Exciting conditions bring out the best in top sailors at the Nacra 17 Worlds.
Allan Norregaard and Anette Viborg Andreasen rocketed up to second place overall in the Nacra 17 World Championships, the Danish duo showing a rare mastery of the demanding conditions on the turbulent waters of Clearwater Beach, Florida.
The top two French teams managed to put the stress of a measurement protest behind them last night when the French were accused of having illegally adjusted the daggerboard cases that hold the curved foils that help lift the boat out of the water at high speed. Small changes in the angle of attack of these foils can make a big difference to performance, so this part of the boat is millimetre-critical. To the relief of the two French teams, the International Jury found in their favour and they bounced back with an impressive performance on the water.
Vaireaux seemed unfazed by the protest, speaking after racing today. "It was OK, it can happen, we do a mechanical sport. It is part of the game and we know we did nothing wrong, so it was good to come back [with a good performance today]. Billy and Marie are three-time World Champions, so everyone is looking at them, and we train together with them. People are asking questions, but we didn't do anything wrong. It's the game, it's sailing, we have to go through that."
Even in the bright Florida sunshine, sailors were shivering as they came ashore. "I only brought my summer wetsuit," smiled Vaireaux, trying to warm up in the afternoon sunshine. "But today's conditions were good for us, we like the big waves and big wind. It was really shifty during the races but we made good decisions. Upwind it was about choosing your moment to tack in the wind shifts."
Other sailors that showed bursts of pace in the big breeze included the Italians, Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri, who won the last race of the day, and Tom Phipps and Nicola Boniface from Great Britain who won the second race of the day, even if they didn't know it at the time. "It was very close at the finish, and we thought the Argentineans crossed the line before us," said Boniface, grinning after her first ever race win in a World Championship. "Always good to win a race, makes you smile!" The winning strategy was simple enough. "We went fast in the right direction and protected on the other boats. Today was quite a lot about boatspeed, if you went fast and got around the course safely you were going to do pretty well."
The Argentineans they just pipped to the post were Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli. Lange, sitting in 15th overall, was not happy with his day, although at least the 54-year-old Olympic medallist has secured his place at Rio 2016 where he will represent Argentina for the sixth time at an Olympic Games. "Today's conditions were very difficult for us, we are not well practised and we suffered with lack of speed and a couple of mistakes. But it's good to be here, and with my sons here as well." His sons, Yago and Klaus Lange, are racing at the 49er World Championship also taking place in Clearwater, and they too have qualified to represent Argentina at Rio 2016.
After four big races, the fleet is looking forward to some recuperation time this evening, to warm up and to refuel. "We've burned more calories than we can consume," said Germany's top Nacra 17 sailor, Paul Kohlhoff. "Today was really challenging, very big waves, but tomorrow looks like it's going to be much lighter winds."
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Photo credits: Laurens Morel