Olympic medalist Annalise Murphy and crew Katie Tingle continue their learning curve in the 49erFX dinghy where they battled extremely testing conditions on day two of the European Championships in Weymouth.
It was a "steep learning curve" for the pair in their new discipline as they and the other Irish 49er squads faced winds over 20 knots and large seas off Weymouth on the south coast of England but one crew who is on top of her game is Royal Irish Yacht Club's Saskia Tidey of Dun Laoghaire who tops the leaderboard with Scotland's Charlotte Dobson for Team GB.
Conditions were so close to the limit of what can be sailed in that organisers changed the scheduled to allow the women’s 49erFX race to take place inside the harbour. While that provided more shelter and flatter waters, the easterly winds took its toll on Murphy and Tingle’s challenge.
The Irish pair placed 27th in one race and retired in the day’s two other races yesterday, having scored a 6th, 15th and 19th place in their first three races of the regatta on Monday. Murphy, from Dublin, and Cork native Tingle have three more qualifying races tomorrow which will determine which division they sail in later this week, in what is their second competitive regatta in the Olympic class.
Tidey Leads 49erFX Fleet
The two halves of the 49erFX qualification series took place today in a 15-18 knots easterly in Portland Harbour, delivering spectacularly fast conditions for the women’s skiff fleet. While Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey have upped their game significantly in lighter conditions, the British duo were back in their favourite breeze - strong and gusty. Scores of 1,1,2 lift them to top of the leaderboard, tied on points with second-placed Brazilians, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze.
A container ship near the Portland shore on the right-hand side of the course prevented a straightforward tack into the corner, forcing a couple more tacks out of the teams. “We quite liked the container ship there,” said Dobson. “It made it a bit more interesting. The gusts were pretty hard though, you couldn’t see them coming. There’s quite a lot of weight in the wind and being so close to the shore there wasn’t much warning before the next gust hit. So it kept you on your toes, you couldn’t really relax for a moment.”
The Brits’ closest rival on their side of the draw is the young Swedish team who were leading after day one, Vilma Bobeck and Malin Tengstrom, who continue to tear round the track at high speed, scoring 7,4,1 from the day. “We train with them a lot,” said Dobson. “They’re probably a bit faster than us in the breeze but we managed to be a bit more consistent on the race course.”
The other side of the draw saw a three-way battle play out between three 49erFX World Champions past and present. The reigning Olympic Champions, Grael and Kunze, had the best of it with 1,1,3. The Olympic silver medallists from New Zealand, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, notched up an ever-improving 3,2,1, lifting them to fifth overall, one place behind the other high performer of the day, the reigning World Champions Annemieke Bekkering and Annette Duetz of the Netherlands. The Dutch were still grinning after a fun day on the water that brought them scores of 2,3,2. “We love that stuff,” said Bekkering. “We don’t get to sail in such flat water very often, and the boats were flying today.”
Bekkering and Duetz are definitely enjoying the weather so far in Weymouth, although the breeze is set to drop in the coming days. They’re strong in all conditions, but so far the higher wind - which floated between 15 and 20 knots - is making life harder for their rivals for Dutch Olympic selection. A few weeks ago Odile van Aanholt and Marieke Jongens won the Hempel Sailing World Cup regatta in Genoa, Italy, in very light winds. This gives them a significant advantage going into the second and final part of the Olympic trials here in Weymouth. So far, Bekkering and Duetz are doing a good job of staying in the fight, but that is exactly what the reigning World Champions need to do if they hope to stay in contention for that coveted place at Tokyo 2020.
49erFX Top 5 – Full Results
1 GBR Charlotte Dobson, Saskia Tidey 8
2 BRA Martine Grael, Kahena Kunze 8
3 SWE Vilma Bobeck, Malin Tengstrom 10
4 NED Annemiek Bekkering, Annette Duetz 10
5 NZL Alex Maloney, Molly Meech 14