Pressure tightening for Skiff Europeans

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The 2019 Volvo Europeans for the Olympic 49er and 49erFX Classes will gather elite teams from across the world on May 13 to 19 in Weymouth, England.

Across the men’s fleet, there are more potential winners than any 49er event in history. Returning to the waters which hosted the 2012 London Olympic Games sailing regatta, any one of twenty teams from around the world have the proven ability to take their place on the top step of the podium.

In past Olympic cycles, the 49er fleet has had stand out performances by a number of teams which ultimately resulted in Olympic medals and top professional skippering positions in the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.

In the Rio 2016 cycle, New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke dominated the class, winning four World Championships in a row on their way to Olympic Gold. Preceding Burling/Tuke, Australian’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen were the form boat during the lead into the London 2012 games which also culminated in Olympic glory.

Preceding that were the reigns of Chris Draper (GBR), Iker Martinez (ESP), and Chris Nicholson (AUS) all of whom went on to helm America’s Cup or Volvo Ocean Race teams.

In 2018 and 2019, the 49er class has seen a plethora of event winners and no one team dominating. Whoever manages to emerge will truly be one of the best sailors today.

The most noticeable recent performance was by Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell (GBR), who won the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma with a lead large enough to wrap up the event prior to a medal race being sailed. While Fletcher and Bithell have had large amounts of time away from the 49er this year due to their involvement with SailGP, this does not appear to have any effect on the British duo.

Reigning Olympic champions Burling & Tuke (NZL) have only recently stepped back into the 49er after taking time away from the class to compete in the America’s Cup and The Ocean Race. The 4x World Champions are already back in form with their two international events in 2019 resulting in a 3rd and 7th place.

Reigning World Champions Sime and Mihovel Fantela from Croatia are the one significant team not in attendance, as Sime had to pass due to the arrival of his first child last week.

Among the women in the 49erFX, particular attention will be on the strong Dutch teams which will be facing off in their second and final event for 2020 Olympic selection.

The Dutch Olympic selection process takes into account two regattas: the Hempel World Cup Series regatta in Genoa, and the 2019 Volvo Europeans. In Genoa, the Dutch team of Odile Van Aanholt and Marieke Jongens took the title,

Dutch competitors receive 10 points for 1st place, down to 1 point for 10th place. Van Aanholt/Jongens received the full ten points for their win while the reigning World Champions of Annamiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz finished the regatta in 9th place. They received just 2 points towards Olympic selection and face a mountain to climb at the 2019 Volvo Europeans if they wish to keep their Tokyo 2020 dreams alive.

The 49erFX gold and silver medallists from the Rio 2016 games look set to continue their battle on the water. Martine Grael and Kahene Kunze (BRA) won the Olympic Gold ahead of Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL). Repeating their Rio 2016 one-two results in Enoshima, Miami, and Palma, Maloney/Meech continually find themselves one step short of their Brazilian competitors on the top step of the podium.

Both teams had differing regattas in the extremely light conditions at Genoa, so we’ll put that down as their discards.

For the British Sailing Team, their best 49erFX teams continue to place in the top ten at most regattas. Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth placed 3rd at the 2018 World Sailing Championships, qualifying Great Britain for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

In 2019, it has been their teammates and local Weymouth sailors Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey who have been the top performers. While both teams have placed in the top ten at the 2018 World Sailing Championships as well as at Enoshima, Miami, and Palma, Dobson/Tidey have continuously placed higher than Wiegulan/Ainsworth.

The defending European Champions from Norway, Helena Næss and Marie Rønningen have had an inconsistent start to the 2019 season. With a scoreline ranging from 4th to 20th since Enoshima in late 2018, the Norwegians certainly have the skills to make it back to back Championships, but this won’t happen unless they can ensure their results rarely dip outside of the top ten.

The U.S. Sailing Team members Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea should be expected to make the top ten at the 2019 Volvo Europeans, and with a bronze medal at the recent Hempel World Cup Series in Genoa, they will be eyeing the podium once again.

Competition Schedule
Monday 13 May – Qualifying Races
Tuesday 14 May – Qualifying Races
Wednesday 15 May – Qualifying Races
Thursday 16 May – Qualifying or Fleet Races
Friday 17 May – Fleet Races
Saturday 18 May – Fleet Races
Sunday 19 May – Fleet Races, Medal Races

Source: sailingscuttlebutt

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