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Austrians feeling at home in NZ ahead of world champs

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Tanja Frank and Lorena Abicht won silver in the 49erFX at the last world championships and hope to go one better in 2019 which is why they spent more than a month in Auckland recently.

The pair won Austria’s first medal in the 49erFX at a world championships last year in Aarhus. They nearly made that gold, going into the medal race in first but capsized when an extreme wind shift hit the course.

Aarhus was a tricky venue for most sailors so Frank and Abicht wanted to give themselves the best chance of success when the Royal Akarana Yacht Club host this year’s Hyundai 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships.

It’s a good option for us to train here and get ready for the worlds,” said Frank, who won bronze in the Nacra 17 at the 2016 Rio Olympics. “February and March in Europe is not too nice. It’s pretty cool and the conditions are not so good for sailing so we thought we would combine it.

“The conditions in every place are super-different. If you already know what to expect, it’s an advantage for you.”

They aren’t the only international team to have trained in Auckland over the New Zealand summer. The Olympic 49erFX champions from Brazil and European champions from Norway came this way for a training block prior to Christmas and 49er teams from Germany, Australia, Korea and Japan have also based themselves in Auckland at times over the last four months.

Few spent as long as Frank and Abicht, who were also joined by the Austrian No 2 combination of Angelika Kohlendorfer and Lisa Farthofer. All four of them, along with coach Luca Bursic, made their way to Auckland following the World Cup Series event in Miami at the end of January and only recently departed to ready themselves for the European season which starts in Palma at the end of the month.

It was also a beneficial period for Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, who can often be found training on their own when at home in New Zealand. The Austrians learned a lot from the Olympic silver medallists, not only on the water.

I think they have a different attitude to us,” Farthofer said. “We have to make the most of the wind we get. They are a bit more relaxed because they know there will be wind and they can go sailing. I think this chilled mood is something we can learn from.”

The quartet should be relatively relaxed when the world championships roll around. As well as acquainting themselves with the sailing waters, they are also familiar with the city, collected a new 49erFX from Mackay Boats and have a full toolbox.

They are just the little things but they all add up,” Frank said.

Farthofer added: “I’m really happy that we took the chance to be here in advance. I hope there will be a bit less stress for us when it comes to the worlds.”

It will also help that Austria have already qualified spots at the Tokyo Olympics in the 49erFX and Nacra 17 but their top 49er crew will also be hoping to secure a place at next year’s Games.

There will be 15 places at the Olympics up for grabs across the three fleets at the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships in Auckland and some countries will also use it as a selection regatta.

As many as 400 sailors are expected to compete at the world championships and few of the international teams will be as prepared as the two Austrian 49erFX outfits.

“We have no idea what it’s going to be like in December [for the world championships] but if it’s as nice as it has been in February and March then I think it’s totally worth it,” Frank said. “I think it’s one of the best sailing venues I’ve been to. The conditions are always great, no matter what.”


49er worlds