49erFX World Championships

49erFX World Championships

It was a day of mixed and extreme emotions in the boat park this afternoon after the fleet came ashore at the end of a vital third day of Qualifying at the 49er and 49erFX World Championships in Lanzarote.

For some this was perhaps the hardest day they will ever experience in their Olympic sailing career. For some who didn’t make it through to Gold Fleet, who find themselves relegated to Silver, it could well spell the end of their dreams of making it to Paris 2024.

Broken Dreams

Anna Tobias has experienced the elation of winning Olympic gold in the Laser Radial singlehander back in 2008 in China. After she and helmswoman Paris Henken narrowly missed US selection for Tokyo 2020 four years ago at the Worlds in Australia, they recommitted to another campaign for Paris 2024. Today however their fellow Americans Steph Roble and Maggie Shea qualified into Gold Fleet while Tobias and Henken finished just outside in 29th place.

The FX fleet on 49er and 49erFX Worlds at Lanzarote day 3 © Sailing Energy / Lanzarote Sailing Center

That said, there are other opportunities for Henken and Tobias to make amends at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Mallorca in a months’ time, so all may not be lost. But it’s hard road from here.

Aussie Switcheroo

Since last year’s Worlds in The Hague the tables have turned dramatically between two Australian teams. Last summer Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine won bronze while Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot finished 20th. After the end of today’s FX Qualifying, Harding and Wilmot are in fourth place. Price and Haseldine will be devastated to have missed Gold Fleet after finishing Qualifying in 30th place, despite winning the third race of today’s session.

For sisters Johanne and Andrea Schmidt it’s a day of celebration as they are the only Danes to get through to Gold Fleet. Now sitting in 16th place their place at the Olympic Regatta this summer is assured.

Johanne and Andrea Schmidt (DEN 10) on 49er and 49erFX Worlds at Lanzarote day 3 - photo © Sailing Energy / Lanzarote Sailing Center
Johanne and Andrea Schmidt (DEN 10) on 49er and 49erFX Worlds at Lanzarote day 3 – photo © Sailing Energy / Lanzarote Sailing Center

Maltese Falcons

It has been a good regatta so far for another set of sisters from Malta, Antonia and Victoria Schultheis who sit in 14th overall. While they can’t qualify for the Olympics at this regatta, it will give the Maltese sisters the confidence to believe they can grab one of the few remaining Olympic spots at the ‘Last Chance’ regatta at the end of April in France, the Semaine Olympique Francaise.

On Friday the Gold Fleet racing begins and it will be the first opportunity for the top two teams to go up against each other on the same race course. Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz scored one race win from their four heats in Yellow Group while two wins and some overall consistent results have put Sweden’s reigning World Champions Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler into the overall lead.

Swedish Surf

The Swedes made some brave calls at the top of the course. “Six out of eight times it paid to do a gybe-set at the top mark,” explained Bobeck who made the call to gybe away when lying in third in the final race of the afternoon. Normally the conservative move is to go for the ‘straight set’ on starboard tack. “It didn’t look like it was working for a while, but it did in the end,” smiled Netzler who recalled the tightest of runs into the finish against a German boat in the lead. “We caught a wave and I ran into the boat to surf down as much as possible and we just managed to get across ahead of the Germans. It was really close but Vilma’s call for the gybe-set paid off for us. She made some really good decisions.”

When Great isn’t quite Good Enough

Those Germans were Maru Scheel and Freya Feilcke who had sailed a stunning day, rising up from 43rd place to the cusp of Gold Fleet qualification. Having overtaken Sweden and moved into the lead of race 8, if they had managed to hold on to that lead all the way to the finish they would have qualified for Gold in 25th place. But with Sweden’s last-gasp surf across the finish line, the German’s 2nd place meant they missed Gold Fleet by an agonising single point. Just one wave made the difference.

Except! Except that by later in the evening after protests had all been completed, the young Germans had earned the extra point they need to slip into Gold Fleet in 25th place. Instead it was down to the French team of Sarah Steyaert and Charline Picon [Olympic windsurfing gold medallist from 2016] to find themselves in 26th place, just a point out of Gold Fleet.

Similar agony for a number of the men’s teams in the 49er Qualifying. Two Irish teams found themselves on either side of the knife edge. In fact one team were right on the knife edge. Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove had squeaked into Gold Fleet in 25th place, although with a few protests to be heard late into the evening, it was too soon for Irish celebrations. Even tougher, though, for the other Irish team, Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan who just missed the cut in a heart-breaking 27th place.

49er and 49erFX Worlds at Lanzarote day 3 - photo © Sailing Energy / Lanzarote Sailing Center
49er and 49erFX Worlds at Lanzarote day 3 – photo © Sailing Energy / Lanzarote Sailing Center

The Brutality of Sport

“We started the day with a 2nd in the first race but we kept on making it hard for ourselves with some bad starts,” shrugged Durcan, struggling to keep his emotions in check. “I can understand why there have been some tears around the boat park, days like today can be very tough. But that’s sport and you have to take the rough with the smooth.”

No reason for sadness in the French camp, however. Erwan Fischer and Clement Pequin continue their charge at the top of the rankings, now three points in front of three-time World Champions Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken from The Netherlands. “I had a back injury a few months ago and missed the Europeans,” said Fischer. “So it’s good to be racing again with Clement and we are going well here, enjoying the competition and taking it day by day, race by race.”


The French and Dutch have quite a points jump on the third-placed team from Poland, Mikolaj Staniul and Jakub Sztorch. But the intensity of Gold Fleet competition can bring out the best and the worst of sailors. Watch the Livestream broadcast from Friday through to Sunday, to find out who copes with the pressure of the Gold Fleet showdown in Lanzarote.

The Lanzarote International Regatta is organized by Marina Rubicón and has the collaboration of the Royal Canarian Sailing Federation, as well as the institutional support of the Tourism area of the Lanzarote Cabildo through the sports product European Sports Destination (managed by SPEL-Turismo Lanzarote), Promotur Turismo de Canarias, the Yaiza City Council and the private entities Dinghycoach, Naviera Armas and Cabrera Medina (Cicar).

Find out more at 49er.org/events/2024-world-championship

by Andy Rice

Source: https://yachtboatnews.com/49erfx-world-championships/

Boat Lyfe