It was a dazzling debut for the Nacra 15 at the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships as sailors got their feet, and everything else, wet on day one of racing in Auckland New Zealand.
With plenty of thrills and spills, the youth multihull sailors had to get to grips with the new class and had a baptism of fire on a gusty and shifty Hauraki Gulf on the north shores of Auckland. The 389 sailors from 65 nations racing across the nine fleets were greeted with winds in the high teens, sometimes touching 20 knots, coming in from the south west which tested all, especially the multihull novices.
After winning the 2015 SL16 gold medal, France’s Charles Dorange has had to change the class of boat and sailing partner. Now sailing with new helm, Tim Mourniac, Dorange is one of the most qualified in the Youth Worlds field and gave his assessment of the new multihull, “It was great,” he exclaimed, “and for us we are first in the class at the moment so we are very happy.”
Leading the fleet will leave any sailor happy, so was it the fact he was leading or was it the Nacra 15 itself? Dorange explained the differences between last year’s and this year’s Multihull, “The Nacra 15 is more speedy because of the dagger boards. I much prefer it.
“I think it’s better for the Olympic pathway to have the Nacra 15 so you can progress to the [Nacra] 17.”
Another experienced multihull sailor is Guillaume Rol who, in his home land of Switzerland, has raced on the Flying Phantom and F18. Compared to his partner, Rol has experience in abundance, “I sail lots of multihulls but Max just finished sailing the Optimist and we have only been sailing together for two months now.”
The Max that Rol refers to is helm, Max Wallenberg. With little experience and moving into the Nacra 15 from the Optimist, Rol is far more qualified of the two.
Rol and Wallenberg currently sit 13th in the 20 boat fleet and that is down to simple decision making for Rol, “It was really nice wind and some waves out there today and we were pretty fast, but we made more mistakes than our rivals.”
As Rol put it, his rivals have been making better decisions, but he highlighted another reason why they were not further up the leader board after day one, “There are many sailors I have already met in other fleets and I know they are good and the level is high. We are quite light for the boat in these types of winds compared to the other guys and when the level is high that counts.”
Sitting in fifth overall are Great Britain’s Jack Butters and James King. For crew King the introduction of the Nacra 15 and the diversity of fleet and conditions made for good viewing, “It was really good and really windy today. It was lots of fun and there were lots of boats going over and I think everyone had different results in each race.
“It’s not the usual people at the top of the fleet so it makes for really good racing.”
Like many in the Youth Worlds Nacra 15 fleet, the British team haven’t quite had the time on the water that they have had in other classes. King explained, “We have been training on it for a couple of months now but it is our first regatta with other boats.”
Among those other boats are Dorange and Mourniac who lead the way, New Zealand’s Jackson Keon and Tom Fyfe in second and Belgium’s Henri Demesmaeker and Isaura Maenhaut in third.
From a fleet making its first outing to the more established, the 29er boy’s from Denmark, Marcus Piron Kirketerp and Sebastian Olsen continued the theme of mixed results, but did it in a wider range of ways.
As his crew was fixing a ripped mainsail back on shore, helm Kirketerp explained what had happened, “We went back to our coach to get some water and the wind died completely, like nothing, and we tipped over.”
It had begun well for the pair with a top end finish to the first race. From there a UFD and that ripped sheet, “That UFD is a bummer. We only have one discard for the regatta and we have that already. I don’t think it will affect our performance but maybe our decision making and being a bit more conservative from now on.”
Sharing the secret to the first race result Kirketerp said, “It was pretty much just boat speed. We made safe calls and it looked like others were taking some risks, but we just did what we practiced and it paid off.”
With mixed fortunes the Danes are in 11th overall. The podium is made up of Alexander Gronblom and Martin Mikkola (FIN) in first, John Colley and Simon Hoffman (AUS) in second and Gwendal Nael and Lilian Mercier (FRA) in third.
With two bullets, followed with a second, Great Britain’s Hannah Bristow and Emily Covell are holding off the 2015 girl’s 29er champions from Finland, Sirre Kronlof and Veera Hokka.
Australia’s Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot are currently in the final podium position.
Wiley Rogers and Jack Parkin (USA) began the 2016 Aon Youth Worlds with a win in the boy’s 420 and Rogers said what every sailor in Auckland was thinking, “It was pretty breeze on out there with tight and super competitive racing. We are right there in it, and as the saying goes, ‘you can’t win it on the first day but you can lose it’.”
The Americans are just on the podium at the end of day one. Argentina’s Fausto Peralta and Martin Arroyo Verdi top of the fleet and Italy’s Edoardo Ferraro and Francesco Orlando are in second.
Sitting top of the girl’s 420 are Poland’s Julia Szmit and Hanna Dzik, the returning champions. They are top but also share a points tally of six with Kathryn Hall and Ashton Borcherding (USA) and Alexandra Stalder and Silvia Speri (ITA).
Youth Olympic Games competitor Mack van den Eerenbeemt (ARU) holds top spot in the boy’s RS:X but is closely followed by Israel’s Yoav Omer. Even at such an early stage the top two have a bit of daylight with Sil Hoekstra (NED) eight points back from Omer and nine from van den Eerenbeemt in third.
Looking to upgrade a 2015 Youth Worlds RS:X silver medal is Great Britain’s Emma Wilson. The Briton has started well and is joint on points at the top of the girl’s fleet with Maria Belen Bozo (PER). Aimee Hoff (NED) rounds up the podium in third.
From one sailor trying to upgrade a medal to one trying to defend hers, Hungary’s Maria Erdi has started her defence of the girl’s Laser Radial with a second and bullet to lead the fleet. The 2015 silver medallist Hannah Anderssohn (GER) also began well and is third. Sandwiched between the returning medallists in second overall is Croatia’s Sandra Luli.
Kiwi hopes are with George Gautrey in the boy’s Laser Radial, and he isn’t disappointing. Gautrey holds on to second tied on points with Poland’s Jakub Rodziewicz. Patrick Doepping (DEN) is ahead in first.
Racing will continue for the nine fleets at the Torbay Sailing Club on Saturday 17 December beginning at 09:55 local time.
By Richard Aspland – World Sailing