Main photo: Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot. Photo by Sailing Energy

Ascending Australian 49erFX team Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot have wrapped up a helter-skelter World Championships with a fifth-place finish in Lanzarote.

The result is a breakthrough for the young Australian Sailing Team duo, as they battled a week of big winds and waves to finish just off the podium.

“We are really proud of what we have achieved, it is pretty cool to put together a result that we have been working towards and knew we had in ourselves,” said Harding.

“We are absolutely wrecked after the week of racing There weren’t many days where conditions were the same, so it really kept us on our toes. We managed each day as it came, taking a simple approach to the racing and how we wanted to operate.”

The conditions seemed to suit the Aussies, with regular winds shifts across the racecourses meaning teams who found themselves in the wrong position were often able to work their way back into the race.

“It was a shifter regatta than what we’ve been used to in Europe, which gave opportunities across the course,” added Wilmot.

“Often it can be just a race to one side of the course here, but you were never out of it this week which suited us well coming from Australia.”

The team were in fourth coming into the final day, and despite a fifth in the final Gold Fleet race they couldn’t claw back the points needed in the Medal Race to secure a podium finish.

There is no shame for Harding and Wilmot, finishing only behind Dutch 2022 World Champions Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz, Sweden’s 2023 World Champs Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler, 2023 European Championships runners-up Jana Germani and Giorgia Bertuzzi from Italy and Brazil’s dual Olympic Champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze.

“Since last year’s Worlds we have been working on our team dynamics and finding what is best for us,” concluded Harding. “There is more to come but this shows we’re on the right track.”

Australian Sailing Team 49erFX Coach Victor Paya Canal was delighted with his team’s result.

“I am really happy with Laura and Annie’s performance, they stayed consistent throughout a tough week for everyone,” said Paya Canal.

2023 World Championship bronze medallists Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine finished their final day in Silver Fleet on a strong note with two second places but will be disappointed to have missed the opportunity to again climb the podium in an Olympic year.

With Australia yet to announce its selections in the skiff classes for this year’s Paris Games, it provides the selectors with a difficult decision considering the strength of the squad’s results.

“Having two different Australian boats finishing in the top five at the Worlds proves that our training system is working,” continued Paya Canal. “I’m happy with how both teams are working together through the trials as they push one another. Let’s see what the future brings to this squad, but I think it is looking bright.”

Jim Colley and Shaun Connor go flying. Photo by Sailing Energy
Jim Colley and Shaun Connor go flying. Photo by Sailing Energy

Both Australian 49er teams qualified for the Gold Fleet, with Jim Colley and Shaun Connor finishing agonisingly close to the Medal Race in eleventh.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a week, a week where we felt we left a few points on the table, especially in the finals series,” said Colley.

“But this our best Worlds result, and I couldn’t be prouder of how far we have come as a team and how we handled all the challenges this week threw at us. It’s exciting being eleventh in the World and knowing we have so much more to give. We can’t wait for the next event.”

Both squads will now return to Australia for a short break before returning to Palma for the Trofeo Princesa Sofía next month.

The Paris Olympics will open on July 26, with the sailing regatta commencing in Marseille on the 28th.

Visit the event website for more details or see full results here.