South American’s A Preview of What to Expect at the Games

Most of the top 49erFX sailors in the world just finished the final tune up regatta ahead of the Rio Games.  Only two days of racing intensifies and amplifies the impact of each race, and the expected and unexpected played out.

What do we expect from Rio? Tricky… The August conditions in Rio are light airs from a multitude of directions with complex and layered current.  Over two days the 49erFX sailors squeezed in four races in the North wind, and 1 race in the South wind which is the Sea Breeze.  All of the races were light air.

What is expected is that the Rio games will be conducted mostly in the light sea breeze wind as typically the North Wind is strongest only very early in the morning and dies out before the noon start times scheduled for Rio.  Over the South Americans there were no systems that came through, which is the third expected condition.

So the conditions were a bit different that what’s expected next month, but not by much.  The teams spent quite a bit of time waiting around and then squeezed in races when the conditions allowed.  Results for the most part were also what we should expect, in that almost all teams had a mixture of good and bad races.  All teams that is except for the Argentinian duo of Vicky Travascio and Sol Branz.  With a scoreline of 2, 2, 7, 4, 2 they dominated the scoreboard which only got respectable for the rest of the competitors once the drop race got counted.

“We started well each race, which was really important since the left side was favored in the North Wind,” said winning helmswoman Vicky.  Starting is a top skill, especially in light winds and even more importantly in a left favored course.  While other skills in sailing are blended, starting is quite binary especially in any one race.  With good speed and 5 goods starts, the Argentinians who have proven their light air skills, were well clear of the rest of the fleet.  Their win in a small fleet at the 2015 Pan Am games was the first time this quadrennial Vicky and Sol have been on a huge roll recently and should considered among the top teams that can perform at the games.

Filling up the podium was Alex Maloney with Molly Meech (NZL) and Sarah Steyaert with Aude Compan (FRA) in second and third respectively.  These two teams combined to win the first three races of the regatta but each scored one result in the mid-teens and a couple results in the high single digits of the 20 boat fleet to claim the silverwear in a tightly bunched fleet behind the Argentinians.  Martine Grael with Kahena Kunze (BRA) were tied on points for third and were the second most consistent team except for their OCS in the 2nd race.  With all top 10’s in the races they sailing including finishing with a win Rio’s golden girls will be satisfied with the tune up regatta outcome.

The surprise of the South America’s must be the fifth place team from Chile, the Gumucio sisters.  They are by far the least experienced team in the fleet only beginning racing the 49erFX internationally in 2015.  They have great skills though and ended up slipping back to fifth from second based on a ninth in the final race.  Only 3 points out of the second, they could be a dark horse team to keep an eye on.

Overall however, a five race regatta should not be overstated in terms of what is to be expected in August.  That said, the Olympics regattas will likely be extremely high intensity for each race.  There won’t be 16-20 races like a world championship, it’s scheduled for 12 races and if the wind doesn’t cooperate it could easily by nine or less.  Each race will be critical and with a field of teams that have so many who can pull together a string of top races, just a few mistakes could make all the difference.

The 49er South American’s are up next with another two day championship.  Again, all the top teams are expected to compete and the forecast is again for light winds.  Stay tuned to 49er.org for updates or join our newsletter to get the inside story all the way to the games.

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