Infallible Italians lead into Gold Fleet

49erFX: Infallible Italians

Jana Germani and Giorgia Bertuzzi of Italy stayed firmly atop the leaderboard keeping all their races in the top five. For many FX sailors who started the event slow, it was the last chance to advance up the leaderboard and into the Gold fleet.

Infallible Italians lead into Gold Fleet
Infallible Italians lead into Gold Fleet

The harsh reality of these events is the gold fleet cutoff followed by the split to the medal race top 10. Today was the final gold fleet qualification and pending protests, the results show it was the Japanese team of Misaki Tanaka and Sera Nagamatsu who won a three-way tie for 25th and are the last into the gold fleet.

The leading Italians are also on pace to take the singular 2024 Paris Olympic Games national qualification on offer this week. “That’s our main goal for this regatta,” said Germani. “We’re happy to sit in first place, but we are looking for the Olympic pass, that’s more important.”

Germani said that she and Bertuzzi had a difficult World Championships in the Hague last summer and have resolved some deficiencies since then. “We struggled a bit. We didn’t find ourselves quick enough to sail through the fleet. We worked on our equipment and technique. We’re feeling much better. You can see it!”

The single European qualifying spot will be awarded in Gold fleet from the limited group of Poland, Italy, and Germany. Each of the three nations has multiple teams in gold.

Americans Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea, who flew back from a podium finish at the Pan American Games in Chile just two days before this championship were on the cusp of missing the gold fleet this morning. They made one of the biggest moves today and jumped 14 places to 12th with a scoreline of 2, 4.

“We’re focusing a lot on starts, putting ourselves in different positions and trying out different things communication-wise,” said Roble. Asked if today’s finishes were a result of these elements she replied, “Yeah, I think so, definitely. We were going really fast, a shout-out to Maggie for that.”

Beyond qualifying countries for the Games, many teams are battling for their country’s nomination, their ticket to Marseille in less than a year.

Two Norwegian teams are tied on nomination points. This is their last of the three selection regattas and if only one of them finishes in the top 10, they will represent Norway in 2024. If they both make it into the top 10, it’s who-beats-who goes to the Games. Right now, second place Helene Naess and Marie Ronningen have a clear advantage over compatriots Pia Dahl Andersen and Nora Edland who are sitting in 17th.

“Right now we’re in a good position so far,” said Ronningen. “So we’re going to try and stay calm and continue as we are.”

Naess said that adding a new coach has made a massive difference in their program since a lacklustre finish at the recent world championship.

“It’s nice to have someone else coming in and giving new inputs,” said Naess who has been sailing with her partner for multiple campaigns. “It has given us confidence going into the regatta.”

The depth of the silver fleet is evident in the resumes of the sailors, including Olympic medalists and world champions. And in the gold fleet, there’s a mix of new challengers like Germani and Bertuzzi and the most decorated 49erFX sailors of all time, Brazilians Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, who sat out today’s two races so Grael could recover from an injury.

In many ways the championship is only just beginning with such tight points. Injury or not, Grael and Kunze, and 24 other teams are right in the mix for Monday’s final medal race.

49er: Scramble to stay in the Qualification Battle

For some teams in the battle for the sole qualification spot for next year’s Olympic Regatta, today’s racing was a make-or-break moment in the competition. As the final results were posted on the scoreboard, sailors and coaches were refreshing the page on their phones to see who had made the cut for the top 25 and Gold Fleet, and who had missed out.

Medallists at the past two World Championships, Diego Botin and Florian Trittel don’t expect to have to be checking whether they’ve made the cut for Gold. But it’s been that kind of week for the Spanish superstars, and quite a few other big name teams too.

Today was a much better day for the Spaniards who posted 8,3 from their qualifying group. When all the results were in from all three qualifying groups, it seems the Spaniards had done enough, scraping through in 22nd place and 6 points ahead of the German team in 26th. Normally 26th is the worst spot in a 49er regatta, but a quirk in the transition to the new 49er sails has given a bonus chance to s Fabian Rieger and Tom Heinrich (GER) who, are the lone member of the 14 boat strong German squad to squeek into gold fleet. Patryk Kosmalski with Tomasz Lewandowski (POL) sailed a wonderful qualifying series and made the gold fleet standard in 23rd overall. However, as they are youngsters in their first major championship, they are still using the old, transparent, sails. By rule, only teams using the new sails may pass through to gold fleet so they have been relegated to Silver allowing the 26th place Germans into Gold.

With Erik Heil and Thomas Plœssel now retired from 49er competition, it would be unthinkable not to have a German representative following in the footsteps of the double Olympic bronze medallists. Except this is Olympic competition and there is no tougher continent from which to qualify than from Europe.

Of the nations chasing the one Olympic spot in Vilamoura, highest placed are the Belgian team of Yannick Lefèbvre and Jan Heuninck who are in 7th place overall.

Meanwhile Simone Ferrarese and Leonardo Chistè have kept Italian dreams alive as they responded to the pressure and posted scores of 5,1 to move into the Gold Fleet and up into 19th place overall. There’s still enough racing in the final three days for the Italians and others to overtake the Belgians for the golden ticket to Paris.

Also into gold fleet are Ireland, and Portugal, making five nations vying for the European Olympic berth. Maltese sailor Richard Schulties has also qualified to gold fleet but he is sailing with Frenchman Yoann Bertinn, and therefore they are ineligible for games spots at this event.

All teams not qualifying at the Hague or continental qualifiers will have to wait their turn at the ‘Last Chance’ regatta next April. That’s at Semaine Olympic Francaise in Hyères when there are five last-gasp Olympic berths up for grabs.

Best performers of the day were the young Spanish brother Martin and Jaime Wizner. A stellar performance of 2,1 lifts them to 3rd overall and within striking distance of the lead. Now topping the 49er standings are Ben Bildstein and David Hussl who are banishing the demons of a difficult year with an outstanding command of the tricky conditions. Just a point behind the Austrians in second place are the Polish duo, Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki.

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Vilamoura – A great place to bring the family

Lukasz, in 10th overall, enjoying a sunset with his family on one of the beaches in Vilamoura.

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