With 35 Olympic medallists and numerous World Champions racing at World Cup Series Enoshima, familiar rivalries have resumed in Japan on the waters of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Conditions across the opening two days of competition have been ideal for the 466 sailors from 44 nations. A north easterly breeze ranging from 12-17 knots has been present across the six racing areas on Sagami Bay with a reasonably flat sea state.
Battles from previous World Cups and World Championships have already emerged – and a familiar duo are going head-to-head at the top of the 49erFX fleet.
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) beat Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) to gold by two seconds at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the duel emerging on Tokyo’s Olympic waters is not too dissimilar.
The teams occupy first and second in the 49erFX, with Grael and Kunze reasserting themselves as one of the world’s leading teams despite spending limited time in the boat. Grael took some time out of Olympic campaigning to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race and is in only her second 49erFX event in the space of 14 months.
Nonetheless, the Brazilians have climbed to the top of the 24-boat fleet, winning three of six races so far, and have a 12-point advantage over the Kiwis.
“It’s good to have them [Grael and Kunze] back in the fleet and I think it just lifts the standard of racing,” commented Maloney. “They’re sailing well and it’s just great to having them out on the race course again.
“It’s so up and down in the fleet. No matter who you are out there with, you have to be pushing it and making the right decisions.
“It’s been pretty cool being at the Olympic venue with interesting racing conditions, but so far we’ve raced well.”
The Brazilians and Kiwis were training partners in the lead up to Rio 2016, so they remain friends ashore – but that changes on the water. Two more days of fleet racing remain ahead of Saturday’s Medal Races and the fight will continue on Thursday.
Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey (GBR) occupy the final podium spot at the mid-point of the 49erFX competition.
A British battle is ongoing in the 49er, as James Peters and Fynn Sterritt (GBR) trade blows with Dylan-Fletcher Scott and Stu Bithell (GBR).
Although Fletcher-Scott and Bithell have finished ahead of their compatriots in four of six races, it’s Peters and Sterritt’s consistency that gives them a two-point advantage after six races.
“It’s a good rivalry between us, as always,” commented Peters. “We’ve been pushing, and they have been too. It helps us focus more in the competition and it’s good for the country.”
Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn (NZL) sit in third.
In the Nacra 17, Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) added a further two races wins to their three victories from Tuesday, but they dropped to 12th in the sixth race of the series. Nevertheless, they lead compatriots Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari (ITA) by 11 points.
Nathan Outteridge and Haylee Outteridge (AUS) took the final race win of the day and are fourth.
Racing continues at 12:00 local time on Thursday 13 September.
By Daniel Smith – World Sailing
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