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1-6 March 2021 / Shanghai, China

2021 Asian Championship

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Lack of wind on Lake Attersee meant no racing for day two of the Forward WIP 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships in Austria. 

Olympic sailors, in fact sailors of any breed, know that waiting for the wind comes with the territory. At least this time it offers an opportunity for this global family to catch up with each other – without of course the usual shaking of hands, hugging, kissing and other forms of international greeting. Fist bumps and elbow bumps are the coronagreetings of choice now.

For the 2016 Olympic Champion Cecilia Carranza Saroli it was an early start, out of the door at 6am to follow up with the latest – but hopefully the final – episode in her saga to secure an extension to the visa in her Argentinean passport. It has been hard for the Nacra 17 sailor to stay in Europe for the duration of the summer without breaching the 90-day restrictions. “I was down at the police station early this morning to be back in time for racing,” she explained. “Everyone has been so friendly and I’ve had so many offers of help with trying to solve this situation, and as sailors we like to try to be self-sufficient and to be able to cope with this kind of challenge.”

Considering this extra-curricula challenge had been occupying her thoughts in recent days and weeks, Carranza and her helm Santiago Lange sailed a stellar first day on Lake Attersee on Tuesday to finish the day in second place out of 30 boats, making the best of a very unpredictable race course.

For Iordanis Paschalidis and Myrto Papadopoulou, the delay in racing was certainly not welcome but the delay in the timing of the Olympic Games in Tokyo comes as a blessing to this Greek crew that only teamed up at the start of the year. “We were looking to qualify the country at the World Cup event in Genoa [due to take place in April 2020 but cancelled because of Covid 19],” said Paschalidis, an eight-time world champion in the Tornado catamaran with another world title in the Formula 18 class. “The Nacra 17 is another catamaran – similar in some ways to what I have sailed before – but very different in others. The foiling downwind is a totally different for example. The truth is Myrto and I were not ready for Genoa so it is unlikely we would have made it to to 2020. But the delay to the Games gives us a chance of learning the boat, and learning each other, becoming a team in the way that you need to be if you can succeed at Olympic level.” 

Paschalidis is 53 and Papadopoulou is 19, but even though there is a generation gap they have good rapport and mutual respect for their abilities. Lying 15th overall after day one points to the potential of this crew – but it’s also clear that this team needs regatta practice more than most. Their learning curve is steep and will need to continue like that if the Greeks are to make it to Tokyo.

Even when there is no racing, every day is a learning day for the Greeks. “The atmosphere in the boat park is so great,” said Paschalidis. “It is just the same as in the days of the Tornado. Everyone is so friendly, and you can walk around and look at other people’s boats, you can ask anyone anything and they will tell you what they’re doing and why. It’s a great atmosphere and great to be back on the Olympic scene.”

Despite the flukiness of the wind on day one, with some enormous wind holes on the 49er and 49erFX race courses in particular, some class acts still prove able to sniff their way to the front in seemingly random conditions. There can be few complaints when it’s the 2018 World Champions, Croatia’s Sime and Mihovil Fantela, who lead the 49ers, and the recent winners of Kiel Week, Germany’s Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke, who lead the 49erFX. 

Sweden’s Emil Järudd and Cecilia Jonsson caused a few surprises by taking the lead in the Nacra 17s after three races, but there was nothing random about their performance. This young team seems to have made serious gains in boatspeed and racecraft over the summer of 2020 and look to be serious contenders against the three world champion crews and the reigning Olympic Champions. Everyone is hoping for the wind to come back out to play for day three of competition on Thursday, and for the sailors to test themselves again in this tricky arena.