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49er & 49er FX Europeans & Nacra 17 Worlds at La Grande Motte, France - Day 4

by 49er and Nacra 17 Sailing 10 May 19:12 BST 7-12 May 2024

Uruguay surges to the top of the 49ers

Uruguay has never qualified a 49er to the Olympic Games. In fact across the whole history of the modern Olympics the South American nation has just won 10 medals, none yet in sailing.

So when Uruguay's Hernan Umpierre and Fernando Diz go out and score 1,1,4 from the first three races of gold fleet competition at the European Championship in La Grande Motte, this is a big deal for an ambitious team from a small sailing nation.

Feeling fast and comfortable in Friday's light-air conditions, 49er URU 14 now moves to the top of the leaderboard, on equal points with the previous leaders but with a better tiebreak than James Peters and Fynn Sterritt of Great Britain who now sit in second. Five points behind in third are the Kiwis Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie.

If Umpierre and Diz were ecstatic about today's barnstorming performance, they weren't putting any of that emotion on display. "We just keep pushing, day by day, race by race," said Diz. "We have about three months to the Games and we keep working every day between now and then," added Umpierre. "Uruguay has never won a medal in the 49er, not even in sailing, and that would be amazing [if we could achieve that]. But we still keep pushing, in the racing and in the training."

FX Women: French fizzing to the top

Two races in the 49erFX gold fleet worked nicely for France's Sarah Steyaert and Charline Picon who worked their way through the fleet and into the overall lead with scores of 6,2. "Going fast, good communication on board, an enjoyable day," beamed the ever-smiling Steyaert, soaking up every opportunity to race in a big fleet at the Europeans, the last big regatta before the Olympic competition in Marseille. "We will be training hard with our French teammates at some training camps, but it's good to race against the international fleet to make sure we have the speed."

For Picon, she has put her next dream temporarily on hold until the Games is done, and hopefully another medal won to go with the Olympic gold she won on a windsurfer at Rio 2016. "I have a big project for after the Games," she explained. "I want to go to the Pacific with my new baby, a big catamaran. I want to go with my family, my daughter, and my husband to spend a lot of time with them because for the past 10 years I have been at home maybe just 50 per cent of the time.

"So I need to open my mind to new adventure after the Games. I have the chance to sleep on the boat in La Grande Motte every night, and for the races my family is watching us from the boat." For Steyaert she will return to her job as a primary school teacher after the Games, although she too plans to go ocean cruising with her family a year or two from now.

Behind the French are the ever-consistent Belgians Isaura Maenhaut and Anouk Geurts who won the last race of the light-airs afternoon. In third it's the Canadian sisters, Georgia and Antonia Lewin-LaFrance.

Nacra 17 Worlds: Not just a pretty face

If John Gimson and Anna Burnet continue to win races in the Nacra 17 World Championship, perhaps we'll see a flurry of new face fluff appearing on other Nacra sailors' faces. The British helmsman is sporting the start of a new moustache which he says is there for aesthetic purposes but could be proving helpful in sniffing out the light airs on a tricky day on the Mediterranean.

After notching up scores of 1,5,1 in the opening day of gold fleet finals the British team has closed the gap to 5 points behind week-long leaders Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti from Italy. They won the other race while the rest of the Nacra fleet struggled to match the consistency of the front two.

Best of the rest are the other strong Italians, Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubelei, in third place. Two good races and one bad one put Ida Svensson and Marcus Dackhammar in fourth overall, three places in front of their rivals for Swedish Olympic selection, Emil Järudd and Hanna Jonsson. However Svensson and Dackhammar have been behind their rivals at other key events this season, so they need to keep up the pressure and aim for a podium place to be able to make a strong case to the Swedish selectors.

With more light airs on the cards, the organisers will be hoping that the Mediterranean sunshine will bring more sea breeze to get races complete. Saturday is the last full day of gold fleet racing before a final gold fleet race on Sunday morning leading into the 10-boat medal races in La Grande Motte.

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