Aarhus tests champions as Nacra medal race cancelled

It is the mark of a champion that they rise to every test without complaining about the weather gods, and the Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus Denmark 2018 Test Event witnessed those qualities surface again yesterday.

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After the heavy conditions earlier in the week, the light on Friday meant only four of the ten classes got out into Aarhus Bay and racing continued until the sun went down. The sailors have been through the spectrum of conditions so far.

But class shone through and to a woman and a man all those pushing hard for the podium in the medal races on Saturday and Sunday believe they are laying down markers for next year’s World Championships.

“Next year the Worlds are really important, so being here and the preparation is really valuable,” said Nicholas Heiner, the Dutch former laser world champion, who retained his lead of the Finn after a solid second and fifth place. On a day when others saw their chances slip, Zsombor Berecz (Hungary) won the first race and finished fourth in the second, to close the gap, and those two are clear at the top.

“You want to understand the racing, but you also want to know what the culture is, what the food is like and where to stay, and now I have the majority of that in place,” said Heiner, who is part of one of sailing’s many dynasties – his father Roy won bronze in the Finn in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and then won the Volvo Ocean Race in 2005-06.

“Overall it’s been good day. I was a bit disappointed with the last race, I was second round the top mark and finished fourth or fifth (fifth). I was sailing really nice strategically in the upwinds, playing the shifts really well, always about third around the top.”

As Heiner added, it was definitely a day for being at the right place at the right time: “Yes, it was about getting the pressure, getting the right shift, it’s not rocket science but it’s hard to get to the right place on time.”

Underlining the strength of the field, Heiner is outcompeting Olympic champions and heavyweights from the Rio Olympics, like the Swede, Max Salminen, gold medalist in the Star at the London Olympics in 2012 and close to bronze in the Rio Olympics last year before finishing sixth. Salminen was upbeat even as he dropped away from the podium – he is now lying eighth.

“It’s been great sailing conditions,” Salminen said. “We’ve had a mix. It hasn’t been my best event yet. This is this first time I’ve raced here. It’s a nice venue and the Danish are doing a great job to make it a good event, it’s very welcoming.

That’s what we’re hoping for (to have an advantage for next year), that’s why we’re here, to know what to expect, to understand the waves in this bay, they’re often quite skewed to the wind.”

Experience counts for a lot and Denmark’s 49erFX Olympic bronze medalists in Rio, Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen, have utterly dominated the fleet. Although local knowledge is not quite what it seems…yet. Both are more used to sailing around Copenhagen, but Hansen moved to Aarhus with her boyfriend, Ireland’s 49er sailor, Ryan Seaton in February. “I live just in the harbour, so, it’s very convenient,” Hansen said after they finished first, second and second to tighten their vice-like grip on the fleet.

“It was nice to get some light wind racing in because these other days it’s been more windy,” Salskov-Iversen said. “We’re from Copenhagen, but in Denmark generally you learn to expect everything because you never know what’s going to come. That’s why we’re here, to learn. Even for us, we haven’t been in Aarhus that much, and I don’t think you can be here too much either.”

Experience of another kind is helping the Australian 49er pair, the brothers Phillips, William and Sam, who held on to the lead by a point on a day of shifting fortunes and big numbers at the top.

“We’re really happy with the racing, we finished with two fifth places (out of the three races yesterday), which considering how unstable and shifty it was is really pleasing,” Phillips, W said. “We had five knots max and there were lots of big holes and short courses. We’ve really got to know Aarhus and the conditions. In a year’s time that will be a big boost to the planning.”

The Danish pair leading the Nacra 17, Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck, have a similarly slender advantage over their fleet heading into Saturday’s medal race, after finishing third in their single race yesterday. But it looks like now they will be the Test Event champions after the medal race was cancelled on Friday night. A statement posted by World Sailing said:

“The Nacra 17 medal races scheduled for Saturday 12 August are cancelled.World Sailing received a notification from Nacra Sailing on Friday 11 August stating that are recalling all foiling configuration Nacra 17s (including retrofitted versions) in order to replace the bearings for the dagger boards. Nacra Sailing has urged all owners not to sail these boats until the replacement bearings are fitted.”

Full results can be found here