Fletcher and Sign into the lead
For anyone aspiring to win the Seiko 49er and 49erFX World Championships in Marseille, day 2 was a critical hurdle. For the 97 men’s teams from 28 countries, it was all about making the cut for the top 40. Tomorrow the top 40 will re-order into two groups of 20, while for those that didn’t make it through, they still have a slim but fading chance of making it back into the final stages.
Today’s highest profile casualty was the German team of Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel, 7th at last year’s Worlds, but sitting in 43rd place, a single agonising point away from scraping into the top 40. A black flag disqualification for the Germans yesterday was compounded by a
collision with Polish team Lukasz Przybytek and Pawel Kolodzinski, resulting in a capsize for the Poles and a setback for both teams. If Heil was having a nightmare, his girlfriend Victoria Jurczok had a dream day in the 49erFX fleet, moving into the overall lead with crew Anika Lorenz after scoring 2nd in their heat.
It was another light airs day with crews single-trapezing in 4 to 8 knots of breeze on a hot sunny day on the Mediterranean. Jurczok and Lorenz are living up to their billing as one of the favourites if the breeze continues to stay light, and displaced the Singapore team Griselda Khng and Sara Tan from the top of the leaderboard, although only by a point. Dutch team Nina Keijzer and Annette Duetz sit in third place overall. Race wins for Germany’s Leonie Meyer and Maren Hahlbrock and Australia’s Olivia Price and Caitlin Elks move these teams within striking distance of the top 10 in this 53-boat fleet.
With nine nations in the top 10 of the FX fleet, only the Danes have two crew in the top group. The surprise is that European Champions Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen aren’t one of them. After hitting the windward mark and taking a penalty turn yesterday put them in 26th overall, the much fancied Danish crew at least scored a 5th place to move up to 17th overall. “We only made one small mistake - that penalty yesterday - which cost us a lot,” said Nielsen. “But today was much better. We like all kinds of weather, a good mix of everything would be good. We have been practising in light winds so we are ready.”
In the men’s racing, after the dominance of individual teams winning both of yesterday’s races, the winning was much more evenly distributed around the fleet. Gonzalo Pollitzer and Federico Villambrosa won a race today, moving the Argentineans up to 6th overall. Last year’s Olympic representatives for France, Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis, move up to 10th overall with their race win, while a bullet for Yukio Makino and Kenji Takahashi puts them in 18th overall.
Holding on to their lead are Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, who won another race to add to their two bullets from day one.
While the game in Marseille has mostly about getting a good start and holding a lane out to the left-hand side, the European Champions made their committee boat-start tactics work well for them. “A tricky first race, where we weren’t quite on the ball,” said Sign. “But the second race we upped our game. We started on the committee boat end and tried to roll a few boats to get out to the left. We were keen to lead the boats out on that side, and we managed to win that one. Then that last one we had an entertaining start. One of the Swedish guys snapped our tiller extension just as we were starting, but we managed to fix that and found a few shifts and gusts and got back up to 3rd in that one.”
Sitting in 2nd place is the 2008 Olympic Champion Jonas Warrer with crew Peter Lang from Denmark, while in 3rd and 4th on equal points are two Kiwi teams, Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski sitting level with Olympic silver medallists Pete Burling and Blair Tuke. “A nice solid day, getting a 4,3,1,” said Tuke. “We got off the start line a bit better and the boat’s going well. Still early days but working out well for us.”
Reigning Olympic and World Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen sailed a solid but unspectacular day to sit in 8th overall.
More light winds are expected for tomorrow as the women continue their FX battle and the men move into 49er Qualifying Round 2.