Wilkinson and Dawson enjoying the foiling.

Wilkinson and Dawson enjoying the foiling.

Europeans from Aarhus, Nacra Re-Sets as Teams Explore Full Flight


08/07/2022 - 07:52

A 12th at the Tokyo Olympics was not a dream result for Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (NZL). Yes, Dawson was nursing a massive injury. But the shift to a fully foiling Nacra 17 in 2022 interestingly fit beautifully into their skills sets from other full flight campaigns (SailGP, Moth, Flying Phantom). And today, at the European Championships they sit alone in second, comfortable, smiling and wearing their new adjustable rudders like a light, quick, pair of running shoes.

As the fleet explores different modes and how to use upwind foiling for different strategies and tactics at this week’s European Championships, it’s obvious the top 10 is learning and progressing together as the double digits slowly begin to fade from the scorelines. Tita/Banti (ITA) are the only exceptions, clear of the Kiwis by an astounding 28 points, sailing in rarified air.

“I think we both really enjoy the foiling,” said Wilkinson who won Red Bull’s Foiling Generation six years ago in Flying Phantoms. Dawson dug deeper and said, “With the new rudder [differential] system, it feels like a new boat. And it’s all about who can learn the quickest.”

Though the Kiwis are strong this week, there is an ultra-tight pack behind them that ranges from previous world championship and Olympic medal winners, to some who struggled in the previous quad and who are now maturing and maybe relating better to fully foiling. 

Jarudd/Jonsson (SWE), in their second Olympic campaign, are happily moving along their progression and are in 4th today with a 3, 5, 4 and have shown a podium-worthy consistency. Though Jarudd is “frother” and cross trains on an and every foiling craft he can find, it’s communication that has allowed he and Jonsson to open new performance doors on the course this week.

“Hannah and I have a real good back and forth on the moding,” said Jarudd. “We had a long discussion after Kiel in how to structure who does what in the talking in the tactics and strategy and we’re trying to keep to the process.”

That “process” is one all the teams this week are trying to master to exploit the new Nacra configuration. “The race course opens up a little more,” said Jarudd after sailing today. “You have to do the same amount of tacks as before but now you can position yourself better with foiling and non-foiling.

The team attributes their ability this week to execute their strategies to coach Jez Fanstone’s influence. “He brings a wealth of experience and calm,” said Jarudd.

This European championship is identifying one clear data point on the road to Paris 2024: Tita/Banti (ITA) have another gear.

Here are the facts. Tita was 14th at his first games, Rio in the 49er. He grew as a sailor heading into the Nacra and with a partially foiling class, crushed it in Tokyo, but it was nip and tuck with teammates Bissaro/Frascari for Olympic team selection as the two exchanged world championship titles. Now that the boats are fully flying, it just makes sense to Ruggi and Caterina, and with a 2, 1, 2 in even in a whacky breeze that fluctuated all day.

Now at the half way point in the championship, the scores are showing a deeper competition than the Nacra fleet might have been used to in the previous quad, with more teams taking low scores, but few keeping consistent.

Grael and Kunze (BRA) setting up for a bearaway

Tough Split for 49er and Grael/Kunze Approach Familiar Territory Near Top of FX

It almost seems inevitable. No matter what the beginning of a race or regatta looks like, Grael/Kunz (BRA) will find a way to the top. If history is any indication, it's going to be an exciting Gold Fleet to watch since the Brazilian pair have worked their way through the fleet to end today in second overall, posting a 9, 3, 1. The double Olympic gold medalists have an uncanny ability to find their way out of trouble, and make some memorable comebacks.

As both 49er FX and 49er fleets at the European Championships reveal dominant leaders, Bobeck/Netzler (SWE) and Lambriex/Werken (NED) respectively, it was the Gold Fleet split today (25th place cutoff) that had some teams focused on survival.

The 49er Italian team of Anessi Pe/Gamba won a tie breaker to edge out countrymen Crivelli/Visconti for the last Gold Fleet spot. The top of the fleet, however, seemed to stabilize on this final qualifying day with Lambriex/Werken (NED) letting Peters/Sterritt (GBR) move within one point and the Fantella brothers of Croatia still banging out top ten finishes to sit in third.

A massive shift to the East disrupted the local weather pattern for the afternoon 49er fleets which saw flatter conditions but big gusts and lulls. First, a downwind leg in race two of the day saw a 90-degree shift and in the final race on course A, a building left breeze and another shift launched Moffat/Bonin (CAN) into an unassailable lead. Though they were already locked into the silver fleet in 35th position, the pair nailed their last jibe to the finish with huge smiles. "It was the easiest race of our lives," the said.

 In the FX race to see who made it to Gold Fleet, Hofman/Bartelheimer (GER), 25th, were the last to be let in after today's provisional results with four teams within three points who just missed out.

 Today in the FX fleet, the Brazilians weren't the only ones making a march towards the top. The clouds opened up and the annoying chop of yesterday diminished leaving a still-shifty 12-15-knot westerly that was just perfect for Steyaert/Picon (FRA) who posted two bullets before stumbling with a 15th in the third. race of the day. Now climbing to fifth, the new pair are showing they are contenders at the top of the fleet.

 Though the Americans Roble/Shea have been holding strong all week, sitting in third, the French and current world champ Odile van Aanholt sailing with Tokyo silver medalist Annette Duetz have joined the party in the top five, the Dutch ending the day with a 1, 3 in their fleet.

 This championship has been a coming out party for new teams after a break following last summer's Games. Multiple Olympian FX crew Saskia Clark has been putting together more single digit finishes with Freya Black and have easily made the Gold Fleet cut.

 The Swedish leaders Bobeck/Netzler, another new team, are proving that "switching things up" on a national team could be just the right thing to do in finding perfect team chemistry. Bobeck's crew was sailing with Netzler's skipper in the previous Olympic quadrennium. Now together, they may be saying, "Where have you been!"

 Tough Fleet

The FX fleet is now one of the deepest there has ever been in women's sailing. Four teams have gold medalists in their pairings, lead by Grael/Kunze as back to back champions. Additionally, Tamara Echegoyen (ESP), Charline Picon (FRA), and Jo Aleh (NZL) all hang gold around their necks, and would all love to find more. All of these teams sailed safely into the top 25, earning a chance for gold fleet racing.

Swan One Design Worlds reach the mid-way point
Great conditions welcome the 51-boat fleet in Copenhagen, Denmark