Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei wove a masterful path through the minefield of a difficult race course to extend their lead in the Nacra 17 fleet on day three of the European Championships. Two 2nd places moves the young Italians ahead of the pack, with an 8-point gap back to John Gimson and Anna Burnet from Great Britain.
In another day of light airs and flat water, the other Italians – reigning Olympic and World Champions Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti – also scored a good couple of finishes. A 1,6 result moves them to just a point behind their British training partners. Between them, the Italian squad and their British training buddies have dominated Nacra competition over the past few years and the pattern is beginning to assert itself in Vilamoura despite the seemingly random conditions. Tita and Banti now hold a 19-point advantage over the next best team in fourth, the Olympic bronze medallists from Germany, Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer.
Banti is satisfied with progress so far, especially considering that light winds and non-foiling conditions are not their strongest point. “We did a few days training before the European Championships,” she said, “and it was windy and wavy. Now Vilamoura is delivering fantastically light wind days, but that’s sailing, you have to deal with what you get.
“The statistics say we are more confident in the windier conditions, and the British are more confident in lighter winds. Everyone has their favourite conditions but the goal is to be good in all conditions, so we are lucky to have this partnership with the British and we have done a good job together for many years. We won today’s last race in light winds, and I think we have managed to do our best in this regatta so far.”
With marginal opportunities to foil downwind, the big dilemma of the day was whether to take the road down the middle of the course, and go low and slow for a shorter route to the mark, or to arc up the speed and hope you can get the catamaran up and foiling. Higher speed but a much greater distance. “There were certainly some pucker moments out there,” grinned Micah Wilkinson who with Erica Dawson are holding sixth place overall for New Zealand. “If you went out to the sides the splits were massive, very risky but we saw it work for some people some of the time. Always too much to think about!”
There was certainly too much to think about for Aloise Retornaz who is racing on a Nacra 17 for the first time this week. The 470 Olympic bronze medallist from Tokyo, the French sailor’s campaign for Paris 2024 was thrown off track with the unexpected retirement of her 470 helmsman a few months ago. At least this meant she was perfectly placed to jump on board the front of a Nacra 17 and temporarily replace Tim Mourniac’s injured crew for the regatta.
Despite not having foiled before, strangely it has been the foiling conditions of day two where Aloise has thrived. “I prefer it when it’s foiling,” she said after a difficult day that saw the French team drop to 10th overall. “Today the sailing was quite like the 470 with light winds. Except that it is super intense for the crew, a lot of movement back and forward, back and forward. It’s very difficult for me to look around, no tactics for the crew, it’s about having a fast boat and being focused on the sails and the boat.”
While the 49er and 49erFX fleets divide into gold and silver groups for Saturday’s racing, the Nacra 17 class continues to race as a single fleet.
For full results: visit this page
The day 4 Livestream Link is via the 49er youtube channel.
For more information on the 49er and 49erFX racing, visit the event page: https://49er.org/events/2023-european-championship/