by: Katy Nastro
Clearwater, FL. Day four of the Nacra 17 World Championship went off without a hitch. The less than stellar wintery weather that Clearwater has produced has now subsided, and finally the sailors were able to sail in nearly perfect conditions out on the Gulf of Mexico.
The fleet was sent out just before noon in a varying 8-12knot breeze, and was back to the beach by 4:30pm. The fast and furious French team of Billy Besson and Marie Riou had a consistent performance throughout the four races that were held. Both of them felt satisfied, and pleasantly happy with the point spread they are currently sitting in. As it stands the French pair sit in first by a staggering 53 points [pending other changes in scores from other teams sitting behind them.
The long day in the Floridian sun didn't seem to phase the three time Nacra 17 World Champion, Billy Besson who came out to win the first race of the day. Marie notes, "We are really happy with our performance thus far, especially after three long days." Their worst performance of the day was an 11th in the second race in which they had a situation with the Swiss team costing them quite a few places after rectifying their mistake. "We lost a lot of places after the first upwind in that race, but we came back and back, ending eleventh, so to us it wasn't really a bad race." The pair is confident they will be able to tackle any other type of condition Clearwater will throw at them over the course of the final two days.
The closest boat currently chasing after the French team is the venerable Italian team Vittorio Bisssaro and Silvia Sicouri. The former World Cup champions haven't had the most impressive scores on the board, but they have kept a consistency needed to take control of second place. Interestingly though, Vittorio and Silvia found they may have had a collision with an unidentified object while out on the race course. No marker or mammal was seen by either of the sailors, but they went from about 20 knots to a dead stop, costing them a 2nd, dropping back 6 places to 8th for the second race of the day.
"I don't know what happened, we just hit something under the water. We asked around and they suggested it might have been a turtle, or something like that," a shocked Vittorio said while meticulously checking over his hulls.
Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, who recently took second on the podium during the 2015 Worlds in Arhus, Denmark, are tentatively sitting in third, but very likely will jump ahead of Bissaro/Sicouri due to a scoring error by the Race Committee. The OCS they bare on results is being protested by Waterhouse/Darmanin with video footage of their boat going back to amend their early intentions. Really consistent top ten finishes during the first three races, with two of their scores being back to back bullets. They did, however, feel a bit of pain on the final race of the day falling way back into 22nd after a layline error pushed by Waterhouse.
"We just sort of got a bit complacent, and we prioritized the left lane as it was really important for the whole day up until the last race. We had a good start, but I just made an error on the layline and it was really expensive obviously. Like yeah, not a good way to end the day but it will probably be our throw out, for sure," said Jason with upbeat demeanor, and even laughed when he heard his finish was a 22nd. "Wasn't as bad as I thought, I guess! We were lookin' really bad there for awhile."
Jason's upbeat attitude even applies to the regatta as a whole, where some might be in opposition regarding conditions, Jason feels Clearwater is a wonderful place due to its ability to challenge sailors with all conditions. "Big waves, big chop, lots of different sea state, it's been a really good regatta to find out who the best sailor is."
Just six points behind the young Australian team is former Tornado veteran Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank of Austria. Zajac noted how much of a drag race the first leg always felt like and kept this in mind when preparing to start. Getting off the line cleanly and making gains downwind in the slight swell we saw today was how Zajac and Frank managed to stay more times than not with the top pack. The former Tornado sailor is looking forward to his debut in the Nacra 17 with his female counterpart Tanja. Two years ago this team was hardly ever seen far from the top five, yet with mounting double digit finishes, they are trying to get their groove back.
This past 2016 World Cup, the pair took home a 7th, and now sitting comfortably in fourth, they may have found the secret sauce.
"For us its important to find out the good material to stay competitive with the good guys, and yeah, we are happy where we are and hope to get a little bit better so we can be on/near the podium come August." Thomas is looking forward to competing with a female counterpart in the Rio 2016 games, in which this will be the maiden voyage for the Nacra class. "It's a more modern class, new vs. old school comparing the tornado and Nacra. And, the biggest difference would probably be - you sail with a girl!"
Rounding out the top five is Allan Norregaard and Annette Viborg Andreasen of Denmark. The long, sun filled day didn't seem to bother either these stable minded sailors as they sailed their own races, and were able to keep top ten after their initial eleventh to begin the day's set.
This 2016 World Championship for the Nacra class is operating on all cylinders and the sailors couldn't be keener to take on the varying conditions that come their way. Three races scheduled for tomorrow to end the qualifying round, and before we know it, Sunday's medal race will be upon us.
For more information, high resolution photos and interviews please contact Gunnar Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +31 (0)6 533 55 806
Photo credits: Laurens Morel