Australia Versus the Punte Posse
Jason Waterhouse with Lisa Darmanin (AUS) battled sagely all we to pull into a nice lead in Miami half way through the final day of fleet racing. But the Brazilians Albrecht and Nicolino dug in to win the final two races setting up a showdown for the medal race. The Aussies are the silver medalists from Rio, training with an outstanding group of teams down under including, at times, the Outteridge siblings and 4th place from Rio Kiwis, Jones and Saunders, and are coached by multi Tornado World Champion, Darren Bundock. It’s no surprise they are in contention.
The team turning heads this week are the Brazilians. Albrecht sailed to a 10th place in Rio with a different crew, and then teamed up with Nicolino after the games. Nicolino has plenty of experience from the 49erFX, a Nacra 17 campaign, and Match Racing, but the way they have hung in all week to challenge for the lead is impressive.
“We had a very hard first race,” said Nicolino. “We managed to finish 14th, but at one point we were around 20th. We did not have a clear sight of what was going on on the racecourse. But then we sat together, talked about it and decided to simplify things for the next races and it worked. [We focused on] clear lanes during the upwind mostly, getting out of trouble with other boats and trusting the numbers on our compass.”
If she was disappointed to have lost the lead, Nicolino de Sá didn’t show it.
South America is becoming a serious contender both in strength and depth in the Nacra 17. They’ve formed a great training group, led by Rio Gold medalists, Lange and Saroli (ARG) which has attracted a couple top European teams into it including Bronze medalist from Rio, Thomas Zajac (AUT) with new crew Barbara Matz and the top brits at the moment, John Gimson and Ana Burnett. The group includes 2 Argentinian teams, Uruguay, two Brazilians teams along with the two Europeans, and is holding down four of the top six places in Miami, and five of the top 10. The training group has been meeting up in Punte del Este, Uruguay to train in fantastic conditions, with the bonus that it’s expected to be similar to the conditions in Tokyo.
Of the group though, it is the Brazilians have have climbed the farthest, and been resilient as well. Their drop race is a DSQ from a well finished race, meaning the worst they’ve crossed a finish line all week is still in the top 40% of the fleet. The medal race will decide who ultimately lands on top.
The Australians have mainly been training at home recently, so light air practice is a reason they came to Miami. One area they deem in need of improvement is their light air speed. They came to Hempel World Cup Series Miami looking for the light, shifty conditions that most recreational sailors would rather avoid. To their delight, Biscayne Bay has delivered just what they needed.
“We’re really happy with how we’ve been sailing this week considering the conditions,” said Waterhouse. “In terms of racing, our main focus has just been consistency throughout the week as those conditions, it’s just so variable with your results. Also we’ve been struggling in the last year with our light air speed and we’ve been trying to focus on improving that. It’s hard to tell in such shifty conditions, but I think we’ve made little leaps in that.”
The Australians started the regatta with a 14th, but have been lights-out ever since. Eight of their 12 finishes have been inside the top-five and they will head into tomorrow’s double-points Medal Race with a four-point lead.
“We’re actually very happy to be battling against them. Not sure what to expect yet for tomorrow, we just want to give it our best,” said Darmanin.
To hear Waterhouse talk about it, that may be all he and Darmanin can handle, especially if the forecast holds for less than 10 knots of breeze.
“The Brazilians are definitely the quickest in the light breeze,” he said. “We’ve just been trying to sail smart tactically to get around the lack of boatspeed.”
Should either of those teams falter significantly in the Medal Race, the crafty veterans and defending gold medalists Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) could take advantage. They are 12 points behind second and 16 points out of first.
49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17 and the RS:X windsurfer Medal Races will be live across World Sailing’s YouTube and Facebook from 12:00 local time on Saturday 2 February.