Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz – the Dutch World Champion sailors of the super-fast boat known as the 49erFX have won Gold Medals in the Hempel World Cup Series – in Sagami Bay, Enoshima, Japan. These waters will be the venue for next year’s Olympics. The present race reached its climax last weekend.
36 boats entered the competition in unsettled weather. Early on, some racing had to be cancelled owing to light winds – later, it was strong winds which caused some cancellations, and marked the rest of the competition. Happily, Bekkering and Duetz love strong winds! We practise a lot in these winds, and we are not afraid! Says Annette Duetz.
By the final day of the event they were in first position on points, and needed to secure 4th-place-or-better from amongst the ten boats who had earned the right to contest the final medal race …in order to win gold overall. They may have been ahead on points – but so close was the gap between contestants that any of the final ten could have taken gold!
In choppy conditions, at the gun, they began that final race in 6th place in a poor position at the back of a cluster of fast boats, all choosing the left side of the course. Bekkering and Duetz took an early decision to tack away from the leading pack, on their own, into the open water and clean air to the right.
The race had four legs: upwind-downwind-upwind-downwind – by the first mark their decision had already helped them climb into fifth place. The danger as the boats flew downwind was that the bow would bury itself into the back of one of the steep waves being kicked up by a strong on-shore breeze, resulting in capsize. All teams, out on trapezes, must keep their weight at the back of the boat – standing on tip-toe – as their boats skim the water. A great turn at the second mark put Bekkering and Duetz into fourth place.
Annette Duetz, on the foredeck, controlling speed, called out observations about the wind and water ahead, looking for early signs of wind shifts they are about to encounter …meeting those wind shifts with alterations to the set of the sails. If they don’t make any mistakes during the rest of the twenty-minute race, the gold medal might just be theirs.
The pressure is on. Fighting for every inch, with a faultless turn onto the final downwind leg …followed by a perfect hoist-and-fill of the spinnaker – giving them a colossal 57m² / 600ft² total area of sail – got their boat skipping from wave to wave like a skimmed-stone. One final gybe – to bring them inside the committee boat – and they bounced over the finish line in fourth place to secure the premier result for the event – GOLD! Not shy of publicity – they tacked straight for the media boat to strike a victory pose!
Their coach Alain Sign met them on the water for a victory chat. The hard-earned gold medal had been won.
Victron Energy sponsors Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz, and the Dutch Olympic team. We’re proud to be a part of their success and send them our heartfelt congratulations!