The reigning World Champion 49erFX Dutch sailors Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz have successfully defended their title – becoming the first ever team to hold the title twice.
Six days of racing in Auckland, New Zealand – culminating in the medal race last Sunday, became a battle of the giants seeing the Dutch team vying to keep their title from Brazilian Olympic Gold Medallists Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze. Here’s how that final race played out:
The Dutch team made a promising start crossing the start line furthest right, and downwind, of the ten racers; but at the first mark after an upwind slog it was Germany who were first round the buoy, followed by Denmark, Nederlands …and hot on their heels Brazil.
In very testing sea and wind conditions which had been building throughout the competition, the first mistake went to leaders – the Germans – whose boat, flying downwind, bit deep into the back of a wave and capsized.
At the second downwind mark the racers arrive with their spinnakers – big sails like parachutes – billowing out before them, in a dazzling show of choreography they need to drop that sail in preparation for turning round the buoy to begin a second upwind leg. At that mark Bekkering and Duetz were first and made a brilliantly controlled turn. Seconds later Denmark made the turn without a hitch. Powering down in third place as Brazil arrived at the mark it was clear that they were in trouble – the halyard which raises and lowers their spinnaker had become jammed; losing control their boat collided with the marker buoy and tripped into a capsize. A remarkable photo captured the moment that Martine Grael was thrown through the air.
Bekkering and Duetz rounded the third mark maintaining pole position. Seeing that the Brazilians were out of the race, and realising that the title was theirs if only they could cross the finish line safely they made the tactical decision to play safe – declining to raise their spinnaker for this final downwind leg.
First over the line was Great Britain (Charlotte Dobson/Saskia Tidey); second place went to Denmark (Ida Nielson/Marie Olsen); and in third our own Bekkering and Duetz – safe in the knowledge they had defended their World Championship title. An astounding achievement, well deserved by these professional women!
A very creditable performance was also recorded by Dutch team mates (NED 6) Odile Aanholt and Cecile Janmaat, who finished the event in tenth place out of sixty-one competitors.
Victron Energy sponsor the Dutch 49erFX teams. Our sincere congratulations to Bekkering and Duetz. We admire their detailed planning, constant training – and the positivity which allows them to achieve great things.
This result surely makes Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz favourites to take Gold in the Olympic event to be held in Tokyo next summer?