Some of the world's best sailors are in Auckland this week for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships. Michael Brown explains what the event is all about, how you can watch and who is racing.
What is it?
Each class of boat has an annual world championships and this event brings together three of the 10 Olympic classes. At last count, there were 206 boats entered (92 in the 49er, 61 in the 49erFX and 53 in the Nacra 17) — that's 412 sailors from 41 countries. The 49er is the men's skiff, 49erFX the women's skiff and Nacra 17 a mixed, foiling catamaran. The three are the fastest of the Olympic centreboard classes, capable of speeds up to 30 knots (55km/h).
Where is it?
Auckland's Royal Akarana Yacht Club are the hosts. The sailing will be on the Hauraki Gulf. There are 10 designated racing areas, from Bean Rock in the west to beyond Brown's Island in the east and East Coast Bays in the north. The medal race courses, where the top 10 fight for medals on the final day, will be closer to shore.
When is it and what is the format?
Racing starts on Tuesday and goes for six days. There are three days of qualifying before competitors are split into gold and silver fleets (plus bronze in the larger 49er class). On the final day, the top 10 boats progress to the double-points medal race.
What if you have a shocker in one race?
Competitors discard their single worst result. It's better to have consistently low scores throughout rather than a few very good results and a few not so good.
How can I watch?
You can head out on the water to get closer to the action — as long as you keep off the race courses — but it will also be broadcast live every day on Sky Sport. You're also able to watch the boats come and go at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club at Okahu Bay.
Are there many Kiwis in action?
There are 12 New Zealand crews in the 49er, two in the 49erFX and five in the Nacra 17. That includes four-time world champions and Olympic 49er champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and former 49erFX world champions and Olympic runners-up Alex Maloney and Molly Meech.
Are there other big names?
The three fleets are littered with sailors who have competed in the America's Cup, Ocean Race and SailGP, as well as world and Olympic champions. Australia's Nathan Outteridge, who won 49er gold at the 2012 London Olympics, helmed the Swedish boat at the last America's Cup and is now sailing for Team Japan in the SailGP, is competing with sister Haylee in the Nacra 17. There's also Olympic 49erFX champion and Volvo Ocean racer Martine Grael from Brazil (sailing with Kahena Kunze), multiple world and Olympic champion and Ocean Race skipper Iker Martinez and seven-time Olympian Santiago Lange, who won gold in the Nacra 17 in Rio at the age of 54 and after battling back from cancer. Lange's sons Yago and Klaus are competing in the 49er.
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How important is it?
Other than world titles on the line, there are also qualifying slots for next year's Olympics and some countries are using it as a selection regatta for Tokyo. New Zealand has already qualified a boat in all three classes. For a lot of sailors, this is their pinnacle event of the year.