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Testing week for Australian sailors at major championships

Published Mon 13 May 2024

The Nacra 17 World Championships, 49er, FX, and Mixed 470 European Champions concluded overnight in France, where sailors encountered two extremes of wind conditions in their final test before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Beginning in La Grande Motte, France, the Nacra 17, 49er, and FX sailors faced intense, shifty winds that gradually gave way to light and fickle conditions. Meanwhile, further down the Mediterranean Sea in Cannes, France, the 470 fleet predominantly contended with light breezes throughout the week.

Among the Australian contingent, Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot showcased a strong performance at the FX European Championships. They seized the opportunity in the Medal Race, securing second place in the double-point race and elevating themselves to sixth overall.

Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot CREDIT Didier Hillaire

Despite missing out on selection for the 2024 Olympics, Harding and Wilmot have demonstrated a promising trajectory throughout the last year. “Annie and I are both super proud of what we have achieved in the last few months, it’s great to have put together another top 10 result here,” shared Harding. “We have put a lot of work into our little team over the last 8 months and we are just happy to be in Europe racing everyone in their peak form in the lead up to the Games. 

Their consistent presence in medal races over the past four events underscores their potential. The pair will be valuable training partners for Games-bound athletes Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine as they meet in Marseille in just a few day’s time to resume training. 

In the 49er class, Australian Olympic Team members Jim Colley and Shaun Connor approached the week as a chance to refine key areas ahead of the games. However, their aspirations faced setbacks, as Connor lamented, "We went in with the goal of trying to improve our starting execution, and for the most part, it was an improvement. Although we did push the line in two races with two BFDs. So that's obviously made it hard for us with only one drop in the series."

Despite consistent contention throughout the week, Colley and Connor concluded the event in 19th place overall. Reflecting on their extensive racing block overseas, Connor expressed anticipation for returning to Australian soil. "Jim and I have been over in Europe for almost 60 days now, so it's been a while. We'll go home, have some time off for a little bit, and then we're into testing for our Olympic gear at home for a period, and then back to Marseille come the start of June."

Jim Colley and Shaun Connor CREDIT Didier Hillaire 

At the Nacra 17 World Championships, three Australian teams fiercely competed in the strong 44 boat fleet. Paris 2024 selected athletes Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown came out of the blocks firing in the breeze, a testament to their improvements in strong wind and waves but struggled at the back end of the regatta and dropped to 18th overall. 

In the Mixed 470 European Championships presented a challenging battle for Nia Jerwood and Connor Nicholas. Despite encountering tough racing, which resulted in missing out on Gold fleet and finishing in 31st place, Nicholas remained optimistic about the road ahead.

"Results-wise, we're not happy at all. We know what went wrong, and thankfully it is fixable leading into the games," said Nicholas. "We know we're very capable of racing at the front end of the fleet; this week just wasn't our week. Sometimes that's just how it is, and you've got to analyze it, be clinical with your debrief, but don't dwell on it. Pick yourself up and keep moving forward. There are bigger things to aim for. We'll be coming out fighting at the Olympics."

Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas CREDIT Nikos Alveromytis 

While this marks the final event for these disciplines ahead of the Olympic Games, attention now turns to the Formula Kite World Championships set to commence in Hyeres, France. Paris 2024-bound athlete Breiana Whitehead will compete from the 14th to the 19th of May, showcasing her skills and determination on the world stage.

Event Website Links

  • Nacra 17 World Championship results can be found here 
  • 49er / 49erFX European Championship results can be found here
  • Mixed 470 European Championship results can be found here

Australian Sailing Team (AST), Australian Sailing Pathway Team (ASPT), Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) and other Australian entries (AUS)

Nacra 17 – 45 entries
18th - Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown (ASPT)
20th - Ruben Booth and Rtia Booth (ASPT)
22nd - Jake Liddell and Lucy Copeland (ASPT)

49er – 70 entries
19th - Jim Colley and Shaun Connor (AST)
26th - Jack Ferguson (AUS) and Max Paul (AST)

49erFX – 29 entries
6th - Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot (AST)
23rd - Seisia Mair and Stella Hurley (AUS) 

Mixed 470 - 49 entries
31st - Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas (ASPT)
38th - Sophie Jackson and James Jackson (AUS)
39th - Ashlee Daunt and Brayden Daunt (ASF)