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Dutch Sailing Triumph

Van Aanholt and Jongens take gold whilst World Champion sailors Bekkering and Duetz had a frustrating few days at the 49er FX series held in Genoa last week.

By the final ‘medal’ race of the Genoa event it was still far from clear who the medal winners would be – but Dutch team Odile Van Aanholt, and Marieke Jongens had notched up consistently fast performances in the conditions. Of the ten boats on the start line, five of them were in contention to take Gold from the points already earned in earlier heats. In this final race, and in flukey winds of about 6 knots, Odile and Marieke’s was one of only three boats to break out to the right hand side of the course – a tactic which quickly paid dividends as a wind shift of 20° arriving moments later favoured their group.

©PEDRO MARTINEZ/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILING

By the time they turned at the first buoy Van Aanholt and Jongens were in the lead ahead of Americans Roble and Shea by a single boat length – but a clumsy turn by the Americans soon increased that lead to five-lengths – which the Dutch Pair not only held onto but increased as they sailed downwind on the homeward leg of the course – eventually finishing twenty seconds ahead of their nearest rivals.

So tight had been the racing at Genoa that as the pair crossed the line, it was still unclear whether it was enough to secure them gold – that would not be known until the rest of the fleet crossed the line to claim their own positions. But win Gold they did! Many congratulations to Van Aanholt and Jongens.

©TOMAS MOYA/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILING

Forty-nine teams from over twenty countries competed in this selection event where tactics were the key to success, and lighter crews found themselves at an advantage. I say ‘selection’ event because many countries use the world series as an opportunity for their sailors to earn a place at the Olympics – which will take place in Tokyo, 2020.

The Dutch team Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz – current World Champions – fought hard to secure a place in the top ten. The challenge is to be first across the start line and straight into clean air from where they can dominate the field, but in difficult conditions – with so little wind that races had to be postponed, and some race days were lost completely – the pair found themselves on the back foot having made poor starts.

©PEDRO MARTINEZ/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILING

Bekkering and Duetz are used to pressure, however. ‘It is what it is,’ says skipper Annemiek Bekkering, ‘and we just move on to the next event fighting hard.’

The Netherlands has four national 49erFX teams and makes their Olympic team selection process on a points basis. Only by setting up fierce competition between its national hopefuls can the team most likely to secure an Olympic medal be sent forward. The next selection event will be the European Championship to be held in Weymouth, UK, between the 13th and 19th of May. Bekkering and Duetz will need to finish the Weymouth event in the top three to stand a chance of representing their country in Tokyo. And they will need to keep cool heads now that Van Aanholt and Jongens have shown their colours.

©JESUS RENEDO/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILING

Justin Tyers

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