North-South Olympic sailing duo Ryan Seaton of Belfast Lough and Seafra Guilfoyle of Cork Harbour led the Irish charge and are in 35th place after four races on the first day of the 96-boat 49er European Championships in Weymouth today.
Illness and injury continue to plague this campaign, unfortunately, with Guilfoyle only passed fit for the important championship at the weekend.
U23 World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth Yacht Club are 49th while Dun Laoghaire brothers Tadgh and Sean Donnelly of the National Yacht Club are 60th.
Full results are here.
Six races remain before the fleets are split into the final series but consistent good scores will be key over the coming days if Ireland is to make the gold fleet cut.
Kiwis leading the charge around a square course
Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn from New Zealand started with a 4th followed by a trio of bullets in their third of the qualifying fleet, which totals 96 international entries from nations as diverse as Oman and India. After a discard, the Kiwis top the leaderboard with 3 points, one point ahead of their fellow Kiwis and training partners, Pete Burling and Blair Tuke, returning to the same waters where they won an Olympic silver medal at London 2012 seven years ago.
Dunning Beck said the key to success was pretty straightforward – get a good start, do minimum tacks upwind, one gybe downwind. Sailing a square course, with one tack and one gybe, sounds easy enough except that everyone’s fighting for to do the same, simple thing. Which makes it not so simple. Maybe it’s the strong training program back in the New Zealand summer that’s paying dividends now for the Kiwis.
Still, it’s early days in the regatta, and on equal points with Burling and Tuke are Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Lopez.
It was a pretty impressive day for the Phillips brothers from Australia, particularly in the first three races with scores of 1,2,1 before a less memorable 15th in the last race of the afternoon. “Nice to be back in Weymouth,” said Sam, crewing for brother Will. “You don’t miss many days sailing in Weymouth, it’s nearly always good here.” The Phillips missed most of the 2018 season after Sam broke his foot in a bone-crunching nose-dive at 35 knots in the now-defunct SuperFoiler circuit which lit up Australia just over a year ago. The Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma a few weeks ago was their first competitive 49er outing together in a year, so to find themselves near the front of this world-class fleet after the first day is a welcome return to form for the brothers.
Just behind the Phillips brothers are the Rio 2016 bronze medalists from Germany, Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel. Just a week ago the 2017 European Champions, Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell, were racing at 47 knots across San Francisco Bay in a SailGP F50 catamaran, but the Brits are pleased to be back on home waters with a “boring” opening day, according to Fletcher, which puts them in sixth overall. “Nothing special, just solid, which is fine for day one,” he said.
The 18-race series is forecast to have strong winds over the early part of the week. Racing continues tomorrow.