With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games just a little more than a year away there has been more focus than usual from competitors and national sailing organisations on the spate of Olympic classes European Championships taking place over the last couple of weeks.
In fact, more than a spate, it’s been more like a frenzy of regattas taking place across Europe to decide the Euro titles for the 470, Finn, 49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17, Laser and Laser Radial classes.
From a country team perspective the British Sailing Team turned in an impressive performance, claiming gold and silver in the 49er, Nacra 17 and the Laser, along with gold in the Finn and silver in the 470 women.
The New Zealand sailors also performed well with Kiwi gold in the 49er, a silver in the Finn, and a bronze in the men’s 470, while Dutch and Danish female sailors claimed multiple medals in the Laser Radial and 49erFX classes.
470 European Championship – Sanremo, Italy 6 – 14 May
At the 470 European Championship the Australian the male pairing Matt Belcher and Will Ryan proved unstoppable in the qualification and gold fleet races with four wins and a second to count.
They backed this up with a win in the medal race to take the open title by a margin of 15 points from the Swedish duo Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom who finished second overall and collected the European title as well.
Third was the impressive Kiwi team Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox – winners of the third round of the Hempel World Cup Series in Genoa, Italy earlier in the year.
Medal race highlights:
In the Women’s fleet it was the French representatives Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz – bronze medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and also world champions that year too – who took the title.
After a close fought series at the front of the women’s fleet the French sailors won the medal race to hold off potent challenges from the British crew Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre and the Dutch sailors Afrodite Zegers and Lobke Berkhout.
Medal race highlights:
Podiums 470 European Championship
Gold – Camille Lecointre/Aloise Retornaz – FRA
Silver – Hannah Mills/Eilidh McIntyre – GBR
Bronze – Afrodite Zegers/Lobke Berkhout – NED
1st – Mathew Belcher/Will Ryan – AUS
2nd – Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergstrom – SWE
3rd – Paul Snow-Hansen/Daniel Willcox – NZL
Gold – Anton Dahlberg/Fredrik Bergstrom – SWE
Silver – Jordi Xammar/Nicolas Rodriguez – ESP
Bronze – Kevin Peponnet/Jérémie Mion – FRA
Finn European Championship – Athens, Greece May 10 – 18
Giles Scott from Great Britain – the Olympic gold medallist in Rio 2016 – secured his third Finn class European title by a margin of four points from New Zealand Olympic sailor and America’s Cup campaigner Andy Maloney.
Maloney and eventual third placed Hungarian Zsombor Berecz pushed Scott hard all week long but Berecz was Scott’s only potential challenger for the gold by the time the medal race came around. A fierce race-long match race inevitably ensued which saw Scott and his Hungarian rival finish in tenth and ninth respectively. (Watch the video below for some great on-board action)
This result was good enough for Scott to claim his third Euro title in the Finn, but relegated Berecz to third behind Maloney who capitalised on the battle between the top two by winning the medal race.
Outside the top three a fifth place overall for Dutch sailor Nicholas Heiner earned him selection as the Netherland’s representative at Tokyo 2020, meaning an end to the Olympic career of three-time Olympian Pieter-Jan Postma.
Final results (medal race in brackets)
1 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 48 (10)
2 NZL 61 Andy MALONEY 52 (1)
3 HUN 40 Zsombor BERECZ 61 (9)
4 ARG 48 Facundo OLEZZA 84 (2)
5 NED 89 Nicholas HEINER 97 (8)
6 TUR 21 Alican KAYNAR 98 (3)
7 BRA 109 Jorge ZARIF 111 (4)
8 NZL 24 Josh JUNIOR 111 (6)
9 NOR 1 Anders PEDERSEN 112 (5)
10 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 114 (7)
Medal race highlights:
49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17 European Championships – Weymouth, England May 13 – 19
The men’s 49er fleet was dominated by the reigning Olympic champions Peter Burling and
The Kiwi pair who have only returned to full-time 49er sailing in recent weeks found their stride in Weymouth and put on an impressive performance that saw them win the open title by a margin of 11 points after nine qualifier heats and 10 gold fleet races. No medal race was held due to flat calm conditions on the final day.
That meant the two British contenders for the Olympic berth at Tokyo 2020 – Dylan Fletcher & Stu Bithell and James Peters & Fynn Sterritt – had to be content with second and third overall, with Fletcher and Bithell becoming European champions.
In the women’s 49erFX fleet the local heroines from Rio 2016, Olympic champions Martina Grael and Kahina Kunze, dominated all week to go onto the medal race with an unassailable lead of 19 points over the Dutch pair Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz in second place.
The Dutch crew were more interested however in maintaining their top three position in the championship to secure their selection as the Netherland’s representatives at Tokyo 2020. Nothing was guaranteed, but in the end the Dutch pair won their place and the European title with a second in the medal race behind Helene Næss and Marie Rønningen from Denmark who won the race to claim third in the event.
Special mention goes to the fifth placed junior world champions, Vilma Bobeck and Malin Tengstrom, who were particularly impressive in the stronger winds during the week-long regatta.
In the Nacra 17 home advantage seemed to help with two British teams in the gold and silver positions. Ben Saxton and Nicola Boniface won this Brit-battle and emerged as the new European Champions, with teammates John Gimson and Anna Burnet in second.
Third place went to Lin Cenholt and Cp Lubeck from Denmark ahead of the reigning world champions Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti in fourth.
1. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke NZL Open Champions
2. Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR) European Champions
3. James Peters and Fynn Sterritt (GBR)
1. Martine Grael and Kahina Kunze BRA Open Champions
2. Martine NED European Champions
3. Helene Næss and Marie Rønningen (DEN)
1. Ben Saxton and Nicola Boniface GBR
2. John Gimson and Anna Burnet GBR
3. Lin Cenholt and Cp Lubeck DEN
49erFX and Nacra 17 Medal Races:
Laser Europeans – Porto, Portugal – May 18 – 25
The British Sailing team pulled off its third top two European championship result when Lorenzo Chiavarini from Scotland and Englishman Nick Thompson rose to the top after a highly competitive week of racing in Porto, Portugal.
Third place went to Phillip Buhl from Germany – bronze medallist at the 2018 world championships in Aarhus, Denmark – with reigning world champion Pavlos Kontides from Cyprus in fourth.
Evidencing the strength in depth of the British Laser squad currently, two more team GBR sailors – Michael Beckett and Elliot Hanson – finished the European championship in fifth and sixth respectively.
Laser Radial Women
The women’s Laser radial fleet saw a tight battle for the European title between four of the world’s top female singlehanded sailors currently.
In the end it was Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Anne-Marie Rindom from Denmark who came out on top, claiming the European title by a margin of 12 points from Olympic champion Marit Bouwmeester from the Netherlands.
The final podium place went to current world champion, Emma Plaschaert from Belgium, with Britain’s Alison Young finishing fourth.
1. Lorenzo Chiavarini GBR
2. Nick Thompson GBR
3. Phillip Buhl GER
Laser Radial Women
1. Anne-Marie Rindom DEN
2. Marit Bouwmeester NED
3. Emma Plaschaert BEL
Interview with Lorenzo Chiavarini GBR:
Interview with Anne-Marie Rindom: