Vilamoura in Portugal witnessed the latest thrills and spills for the Dutch 49erFX national sailing squad. In a lively sea and with winds gusting to 20 knots only a handful of boats were lucky enough to stay upright throughout the whole competition.
Take for example the case of double world champion Dutch sailors Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz – on day two, sailing fast downwind the bow of their boat buried itself into the waves filling the kite (the big sail known elsewhere as a spinnaker/gennaker) with water. Twenty-five square metres of sail cloth can scoop up quite a lot of seawater – putting tremendous strain on the 5mm rope by which the sail is hoisted. Although these ropes have a breaking strain of over two tons, the braid on Annemiek’s boat ruptured under load – damage which only made itself known when the sailors tried to lower the sail! With the rope jammed in a block (pulley), more chaos ensued.
That was the end of that race, of course; and repairs to the damage meant they couldn’t participate in the next two races either. A further capsize, and they had to scratch four heats out of a twelve-heat meeting – deeply frustrating for the sailors who otherwise produced two firsts, and four seconds in conditions they love.
Without the accidents a different story would have been told – but such is the nature of the sport. In spite of everything Dutch team mates Odile VAN AANHOLT and Emma SIEWERS surged into seventh place in the twenty boat competition, just ahead of embattled Annemiek and Annette – who still managed to secure 8th position in spite of being eliminated from a third of the meeting’s events.
Annemiek says she found the competition in Vilamoura really useful – a safe place to try new things, compare themselves with other top athletes, and of course keep an eye on the competition. The event was won by Spain, with Denmark and Argentina finishing second and third. Looking to the future, new sailors have been introduced to the Dutch team – we look forward to watching Svea Karsenbarg, Emma Siewers and Florine Bramevaer.
More training awaits in Lanzarote in February, then it’s straight into the new season’s events in Majorca – all culminating in the five-year anticipated Tokyo Olympics.
Victron energy is proud to sponsor the Dutch 49erFX Sailing team. Watch this space for more Olympic-Qualifying, World-Class news!