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Tokyo 2020: Burling & Tuke / Bekkering & Duetz jump into narrow leads

by 49er & Nacra 17 Sailing 31 Jul 2021 17:17 BST 28 July - 4 August 2021
Diego Botin and Lago Marra (ESP) mid gybe © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Fleet racing at its best is meant to challenge teams to race across a variety of conditions in order to discover who is best. A phrase uttered dozens of times at elite regattas, Burling and Tuke (NZL) win the day to move into the lead. They used every tool they possess in a day of racing as nailbiting, precise, and uncertain as sailing can be, and emerged with a 3, 6, 2.

"We always knew it was going to be a challenging day for us in those kind of conditions," said Tuke. "To come back with three low ones is pretty pleasing. It was a heck of a fight."

Unlike other regattas, however, the Kiwis are not free and clear, but rather tied on points with both Dylan Fletcher with Stuart Bithell (GBR) and Diego Botin with Iago Marra (ESP). The Spanish and British teams also had strong days, each with two good races and a drop race in the mid-teens to stay at the top of the table. This 49er regatta is shaping up to be a fantastic challenge, and the Worlds best are emerging.

Polish win their first race, battle for medal race

For a handful of teams like Poland, Austria, Croatia, the Netherlands, Australia, and more, their gold medal dreams are losing touch with reality as this regatta unfolds. Each of these teams is capable on their day of reaching the top of the table, but it does not seem like this regatta is going to be their chance.

For veterans like the Polish, have had long careers and overcome great challenges. Kolodzinski broke his leg almost exactly one year ago and faced a very challenging recovery. At times the ability for him to keep walking was under question, let alone continuing his Olympic path. But the team is here, and now aiming to move up the table as best they can with the few races which remain.

Irish perspective on disqualification

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove talk to us about how they are dealing with the double DSQ from day 3. It's easy to see how the pair have a bright future in skiff sailing. They talk about the work they do to check and double-check all of their equipment but maintain responsibility for their error. They also realize the big picture, which is their ability to compete with the very best in sailing on a challenging day is the more important takeaway from this Olympic regatta.

Four FX face-off for fantastic finish

Bekkering with Duetz (NED), Echegoyen with Betanzon (ESP), and Grael with Kunze (BRA) each handle the day, moving into the podium positions while Dobson and Tidey (GBR) stumble without falling from contention.

In just about the lightest conditions that can still be considered fair sailing, the 49erFX fleet saw a shuffle atop the standings. Teams like Argentina, Singapore, and Norway sailed at the front of the races, showcasing how different the regatta might have been if it hadn't started under such powerful conditions. The contenders each faced major challenges on the day, each dealing with them to varying degrees of success.

Grael with Kunze (BRA) overcame difficult starts all day long to score the fewest points of the leading group through a mix of shift finding on the right side of the course and downwind magic. They managed to win the first race by a fair margin and managed a huge comeback during the second race to move from deep in the fleet into sixth in the second race. It looked like their downwind sorcery would continue when they again were on the move in the third race but their final downwind failed them a bit to finish 11th.

It was a different day for the Dutch leaders, Annemiek Bekkering with Annette Duetz, who started brilliantly all day to sail into the overall lead. They could have faired even better had their pin-winning start in race one been rewarded. Instead, that became their worst race of the day, a twelfth, as the ride side came in hard up the first beat. They stuck with their plans, however, and scored a five, six to complete a very tricky day.

"We got good starts, the boat was going fast and we managed to find some good lanes in the tricky breeze. It's a different style of sailing from what we have done the last days in the big wind, and I think we adapted well."

In the last quadrennial, Echegoyen (ESP), then sailing with Berta Betanzos, might have had nightmares ahead of a critical light air day. That team's Achilles heel was the light, but with new teammate Paula Barcelo and a dedication to light air sailing, this 2012 Gold medalist had a fantastic day with a 13, 4, 5, to move into second place, only one point behind the leaders.

Speaking of nightmares, that's how the day went for overall leaders from the first two days, Charlotte Dobson with Saskia Tidey (GBR). Their previous run of all top six performances was interrupted by the light conditions, where they couldn't get off the line and seemed to get plenty of bad luck if they got any luck at all. They were frequently battling with the Brazilians on the right side of the course, but unlike the Brazilians could not make their gain stick finishing each of the three races in the mid-teens. Their regatta was saved by having sailed without a poor race over the first two days, so they did manage to discard their worst score, a 16th, but now sit one point outside of the medal positions with three races and a medal race remaining.

The provisional medal podium is made of the only two teams to win two 49erFX World Championships, and the other team is the Brazilians who have won just one World Championship but also Olympic gold.

Also struggling were the Danish pair of Nielsen and Olsen who had three races they'd prefer to forget and have fallen out of overall contention.

Naess and Ronningen (NOR) medalled at the European Championship in each of 2018, 2019, and 2020. Many thought they might break into the elite ranks of pinnacle championship victors here in Tokyo but the start of their regatta did not go well in the bigger conditions. Their 4, 10, 2 on the day moves them into 10th overall.

The best days were had by two teams known for their light air prowess. Travascio and Branz (ARG) had a 6, 1, 8 and looked confident all day long moving into eighth overall. Lim and Low (SGP), who are each optimist world champions, scored a 3, 2, 7 for low points on the day and move up to 13th.

Racing continues with the final three fleet races followed by the medal race. Follow along at the 49er Olympic page.The Nacra 17 fleet also continues its opening series. If you need to catch up on how tight that fleet is, here's a primer.

Gimson and Burnet Clash with Tita and Banti in potential fight for the ages

Despite the ten-deep fleet of contenders for the Nacra 17 title, two teams are rising to the occasion so far in Enoshima. Gimson and Burnet (GBR) scored a 1, 1, 2 on day two, answering back to Tita and Banti (ITA) 1, 3, 1 on day one. Together, these two teams have won five of the six races, and if the sixth race is any indication of what is to come, this could become the best rivalry in sailing since Ainslie and Scheidt.

The British and Italian teams stayed within 100 meters of each other almost the entire race six, only separating at the start or while taking separate gates. Over that time there were four lead changes between the two.

Up the first beat, they both played the middle of the course, with the British staying slightly ahead. All of the Nacra 17 contenders were in the front row upwind, with teams both right and left. At the first mark lay line the Italians tacked slightly underneath the British, and held that lane to round forth.

They found some magic on the reach and hoist, surging into the lead only to find the British had done similarly and were hot on their tail. Around the leeward marks, the teams split directions, with the British tacking soon after their rounding to cover the Italians going left. When they came back together, it was the British with a slight advantage and they lee bowed the Italians for the long port tack back to the windward mark.

While the two held relatively high lanes, the chasing group of Denmark, Argentina, and Spain pulled closer to the top pair, so that they were all within 15 seconds of each other by the top of the beat. At the lay line, the British tacked and this time the Italians ducked slightly to tack outside them and follow them into the windward mark.

Tita and Banti (ITA) get straight into the downwind.

Again on the reach and set, the Italians surged lower while the British stumbled on their hoist. The Italians went clear ahead for a few moments, but then the British got their downwind mojo established and rolled the Italians to retake the lead. The Italians were forced to gybe away and got a puff with a header soon after and were sailing a very low angle, at some points up to 3 knots faster than the British, who had subsequently gybed back to head toward the finish line. Again the Italians pulled into the lead, but the British slowly clawed back as the two boats surged through similar sets of puff.

The Italians gybed to get to the finish, and were slightly ahead, the Brits gybed on top of them, looking to steal their win once more. For a few moments they did retake the virtual lead, but the Brits were above the pin finish lay line, and had to bear away for the last 50 meters to a slower point of sail, unable to stop the Italians surging through the finish for a victory by two seconds.

Of course, you'll have to take my word that the above ever happened... it appears there wasn't a single lens to capture the moment... just the GPS tracker... gotta love multiclass regattas.

Behind the leading pair boats sit Germany, Argentina, Australia, Spain, France, Denmark Austria. All of these teams have shown regatta winning form in recent years, and any slip up from the leading duo will be swallowed up. So far the conditions have been punchy, with fully powered winds and plenty of waves. If the conditions change, we may see a change in form at the top.

There was a scheduled layday for the fleet before the second half of the regatta continues now. Stay up to date with photos, results, social, schedule and more via the Nacra 17 Olympic Page.

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