When we heard that the Dutch 49erFX sailing team were going into the final ‘medal’ race day of the French Olympic Week competition – La Semaine Olympics Française, which has just taken place in Heyeres – with an unassailable 48 point lead over their nearest rivals and couldn’t possibly miss out on winning ‘Gold’, we asked if such a big lead over the second-placed team was a record. “For us it is!” they said.
Modest, and keen admirers of the skills of their opponents Odile van Aanholt & Annette Duetz produced a truly amazing performance in this week’s competition which witnessed conditions which couldn’t very well have been more diverse.
On the first day, strong winds of 25-30 knots – a wind known locally as a Mistral – resulted in the race organisers cancelling the day’s event for the 49erFX teams. Conditions were almost identical on the second day, but with a race-day already lost the fifty-boat fleet of 49erFX skiffs took to the water. Only thirty of them arrived back home!
In choppy conditions the fast and deliberately unstable craft flew from crest to crest. Unavoidably in the strong and unpredictable conditions, boats pitch-poled or capsized throwing their crews through the air for a wet landing somewhere far, far away. Interestingly, at the end of the wildest race the first four boats to cross the finish line had all chosen to abandon their Gennakers – the most powerful sail in the wardrobe …but not always the most necessary, it seems.
Italy’s Jana Germani & Giorgia Bertuzzi performed impeccably winning both the day’s races, whilst our sponsored Dutch team Aanholt & Duetz secured second place – again, in both races.
Day 3 was equally challenging for all crews but in a completely different way – the wind had fallen to just five knots.Determination
To succeed in those light draughts you need eyes in the back of your head. Favouring tactical sailing and lighter crews, Odile says she was constantly removing her sunglasses, the better to survey the water all around looking for ‘catspaws’ on the surface – little ripples which inform the keen observer of an increase in wind activity. If you can get to where the wind is, you can sail.Job well done
Odile happened to have a heart monitor attached during the event, later analysis showed that her heart rate was as elevated by the rough and tumble of wild weather as it was in the calm weather – whilst she only watched and waited for her opportunity. Odile says: We were racing the second and third races with Malta (Antonia Schultheis and Victoria Schultheis), two young and very talented girls, quite light bodyweight and it was really really challenging to keep up with them, but a lot of fun!
The Dutch duo, with amazing consistency, finished two of that day’s races in second place which was nearly (but not quite) good enough to knock the Italians from their well-earned top spot.
The Brazilian team, by the way, who frequently contribute top-three performances in meetings all around the world had a disastrous start to the series and despite some good results for the day were ‘languishing’ in 8th place overall.Van Aanholt and Duetz gold-winning teamwork
Current 49erFX world-champions the Dutch pair sailing NED1 produced exceptionally consistent results regardless of the wind and sea conditions, going on to finish every race of the competition in the top ten! That uniform quality of performance had lifted them into 1st place by the end of the 4th day’s racing.
Their Italian challengers began the day promisingly with a first and second place which would have been a concern if they had kept it up, but unfortunately for them at the close of the final two races of the day they were not in the top third of finishers in the 50-strong fleet. That cost them heavily, though they will have been happy to secure Silver by the end of the week.
In the Medal race Van Aanholt and Duetz increased their point-lead to 52 over second-placed Silver cup winners, Germani and Bertuzzi for ITALY; and BRAZIL’s Grael and Kunze came back on form taking Bronze.
The medal race will have been an exciting event to watch for sailing fans from many countries: although the Netherlands Gold medal was already secure, anything could have happened for the other 9 boats as they crowded around the marks at speeds of up to 15knts. At the close of the 5-day competition featuring 14 races, only a single point separated each of the competitors finishing 3rd to 9th – a single point out of a typical tally of 115. Breathtaking!Skipper and crew, picking lines…
We couldn’t be more proud of the continued success of our sponsored Dutch national 49erFX sailors, and of the whole team!