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Lanzarote ready to test top Olympians

by Lanzarote International Regatta 10 Feb 07:06 GMT 9-17 February 2023
Lanzarote International Regatta © Lanzarote Sailing Center

More than 360 of the world's best sailors are ready to compete at the Lanzarote International Regatta, which takes place in the south of the Canary Island from 9 to 17 February.

Only in its third year, Lanzarote International Regatta is rapidly establishing itself as one of the 'must go' events on the Olympic sailing circuit, with 39 nations represented this week. Following swiftly on from the recent Lanzarote iQFOil Games, the Lanzarote International Regatta has brought together a world-class group of race officials to run the event for six Olympic disciplines: 49er, 49erFX, 470 Mixed, iQFOil Women and Men and Nacra 17 catamaran.

The regatta is divided into two halves. The first classes to compete will be 470 Mixed, 49er and 49erFX, with competition taking place from 10 to 13 February. Then the iQFOil and Nacra 17 fleet will race from 14 to 17 February.

470 Mixed

Pretty much all the big names from the 470 Mixed class are in Lanzarote. Although the 470 has been in the Olympic line-up since 1976, it's still early days since men and women combined into one boat to race as 470 Mixed. The jury is still out on which helm/crew combination is best: female/male or male/female.

Even though it's a long established class, techniques are still developing in the 470 as the crews work out the best way to work the boat through the waves. Luise Wanser & Philipp Autenrieth (GER) dominated the 470 World Championships three months ago in Israel and will start as favourites. However there are plenty of teams who can threaten the Germans, including some of their own teammates such as the husband and wife duo, Malte & Anastasiya Winkel (GER).

Others to watch include the Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallist Anton Dahlberg (SWE) who with new crew Lovisa Karlsson won last season's European Championships in Turkey, and a strong contingent of Spanish sailors led by 2020 Olympic bronze medallist Jordi Xammar.

The acknowledged master of high-speed downwind 470 sailing in waves, Xammar and his crew Nora Brugman could be a formidable force if Lanzarote delivers on its big-wave potential. Xammar & Brugman took silver medals at last year's Europeans and Worlds, while the world championship bronze medallists Camille Lecointre & Jeremie Mion (FRA) are another experienced team who will be fighting hard for the top of the podium.

Wanser has enjoyed her time training with Autenrieth in Lanzarote over the past two months. "It's my second time here in Marina Rubicon and it's just so much fun here. I mean, I'm from Hamburg and it's freezing there right now! Here we're in warm, sunny conditions and sometimes we're sailing among dolphins, it's incredible. I had the choice I'd stay here, but of course we have other regattas to go to on the circuit."

Autenrieth added: "Lanzarote is just a beautiful place for sailing. Of course we work hard and the training days are long, but to be surrounded by dolphins and sea turtles is a very nice distraction that keeps you motivated and excited to keep on doing what we do."

49er Men

Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken (NED) have won the past two 49er World Championships, making the Dutch duo the favourites this week in Lanzarote. However, last year's World Championship silver medallists Diego Botín and Florian Trittel (ESP) have done a lot of training on these waters which could prove an advantage to the Spaniards. Plenty of others to pick out from a strong line-up in the men's skiff including the 2018 49er World Champions, the speedy siblings from Croatia, Sime and Mihovil Fantela (CRO).

While the form book suggests the Dutch are the team to beat, van der Werken doesn't see it that way. "It's a few months since we won the Worlds in Canada and everyone has been training hard," he said. "You're only as good as you are in the moment and we still have plenty of things we need to improve on."

The double World Champions love to start on port tack when the opportunity offers itself, but this week they want to try something different. "We want to work on our mid-line starting and see how we can do from there. It's an important skill for us to add to our toolbox, to be more complete sailors in every kind of sailing condition.

"People think of Lanzarote as only strong winds, but actually you can everything - flat water, swell, light winds, strong wind. A lot of different conditions and beautiful wildlife as well. You see turtles, flying fish, there are so many beautiful things around you all the time."

49erFX Women

Like her boyfriend in the 49er, Bart Lambriex, Odile van Aanholt (NED) has also won the past two World Championships in the women's skiff, the 49erFX. Together with her experienced crew Annette Duetz (Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallist), van Aanholt is shaping up to be the favourite for Olympic gold at Paris 2024 less than a year and a half from now. However, the winners of the past two Olympic Games, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) remain a serious force in FX competition and have a lot of experience training and racing in Lanzarote, one of their favourite sailing venues.

Silver medallists at last year's World Championship, Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler (SWE), continue to get faster and are always dangerous in strong winds. An interesting late entry comes from Spain's own Tamara Echegoyen (ESP) who is campaigning the 49erFX alongside her commitment to racing around the world in The Ocean Race as part of the rotating crew for Guyot environnement-Team Europe. The London 2012 Olympic gold medallist in women's match racing and double 49erFX World Champion is competing with stand-in crew José Costa this week in Lanzarote.

How Lockdown put Lanzarote on the map

Up until a few years ago, Lanzarote was fairly well kept secret as a great training ground for Spanish sailors and a few well informed international competitors. How things have changed in the past three years, as Rafael Lasso, CEO of Marina Rubicón, explained: "During lockdown in Europe when a lot of regattas were being cancelled, we put up our hand and said 'we're ready to host some regattas!' So we organised our first Lanzarote International Regatta in February 2021 which was already a success.

"People from different countries started to realise what an amazing venue we have, not just for training, but for championship racing. The 2022 edition was difficult when the Omicron strain of Covid was breaking out, but we still made it happen. And now this year, 2023, we have our biggest entry yet and we're excited to have brought together a group of world-class race officials to put on the highest quality competition for the world's best Olympic sailors." In early 2024 Marina Rubicón will host the iQFOiL Worlds and the 49er & 49erFX Worlds.

Entry list available here.

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