 Europeans, and maybe if they’re still having fun they will delay retirement until the Masters Worlds, planned for Lake Como in August 2020. With that regatta immediately following a Junior Worlds, there will be plenty of charters available.
To view the Notice of Race and submit your entry to the 2019 European Championship, go to the events page at 49er.org or click the link below to be taken directly to the entry portal. Late entry fee’s apply from April 1st, 2019, so make sure you submit your entry and we’ll see you in Weymouth.