Italians keen to grab the golden Games ticket

Two races completed for two 49erFX groups in qualifying, and one race apiece for the three qualifying groups in the 49er Men…

49erFX: Italians keen to grab the golden Games ticket

They say it’s unlucky to win the warm-up regatta but Jana Germani and Giorgia Bertuzzi dismissed that theory as superstitious mumbo jumbo. The Italian team were fast out of the slow-motion blocks today to post up two race wins on their side of the qualifying draw. “We have been training here a lot since 2019,” said Germani, “we’ve probably sailed in Vilamoura over the winter more than anywhere else.”

It was an important start to the competition for Germani and Bertuzzi who sailed below their best at the World Championships in The Hague back in August. Having missed the opportunity in The Netherlands to qualify Italy for the Paris 2024 Games, Germani and Bertuzzi are desperate to grab the one Olympic qualifying spot available this week in Portugal. “We made some changes to our programme just before the Worlds which was our mistake and completely our fault,” admitted Germani who wouldn’t reveal exactly what they had changed. No such mistake this week. “We have been more careful with our preparation for this regatta and we’re happy and feel fast in every condition so that’s important.”

Having won the warm-up regatta in the predominantly stronger sea breeze conditions during the build-up to the Europeans, today Germani and Bertuzzi proved every bit as strong in the much lighter breezes which struggled to tip over 7 knots and at times dropped to as low as 3. So to achieve such consistency in the soft, patchy breeze was an impressive start to the regatta.

Denmark’s Josefine Nöjgaard and Esther Bojsen-Moller had a stunning outing to notch up scores of 4,2 and are lying in second overall. Coached by 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Jena Mai Hansen, the young Danes must be pinching themselves at such a world-class performance on a day when so many of the big name favourites suffered.

Reigning World Champions Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler were all smiles in the boat park, their sunny demeanour giving no clue to a difficult day which sees the Swedes languishing in 34th place after two lacklustre races. “We were always in the pack, never quite the front row, even though we were pleased with our starts,” said Netzler. “We missed just a bit of speed and a bit of pressure [wind] on the race course. But it’s good that we are racing in light winds. With all the injuries we’ve had this year, I think this is the first time that Vilma and I have raced in light winds since Hyères back in April.”

Last year’s World Champions Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz sit in 7th place after two races and like the Swedes they are appreciating the opportunity to compete in softer breeze. “For the Olympics and Marseille you have to be ready for anything,” said van Aanholt. “Even on the same day it can be light for half the day and strong for the other half, so depending on the schedule you could have a week of only light winds or only strong winds. I think today was a reminder to all the FX girls that we have some work to do in these conditions!”

For the French team of Sarah Steyaert and Charline Picon, the two mothers of young children are always grateful just to be able to make the logistics work. Asked who’s looking after the kids this week, “But of course it’s the fathers,” laughed Picon, the windsurfing Olympic Champion from 2016. Steyaert added: “It’s a difficult project to make everything work for an Olympic campaign, so it’s good to be racing here.” Even better when the French friends score two 3rds to be sitting in 3rd place overall.

49er Men: One race done for the Men

With the breeze dying during the late afternoon, only one race was completed for the three men’s qualifying groups. The winners of their respective groups were Martin and Jaime Wizner from Spain, Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie from New Zealand, and Sebastien Schneiter and Arno de Planta from Switzerland.

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