Day 1 of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships at Weymouth in the UK, and the Australian Sailing Team (AST) enjoyed conditions they are more at home in, with a 15 knot onshore breeze and lumpy seas on the menu at the home of the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Struggling at Palma and Genoa Olympic classes events in recent weeks, Victorian brothers Will and Sam Phillips have come out with renewed vigour in Weymouth. With four races away, they are fourth overall and on equal points with second and third places in the 49er overall standings. The Australians collected two bullets, a second place and a 15th in Race 4, which has been used as their drop.
Sam Phillips explained: “We’ve got different equipment. We have the boat going faster now. We had big issues with speed in Palma, but it’s fixed now. We’ve had a bit more time in the boat since I came back from my foot injury, but sorting out equipment has made all the difference. It was a fun day on the water.”
Phillips said their priorities were to stay clean at the start and find a lane on the left side of the course. “The last race we didn’t have a good one. We had a boat tack close to us late in the start sequence and had to bail out. We ended up starting on port tack and struggled to get a clear lane, but we have a lot more races to do, ” he explained.
Gold medal winners in the 49er at Genoa three weeks ago, West Australian brothers David and Lachy Gilmour are in 32nd place overall, with a best place of eighth in the opening race.
Kurt Hansen and Simon Hoffman are 38th, Jim Colley and Shaun Connor are 43rd, while Tom Needham and Joel Turner are 51st.
The two Australian teams in the Nacra 17, sailed in separate fleets and amazingly finished the day with exactly the same scores, so are in equal 18th place. Paul Darmanin and Lucy Copeland are somewhat pleased with their day’s work, as are fellow New South Wales sailors, Nathan and Haylee Outteridge who are at their first European competition.
“We were in a different group to Nathan and Haylee. It’s a coincidence that our results are the same,” Darmanin mused.
“It was a really lumpy day. It made sailing challenging, especially downwind. It was all about crew work and keeping the boat flying,” he said. “We had great upwind legs and we’re happy with our speed. We were in the top pack, but dropped off a bit, which was disappointing.”
Darmanin said the elite competition is pushing harder and harder: “It’s definitely more challenging to stay at the front of fleet. It’s exciting to push as hard as you can. It’s also easy to lose a lot of places if you make a mistake.”
The NSW sailor, who is brother to Lisa Darmanin, who won Nacra 17 Gold with Jason Waterhouse at Palma in April, was pleased with Day 1 as a whole. “It’s really nice to have breeze and challenging conditions to start the regatta,” he said.
Conditions for the rest of the week are expected to be similar, which could work in favour of the Australians. “It could even be windier and wavier,” Darmanin remarked. “It will be a long and tiring week.”
As expected, racing in the class was extremely close on Day 1, particularly in the top half of the fleet.
“We were expecting to be a few places higher than we are. It was disappointing to lose some places at times, but we also had our good moments,” Darmanin said.
The Outteridge siblings are a little rusty. Nathan came direct from finishing second in the SailGP series in San Francisco and straight into the Nacra 17.
“It was pretty challenging,” Haylee admitted. “Big seas and 15 to 20 knots; we haven’t had that since arriving here. We struggled downwind, but we were good upwind. It’s definitely hard getting into the groove again. We haven’t raced for seven months, although we have been training.
“I’ve been spending my energy on fitness, training and getting the boat ready. We are doing what we can. Nathan has to get his mind around moving from the SailGP to the Nacra. It’s a long regatta and we’ll get better,” she said.
In 20th place overall, Tess Lloyd and Jaime Ryan were the best placed of the three Australian teams in the 49erFX, after finishing 12,11,12 in the day’s three races. However, they were protested after Race 2 and disqualified, dropping them down to 34th.
That leaves Amelia Stabback and Caitlin Elks best placed in 27th overall, with a best result of seventh in Race 2. Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot are 31st. The pair suffered a UFD in Race 2, but rebounded to second place in Race 3.
Racing continues tomorrow. All three classes are sailing in their Qualifying Series’, finishing on Thursday, followed by three days of fleet races. From there, the top ten in each class will sail in the Medal Race on 19 May. Seven Qualifying Series races are required to be completed to constitute a series in each class.
The Australian squad in Weymouth will face the world’s best as they campaign towards selection to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Many internationals are using Weymouth as their final selection for the Games, so the stakes are high for everyone.
Full results: https://49er.org/event/2019-european-championship/
The Australian Sailing Team in Weymouth comprises:
4th Will and Sam Phillips 1,2,1,(15) = 4 points (equal points with second and third)
32nd David and Lachy Gilmour 8,11,12,(17) = 31
38th Kurt Hansen and Simon Hoffman (20),14,12,9 = 35
43rd Jim Colley and Shaun Connor 15,(17),14,7 = 36
51st Thomas Needham and Joel Turner 16,9,(20),17 = 42
27th Amelia Stabback and Caitlin Elks 16,7,18 = 41 points
31st Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot 17, UFD, 2 = 49
34th Tess Lloyd and Jaime Ryan 12,DSQ,12 = 53
18th Paul Darmanin and Lucy Copeland 11,8,11 = 30 points
18th Nathan and Haylee Outteridge 11,8,11 = 30
By Di Pearson/Australian Sailing Team media manager