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Brave New World at the Nacra 17 Worlds

by Andi Robertson on 4 Sep 4-10 September 2017
Practice ahead of the Nacra 17 Worlds © YCGM

The Nacra 17 class steps into a brave new world Tuesday as the first world championship for the mixed sex Olympic catamaran in its new 'flying' foiling configuration starts on the Mediterranean's Baie d'Aigues Mortes off La Grande Motte in the south of France.

The European Championship for the class in Kiel, Germany in late July was the first event to be contested in foiling mode as also was the subsequent 2018Sailing World Championships Aarhus Test Event, but this world championship will be the first of the new 2020 Olympic quadrennial to welcome the return of all three Rio Olympic medallists, set to compete amongst an exciting fleet of established, returning Olympians and triallists and an emerging young generation of under 25 sailors already armed with fast foiling experience.

Argentina's Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli, the gold medallists will race again for the first time since their emotional, dream gold medal victory in Rio, Australia's Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin the silver medallists are racing in La Grande Motte as is Austria's bronze medal winner Thomas Zajac who is in a new partnership with Barbara Matz.

Looking Forward

Lange, 56, is looking towards selection for an incredible seventh Olympic Games and relishes the prospect of racing against the emerging new 'foiling generation', even if he and 'Ceci' are short on training time in foiling mode, their time since they received their boat curtailed by an injury to crew Carrannza Saroli.

"For us it is nice to be back in the boat and sailing together, to be back sailing with Ceci is special as this is our first regatta back after the Games. So we are here to look forward." enthused Lange in La Grande Motte today after the official practice race. "We wanted to train harder but Ceci got injured and so we had to stop for 25 days. But we have been working hard to catch up. This is a bloody difficult boat to learn. Downwind we cannot handle the boat very well yet. The Italians have shown well so far. We are happy with our upwind sailing but downwind we have a lot to learn. We will see."

World Sailor of the Year Lange, who added gold to his two bronze medals in Rio, is up for the challenge ahead, but is sanguine and objective: " The challenge of this class is that the foiling world really is in flat water but the Olympic world is in open seas, so that is a challenge for the sport and for this initiative and as sailors we need to learn how to handle it. What might end up seeing is that we don't foil (because racing on open water). That is the way it is. The debate as to whether this is a good boat or not is history. Now we as sailors have to deal with learning this boat as quick as we can."

"One of my big motivations to sail against these young guys. There are some very talented sailors coming in. I hope we see them getting to the top quickly. This is a very different world championship. For us we want to win here, that comes with being racers, but we are here to learn, to be cautious. We don't want to get injured. In my case an injury could be the end of my story, so we will be cautious."

Transition Time

This transition time world championship features a very diverse range of ages and experience. Italy's recently crowned European champions Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti won in Kiel with youth, foiling and fast skiff sailing among their armoury. Tita, 25, is a former 49er helm who went to Rio for Italy and finished 14th but he is also a kite surfer and Moth sailor who embraces high speed sailing.

The Italian pair took the time to rest today rather than compete in the Practice Race, but coach Gabriele Bruni explained, "I think they can finish in the top eight here. They have trained a lot on Garda since the Europeans and here since August 25th. He is very used to sailing fast boats and he likes these boats. I think his main characteristic is that he likes speed. This boat is a little bit of the old one with some new things. But the overall characteristic is that it is for people who are not afraid, who don't think too much, who don't hesitate too much."

"In Kiel I think we did well at the Europeans because he understood better than most the concept of foiling in these boats. At that time it was only ten days after we got the boats."

Among the other favourites are Italy's Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari, Britain's Ben Saxton and Katie Dabson third in Kiel, New Zealand's Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders fourth in Rio, the French Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet and both Spanish teams Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco who were second at the Europeans and Iker Martinez now racing with Olga Maslivets. formerly a top RS:X sailor who finished fourth in 2012 in Weymouth racing for Russia.

But there are a crop of emerging young sailors such as the Danish pair Lin Ea Christiansen, 22 and Christian Peter Lubeck 25, New Zealand's Olivia Mackay, 21, and Micah Wilkison were outright winners of the Red Bull Foiling Generation initiative and Team GBs 2012 Youth World Champion Rupert White, 23, grandson of 1976 Olympic gold medallist Reg White and son of double Tornado world champion Rob sails with Kirstie Urwin and under the French flag, Tim Mourniac races with Amélie Riou.

Young Kiwi hope Olivia Mackay said, "We only got our boat three days ago and so we are just trying get as comfortable as we can and learn as much as we can from the guys who have been sailing theirs for a few months. We are going back to New Zealand for the winter and we just want to go home with as much knowledge as we can. We have done quite a lot of phantom sailing and so it is a bit similar but it is much more chaotic on the start line with 50 boats. We are learning what rules people want in place the next three years, learning the crew loads and how people want to run this style of racing. We are all just getting a feel for it. There are a lot of new people I have never seen here. The whole foiling aspect of the America's Cup is really appealing to young sailors."

Sixty crews are competing representing 25 different countries, eleven will sail in a non foiling division. There are two race areas. Three days of qualifying racing is followed by two days of fleet racing with a final Medal race Sunday.

The entry list can be found here.

Programme:

  • Tuesday 5 - Thursday 7 September
    10h55: Qualifying races
  • Friday 8 - Saturday 9 September
    10h55: Fleet races
  • Sunday 10 September
    09: 55: Fleet races
    13h55: Medal Race

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