Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have opened their 49er World Championship with a race win in the opening race of the regatta in Clearwater, Florida where three Olympic class sailing World Championship regattas got underway today in challenging conditions.
The 49er fleet, featuring close to 70 boats, sailed just one heat today in blustery, wavy conditions which increased as the day progressed. The women's 49erFX skiff fleet, now in the final build-up to their first ever Olympics, were scheduled to sail after the men today, but their racing was abandoned. One race was possible to open the 2016 Nacra 17 World Champs.
Taking the win in their first fleet race, Burling and Tuke share the early lead in the Championship with Denmark's Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen who took the gun in their heat.
"Today was day one of the 49er World Champs and it was a pretty big forecast last night," said Burling after reaching shore. "I think there was a fair bit of tension this morning as to whether we'd actually get out there for a race today because we've all seen how choppy and tricky it gets out there when the breeze gets up."
"We were really fortunate that it was light enough this morning to get out there for a race."
"We're really happy to take a win in that first race. We got off the line pretty well and managed to keep it upright," he continued. "I think a fair few guys were swimming and doing a fair bit of damage to their gear and we're really happy to get a solid one under our belt to start with."
Burling reflects on the significance of this event; "This is our World Champs in an Olympic year and the goal for us for the whole campaign is to try and get the gold in Rio. We've got a lot of little steps along the way, and we're trying a lot of things this week. It's good to check in and see how everyone is going."
Isaac McHardie and Trent Rippey, who are part of New Zealand's Aon Fast Track Squad, can be pleased with their first race; finishing 11th the young pair will be buoyed as they head into day two of racing against the world's best.
Meanwhile the women in the 49erFX skiff have to wait another day to get started. Alex Maloney explains, "We were held on shore waiting for men to finish, and then as conditions got worse they were sent in."
"Hopefully we start tomorrow!" she adds, eager to get racing.
Things in the Nacra 17 mixed gender multihull fleet are heating up as they build towards their Olympic debut, and racing got underway for them in Clearwater today too, with just one race possible in the trying conditions.
New Zealand has two boats entered. Aon Fast Track Squad sailors Olivia Mackay and Micah Wilkinson started strongly with an 11th place in the opening race, while NZL Sailing Team's Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders finished 25th.
Helm, Gemma Saunders talked about their day; "When the race started [the conditions] built up a lot and it shifted left, and the sea state came up and by the end of it waves were pretty much breaking over the top of us."
"It was a really crazy race, it didn't go so well for us, we had two spills which were very frustrating, but we had good speed so a lot of positives as well."
Speaking about their Road to Rio Saunders said, "We've been just off the podium for a long time, so we are really hoping to get on that podium in a few regattas before the Games so that we can hopefully be on the podium in the Games," Jones adds.
Sailing as one fleet throughout the regatta the Nacra crews' race results today are their overall standing as they head into day two of the regatta tomorrow.
Racing resumes tomorrow in Cleawater. Qualifying racing runs until Thursday February 11 in Florida, before the regatta moves to finals racing. Medal races are planned for Sunday February 14.