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

by 49er and Nacra 17 Sailing 12 May 19:51 BST 7-12 May 2024

Victories for Italy, Belgium, Uruguay and Great Britain

Italian foiling stars Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti have won their fourth Nacra 17 world title in La Grande Motte, France. It was also a great day for first-time winners of a major championship for teams from Uruguay and Belgium in the 49er and 49erFX European Championships.

After winning their first world title in Denmark back in 2018, the reigning Olympic Champions have won three back to back Nacra 17 world titles: Canada 2022, the Netherlands 2023 and now France 2024. It bodes well for the Italians' defence of the Olympic title in Marseille just over two months from now.

"Finally we reach Billy's number," smiled Tita holding four fingers aloft, referring to the four Nacra 17 world titles achieved by French team Billy Besson and Marie Riou almost a decade ago. "Winning here is an important step to make sure we are prepared for the Games. We are pretty happy because we worked out a few things in the light stuff. We didn't think we were going to have any light wind this week, but surprisingly, we had three days of the light and we performed pretty good."

In the first two days of windy weather, Tita and Banti displayed their extra gear of speed in full-foiling conditions. That has always been their strong suit, but it will concern their opponents that now the Italians appear to have better wheels in the light too. There are no chinks in the armour. The developments and improvements just keep on coming. "Things are always moving in the Nacra, you never stop," said Tita. "That's what makes the Nacra fun, in my opinion."

Winning the Worlds is a major milestone in what could prove to be an extraordinary year for the determined Italian who hopes to win another Olympic gold and a few weeks later help Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli bring the America's Cup to Italy for the first time in its 172-year history. "It's going to be super important, this double duty. I'm pretty sure on one side we have a good chance to win a medal. And on the other we have a very good chance to win the Cup with Luna Rossa.

"We have a fantastic boat, the design team did a super good job with our AC75. Now the boat is in our hands and it's up to us, the sailors, to make the difference. I really think we have a very good chance this time."

The crew from Argentina, Mateo Majdalani and Eugenia Bosco, won the Nacra 17 medal race in light winds on Sunday afternoon, very nearly getting on to the podium. But the silver went to John Gimson and Anna Burnet of Great Britain, and Italy's other fast team Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei just held on for the bronze.

This was also the end of the Olympic selection trials for Sweden, although the two crews - Emil Jarudd/ Hanna Jonsson and Ida Svensson/ Marcus Dackhammar - will have to wait another 48 hours to find out who gets the ticket to Paris 2024.

49erFX Europeans: Belgium win first major title

Isaura Maenhaut and Anouk Geurts didn't sail a great medal race but the Belgians had built up a sufficient buffer that it didn't matter. Crossing the finish line in last place, it wasn't long before Belgian celebrations started. Maenhaut and Geurts have won the first major title of their career at just the right time before the Olympic Games.

"We're so happy and we want to thank everyone back home, especially our mothers," said Maenhaut, "because it's Mother's Day!" Sarah Steyaert and Charline Picon were very popular local winners of the silver medal for France, and Great Britain's Freya Black and Saskia Tidey were delighted to take the bronze.

49er Europeans: Uruguay win overall and Great Britain are top Europeans

Hernan Umpierre and Fernando Diz made a strong start to the medal race and led around the first mark. But the Uruguayans misjudged the downwind leg and fell back to seventh at the bottom of the course. The doubts were beginning to creep in, but the South Americans had built up a strong buffer over the previous days and crossed the finish line in seventh to take the gold medal.

It's a major achievement for the duo, and believed to be the first time that Uruguay has ever taken the top step of the podium in any major international championship of an Olympic class.

"We made it hard for ourselves," admitted Umpierre, who was so ecstatic that he jumped overboard and lost his expensive sunglasses in the celebrations. "That downwind was a bit of a nervous moment but we held on and we are so happy with the performance this week." Diz added: "We celebrate, but then we go back to work, keep on training and keep on working every day for Marseille."

A penalty spin at the final windward mark nearly cost James Peters and Fynn Sterritt the European title, as Peters explained after crossing the finish line. "We were going for a gap between the mark and the Dutch and it quickly became obvious that the gap wasn't as big as we thought, so we had to take the 360 turn."

The British losing three places from the penalty meant the Swiss team of Sebastien Schneiter and Arno de Planta moved ahead of the British. However, a bit more place changing down the final run just moved back in favour of Peters and Sterritt. For a few long minutes they couldn't be sure, but eventually the British realised that they had indeed finished second overall behind Uruguay and had secured the European title with Switzerland finishing just three points behind.

Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie from New Zealand won the medal race and finished in fourth overall, the USA's Ian Barrows and Hans Henken finished fifth. Sixth overall but third-placed European team were the three-time World Champions from the Netherlands, Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken.

This was also the day that Ireland's Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove earned their place at the Games. Austria and Poland are due to announce their nominated teams for the Olympics in the coming days.

After the best part of 20 years of service to the 49er class, this was David Campbell-James's last day of being principal race officer of an international championship. Class manager Ben Remocker thanked the British PRO for his years of service to the fleet, and the sailors showed their gratitude with a rousing cheer at the prize-giving on Sunday evening.

For some sailors, they move to Marseille for the final weeks of training before the Olympics. For others who missed selection, they start to plan their training for Los Angeles 2028. Then there are others who have just completed the final regatta of their Olympic careers and move on to new challenges in life.

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