by Craig Heydon
London 2012 silver medallists Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty will be back racing this week in Italy with the former team mates now going head-to-head in the new Nacra 17 mixed multihull class.
Curtis will be sailing alongside Josh McKnight while Whitty has teamed up with Euan McNicol with the two pairs joining 15 other Australian crews competing in six classes at the first ever EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup event in Garda Italy.
The EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup is a new European based series taking in five events, Garda Olympic Week in Italy, the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Holland, Weymouth’s Sail for Gold Regatta, Kiel Week in Germany and the French Olympic Week in La Rochelle.
For Curtis the Garda event will kick off a busy year for the 25 year old who is embarking on a double campaign, juggling racing in both new Olympic classes, the Nacra 17 with McKnight and the 49erFX with Haylee Outteridge.
“I’m so excited about sailing in the Nacra 17, it’s a boat that is so different to anything I’ve ever sailed so I'm looking forward to being challenged and going very fast,” said Curtis. “I’ve had a great couple of months in the FX before leaving Australia and as I’m yet to get in the Nacra I'm hoping the skills are relatively transferable.
“I’m super excited about racing for the first time since the Olympics after a great break over summer where I got to spend some well overdue time with my friends, family and partner Dave,” she said. “After a couple of months I started getting itchy feet and knew I would have to go for another Olympics. This year is all about getting to know the new classes for me and I'm very excited for a massive five months of steep learning on the water.”
“Apart from two F18 regattas over the summer Josh and I have had very little time sailing together,” said Curtis. “This regatta is about learning a lot about the boats and each other so we can create a solid training and racing plan for the remainder of our campaign this year.”
Whitty has also been away from Olympic class racing since London 2012 and is looking forward to the challenge of a new class and a different style of racing compared to her last campaign.
“I'm really excited to get some racing done, I‘ve had a really good break and am now ready to get back into it,” said Whitty. “Being in a new boat it’s very refreshing. I really enjoy fleet racing, the majority of my sailing, aside from the London 2012 campaign, has been fleet racing so I’m looking forward to having more boats around the track.
“It was quite a process getting the boats from Holland down to Garda and setting them up,” she said. “We had a quick sail yesterday yet there is still a lot of work to be race ready for the event. We’ll get some more sailing done before the event but it’s going to be a steep learning curve this event which will be a good challenge for us.”
Despite only having limited time sailing together Whitty believes that herself and McNicol, who coached her, Curtis and Olivia Price to silver in London, will make a good team on the water.
“Euan and I have a strong understanding of how we work from our previous campaign so transferring this onto the Nacra will be pretty low stress,” said Whitty. “We’re both just looking forward to racing and learning the limitations of the boat. They’re extremely quick and with a lot of new concepts we’ll be working hard to understand the boat and figure out our roles.”
Joining the two new crews in the Nacra 17 fleet will be fellow Australians Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin who began their campaign at the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Hyeres, France.
Another Australian crew making their European debut in Italy will be Elise Rechichi and Sarah Cook in the 470 women’s class. Rechichi, a two-time Olympian and Beijing 2008 gold medallist, and Cook, a dual Olympic rower, teamed up at the end of 2012 and are embarking on their first European campaign together.
Rechichi and Cook will be joined in the 470 women’s fleet by sisters Sasha and Jaime Ryan.
Six Australian sailors will contest the Laser class, including current world number one Tom Burton, Ashley Brunning, Ryan Palk, Matthew Wearn, Jared West and Luke Elliott.
Burton has made a strong start to his European season with two podium finishes from two ISAF Sailing World Cup events, silver in Palma, Spain and most recently gold in Hyeres, France.
“Palma and Hyeres were the two major regattas for me before our World Championship at the end of the year so it was good to be sailing well for them,” said Burton. “I now have a better understanding of what will help me prepare before heading to the Worlds in Oman. I have a few slight things I want to tweak so I’ll get started with them during the Garda regatta.
“I headed to Garda straight after Hyeres, I love it here and spend as much time here as I can,” he said. “I’ve been doing a combination of cycling, gym work and windsurfing since the last event and will be treating this regatta as a training event, there are some new faces racing here at their first regatta who I’m sure will come out firing.”
The Finn fleet will feature three Australian sailors with Oliver Tweddell, Jake Lilley and Dirk Seret all making the trip to Lake Garda.
Paris Stowell and Annalise Gilbert will race in the RS:X women and Patrick Vos in the RS:X men.
Racing in Garda runs from May 8 until 12 and results will be available at http://events.sailracer.org/