The race track showdown at the 2017 420 Open European Championships kicks off on Tuesday 25 July 2017 on the waters off the iconic Olympic sailing city of Athens.
Beforehand, three days of registration and measurement, a practice race and Opening Ceremony will take place. Hosted at the Nautical Club of Tzitzifies Kallithea, Athens, Greece the 420 Open European Championships line-up counts 179 teams from 22 nations, representing all six continents.
Host nation Greece is fielding the largest team, with 26 boats across the three fleets. As hosts, Greece benefits from an increased quota allowance, compared to other nations who are limited to a total team entry of 20 boats. The 420 Class sets strict Championship quotas for nations to ensure the best teams compete in a high quality race fleet.
Athlete ages range from the oldest at 23 years, Veronika Vlachová from the Czech Republic, to the youngest Mariana Kalakona from Greece who is 13 years old. The Open and Ladies fleets are open to all ages, with the U17 restricted to teams who are aged 16 or under in the year of the Championship.
Twelve races are scheduled for the Open and Ladies fleets, kicking off with a 6 race qualifying series over three days, followed by another 6 races over three days for the Final Series. The U17 fleet will race a single series of 12 races.
The Opening Ceremony on Monday 24 July will formally open the Championships, as teams, officials and volunteers head to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center for the parade of nations and opening celebrations.
WHO TO WATCH
The three fleets – Open, Ladies and U17 – are packed with impressive talent, counting World and Junior European medallists aplenty, as well as numerous National Championship title holders. Racing is always tight as nations pitch their top talent against each other, and whoever comes out in front after six days of competition will be truly deserving. We take a look at a few of the many teams to watch.
420 Open - in the seventy-seven boat 420 Open, Italy’s Giacomo Ferraro/Orlando will be amongst the favourites. The partnership has been truly dominant in recent years and possess the talent to stay focused, work their boat, move into a higher gear and disappear out front. Recent performances include wins at numerous Italian National events this year, a 5th place at the World Sailing Youth Championships in New Zealand at the end of 2016, 8th at the 2016 420 Junior Europeans. In 2015, the pair made history when they won the first ever U17 World Championship title, gunning through the fleet to take gold by a convincing 21 point advantage. Keep watching as they will be on form.
Amongst those ready to match the Italian challenge will be Greece’s Telis Athanasopoulos Yogo/Dimitris Tassios. Last month Athanasopoulos Yogo /Tassios won Kieler Woche, up against an epic 135 boat fleet, holding their nerve to take out 5 race wins in the 10 race series. In Athens, they will again face their closest rival from Kiel, the 2nd placed French helm of Enzo Balanger, who is racing with new crew Victor Mas.
Athanasopoulos Yogo /Tassios also won the U17 category at last year’s 420 World Championships and were silver medallists at the 2016 420 Junior Europeans, and won this year’s Greek 420 National Championship, so know exactly what is required to execute a perfect event win.
Another pair to watch are Australians Otto Henry/Rome Featherstone, who just two weeks ago trounced the 85-boat fleet at the French 420 Nationals. The faces for them will be all too familiar here in Athens, as they prepare to repeat their form. Henry/Featherstone are also the reigning Australian 420 Youth Champions and 420 National Champions.
Canada’s Patrick Wilson/Arie Moffat won their last event in Canada, and whilst not so familiar with international fleet racing, will be able to draw on their experience from the World Sailing Youth Worlds where they faced many of the same teams and knocked out several top ten finishes. Facing them at the Youth Worlds and facing them again in Athens are Uruguay’s Nicolas Radovitzky/Martin Radovitzky, who picked up 8th at the Youth Worlds and are the 420 South American Championship silver medallists.
Mixed teams competing in the Open fleet include Spain’s María Bover/Ignacio Balaguer and their combined talents are impressive. Bover picked up silver at last year’s 420 Worlds in the Ladies event, and Balaguer finishing 6th in the Open fleet and seizing the silver medal at the 2016 420 Junior Europeans.
Stepping back into a 420, after many years campaigning a 470 at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is South Africa’s Asenathi Jim. Jim has partnered up with Elsje Dijkstra, whilst his crew at the recent 470 Worlds, Sibu Sizatu, is being helmed by Michaela Robinson. The aim of these partnerships is to accelarate the transfer of knowledge between the hands of experience and the raw talent of youth, which is likely to prove potent in the leaderboard standings.
420 Ladies - the fifty-seven boat Ladies fleet features an equally strong mix of talent, including the reigning silver and bronze medallists from the World Sailing Youth Worlds, Alexandra Stalder/Silvia Speri (ITA) and Violette Dorange /Camille Orion (FRA).
France’s Dorange/Orion were also top placed girls team at the French Nationals in mid-July, finishing 4th overall, and finished 4th in the U17 fleet at last year’s 420 Worlds.
Spain is one of the many nations fielding a full quota of 7 boats, including two of the top ten finishers at last year’s 420 Worlds, Patricia Reino/Carlota Hopkins who were 4th and Lala Akrich/Catalina Homar who finished 8th. One of Spain’s star athletes and one of the most experienced is Marta Garrido, who won the 2015 420 World Championships in Japan with her former crew. Garrido has partnered up with another huge talent, Clara Llabrés, and it will be exciting to see what these two can deliver.
Portugal’s Mafalda Pires de Lima/Catarina Coelho are also likely to make a strike for a podium finish. The pair are the overall Portugal Junior and Open Champions, and in May this year Pires de Lima raced at the 470 Europeans with a different crew, and led the fleet for the first couple of days. So it is likely something special will come from this pair.
Local experience counts though, and clearly confident in the tricky conditions of the Saronic Gulf are Turkey’s Rasim Yasar/Kaan Parlas and the USA’s Madeleine Rice and Katie Bonnarth, who finished 1st and 2nd in the warm-up event on the same waters the Europeans will be raced.
Of the home-grown Greek teams, Evangelia Drougka/Eva Maria Vardali will certainly be racing out front. They were third overall and top girls at this year’s Greek 420 Nationals and scored the same finish at Athens International Sailing Week a few weeks later. Drougka/ Vardali have been racing a 420 for many years, and count plenty of international racing experience, including an 11th at the 2016 420 Worlds, so will not be overwhelmed by the international competition on homewaters.
Amongst the British partnerships are two successful Optimist sailors, Vita Heathcote/Milly Boyle, who at their first international 420 event last year finished fourth overall and top girls in the U17 fleet in the 420 Junior European Championships.
Under 17 - introduced in 2015, the U17 category has enjoyed a surge of participation and encourages the youngest in the fleet to race against each other for dedicated age prizes. Form is likely to be fairly open amongst the 45 teams competing. The gender balance in the fleet is fairly equal, with 24 girls teams and 23 boys teams, so it will be interesting to see racing unfold and who dominates the leaderboard top 10.
The USA’s Max Anker/Leyton Borcherding won the 2017 US Sailing Youth Championships last month, and certainly have the capacity to be out front.
Italy’s Tommaso Cilli/Bruno Mantero are also front of fleet performers, regularly finishing inside the top 10. They won last year’s U17 fleet at the 420 Junior Europeans and finished 7th in the U17 420 World Championships.
420 DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
A key part of the 420 Class Development Programme is pre-Championship Clinics to accelerate the familiarisation of teams with the local race area and improve their skills in 420 racing, particularly in a big fleet.
Moving forwards from the 420 Class Coaches and Sailors Clinics held in India and Indonesia in December 2016 and May 2017, teams from both nations were invited to compete at the 420 Open European Championships. Farah Asima Tangilling/Nur Fatin Syafika (INA) are competing in the Ladies fleet and Aryaman Dutta/Arosh Chaudhari (IND) in the Open. The 420 Class has covered the entry fee, accommocation and coach, and boats are provided by the Nautical Club of Palaion Faliro. Expert coaching is with Michalis Mileos (GRE), who has supported the teams from three days prior to the Championship through to its conclusion. South Africa has also joined the programme with entry fee support provided.
ABOUT THE 2017 420 OPEN EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2017 420 Open European Championships is the first of four 420 Championships taking place in 2017, and will be followed by the 2017 420 Junior European Championships at Fraglia Vela Riva, Italy from 6-13 August 2017, the 2017 420 Team Racing World Championships also on Lake Garda from 23-26 August, and the year wraps up in Australia for the 2017 420 World Championships hosted at Fremantle Sailing Club from 26 December 2017-3 January 2018.
In the 420 Open and Ladies, fleets will be seeded for the six race Qualification Series into yellow and blue fleets, before being split into gold and silver for the six race Final Series. The U17 fleet will sail a single series of 12 races. Races will take place over two race courses.
The schedule is:
22-24 July 2017 - Measurement/Registration
24 July 2017 – Practice Race, Opening Ceremony
25-27 July 2017 - Qualification Series (Open and Ladies) and Single Series (U17) - 6 races
28-30 July 2017 - Final Series (Open and Ladies) and Single Series (U17) - 6 races, Closing Ceremony/Prize Giving
The 2017 420 Open European Championships is organized by the Nautical Club of Tzitzifies Kallithea in the iconic Olympic sailing city of Athens, Greece, in co-operation with the International 420 Class Association, Hellenic Sailing Federation and Greek 420 Class Association.
All six continents are represented amongst the 22 nations competing at the 2017 420 Open European Championships: Australia, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, USA.