The ever growing Nacra 17 fleet is one of the largest this week at the Delta Lloyd Regatta with 35 entries, and arguably one of the strongest teams here is the British squad which has five boats competing.
Three of them are in the top 10 in the world rankings, though with most of the class still on a steep learning curve, they have to continually improve to stay ahead of the game to remain competitive.
Pippa Wilson, part of the 2008 Yngling British gold medalist crew, returned to Olympic sailing last year, and was instantly attracted by the Nacra 17. Sailing with John Gimson, she reflected on the depth of talent in the whole team.
“We are lucky with the amount of experience and talent in the team. That comes from a lot of years of hard work and so it’s really about the people involved. Everyone is really committed and willing to put in the time. We are also lucky to be well supported and we have a very good coach.”
“We have a few things to catch up with in terms of catamaran stuff, but all the sailors are pretty experienced. The learning curve is still very steep. The boats are pretty challenging to sail and obviously everyone is improving at a pretty quick rate. Every day you think you know what is going on and then it is different again, so it’s definitely a challenge in that respect. You have to take the good with the bad. But they are really great boats to sail, a new challenge.”
World No. 2 Ben Saxton, who made the switch to Nacra 17 from the 470 in 2012, is sailing with Hannah Diamond. He said, “I think one of our team strengths is that we don’t really care what the breeze is. We are pretty quick regardless.” They also took the silver in last year’s world championship are are the top ranked team here this week.
“You are learning something new every day. Something comes up that you haven’t quite felt before or seen or worked out. So it’s basically getting more and more fine tuned. And the fleet is always getting better so you need to get the fine tuning sorted, otherwise you have a day like we had today.”
On being part of a big team, Wilson added, “It’s a huge strength being able to train hard together and push each other and we all know we are all in it to get each other better.”
Meanwhile, the 2010 Match Racing World Champion and 2012 Olympian Lucy Macgregor has also made the switch to the Nacra 17. Macgregor and Andrew Walsh are currently the top British boat this week, sitting in third overall after winning the second race. Showing the depth in the team, the second British boat is Rupert White and Nikki Boniface. White brings a generation of cat sailing heritage to the team with both his father and grandfather being Olympians in the Tornado class. His grandfather, Reg White, of course, won gold in 1976. Wilson and Gimson ended the day in 10th, while Saxton and Diamond are down in 16th.
As expected the French are proving the teams to beat with world champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou on equal points with Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim at the top of the leaderboard after day one.