Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the Rio 2016 49er champions, earned a fifth world title today on the home waters of Auckland after holding off a renewed challenge from Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel.
In the women’s racing at the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships, the 49erFX title went to defending champions Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz of The Netherlands after Brazil’s Olympic champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze had capsized in what was a winner-takes-all medal race at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club.
In the mixed Nacra 17 event, the Italian leaders Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari did just enough to secure a first gold medal after holding off the late challenge of Denmark’s Lin Cenholt and CP Lubeck and the Australian pairing of Jason Waterhouse and :Lisa Darmanin.
Burling and Tuke, winners of four consecutive world titles between 2013 and 2016, had overtaken their German rivals at the top on the penultimate day and established a 13-point lead going into today, which consisted of two more rounds of racing followed by the medal race carrying double points.
When the New Zealand pair were forced out of the first gold fleet race of the morning due to a broken tiller extension, the Germans had the opportunity to close the points gap.
Heil and Ploessel came from deep in the pack to record a ninth place and then were fast out of the blocks in the next race, which they won.
However, Burling and Tuke had recovered their composure and finished third behind the Germans to retain an eight-point lead going into the 10-boat medal race,
That translated to four places in hand for the home sailors, but New Zealand’s chances were in the balance when Burling slipped from his trapeze handle during the tack, almost capsizing the boat.
They re-grouped, though, to finish fourth, two places behind their German rivals seeking to improve upon their Rio 2016 bronze medal when they race in Tokyo next year.
Burling and Tuke’s net points total was 86.0, with the Germans earning 92.0.
Britain’s 2017 world champions Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell claimed bronze, on 130.0, just one point ahead of the fast-finishing Spanish pairing of Diego Botin and Iago Marra, who nevertheless did enough secure their sport for Tokyo 2020.
The overall lead in the 49erFX racing changed in both opening races with the Dutch pair of Bekkering and Duetz ultimately taking a two-point advantage into the medal race – which was of little consequence given the double-points format.
As the wind and waves grew more challenging, early leaders Tina Lutz and Susan Beuke of Germany capsized.
With the rest of the fleet hurtling toward the leeward gate the Dutch played it fairly safe and rounded but the Brazilians, in pursuit, could not release the spinnaker halyard and ended up in a spectacular capsize with Grael jumping clear of the boat as they flipped over the leeward mark.
Essentially the race for gold was over at that point, with the Dutch guiding their boat safely around the course to claim their gold with a final net total of 96.0 points.
The Danish team of Ida Nielsen and Marie Olsen took a second place in the race to pass the Norwegians and Germans to claim the bronze medal with 124.0 points, while Brazil’s total of 110.0 was enough to maintain silver position.
Bekkering and Duetz are now the only two-time 49erFX world champions in the history of the skiff class, and they won the European Championship earlier this year as well and now appear Tokyo 2020 favourites.
In the Nacra 17 class Bissaro and Frascari finished on 93.0, three points ahead of Cenholt and Lubeck, with Waterhouse and Darmanin on 103.0.
For Bissaro and Frascari the victory could nothave come at a better time as they seek to earn a Tokyo 2020 place.
For most of this Olympic cycle since Rio 2016, their compatriots and defending champions Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti have been the dominant force.
Victory in the medal race helped lift them to seventh overall, but Bissaro and Frascari have been the class act throughout the week.
Finishing last in the medal race meant cousins Waterhouse and Darmanin had to settle for bronze, six points in front of Britain’s early leaders John Gimson and Anna Burnet.
Earlier in the regatta Gimson and Burnet had put themselves in prime position for Olympic selection but their fast-closing compatriots Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface had closed the gap by the end of the regatta, finishing two points and two places behind their British selection rivals.