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14 July 2014, 10:47 am
Spain's Martinez and Pacheco win European Nacra 17 title
Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco (ESP)
Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco (ESP)

Nacra 17 European Championships
La Grand Motte, Franc

After starting their title challenge in the worst possible way, a hole in their hull after a simple collision on the first day, Spain's Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco finished the week by collecting their first major title as a partnership.
Representing a first success in the new Olympic chapter of the storied, supremely diverse career of the helm from Hondaribbia in Spain's Basque country, and the former 470 champion Pacheco, the duo actually built the firm foundations of their success on Friday when they scored three back to back second places when all their main rivals failed to come close in terms of that level of consistency in strong wind conditions.

In today's medal race the Italian duo Vittorio Bissario and Silvia Sicouri had to win with the Spanish pair in eighth if they were to be overturned.

But it was the wily Martinez and Pacheco who sneaked off the start line in the very light, fickle breeze and got into the biggest and best puff first. They lead Britain's Olympic gold medallist Pippa Wilson and John Gimson around the windward mark on the first round.

France's World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou rallied after a poor start and took the lead momentarily on the second of three windward legs, but with the wind making a big shift to the right the Spanish had regained the lead at the top of the final round, finishing comfortably ahead of Besson and Riou.

At one stage the Italians were deep enough in the ten boat fleet that it looked like second overall might go to the French - who had lead until yesterday when they capsized and had to count a 27th in their final aggregate - but Bissario and Sicouri held their nerve and finish second with Besson and Riou content to have salvaged third.

Martinez and Pacheco paired up 16 months ago and this is their biggest win to date. After ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca Pacheco had to have an operation to relieve carpal tunnel problems in her forearms which cost them training time, but the ever demanding, hard driving Martinez professed to be happy with their progress, even if he acknowledges that with their Olympic monohull background they still have many areas to catch up with catamaran specialists like Besson - an ex Tornado catamaran sailor who is also current F18 world champion, and the young Italian duo who sailed the Hobie 16 youth catamaran before.

"For sure we are very good where we are now, but the truth is this was a very special regatta with only one real set of conditions - pretty windy - and the medal race today was a little bit tricky, so it probably does not show exactly where every one is in terms of looking towards the World Championships." Martinez ventured today.

"I think the guys like Billy Besson and the Italians - I don't want to say they are unbeatable - but we have to catch up with them. I think they have catamaran knowledge and obviously they are fast. That is where they have the advantage. They always have the boat well set up. We have to learn how to always have the boat well prepared and well set up and all these things. So still we are sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes good."

La Grande Motte delivered mainly strong winds, even if the first day of racing was lost to a lack of breeze. And one full day was missed because of breezes which were too strong. That meant just three Finals races were sailed. The French duo's one aberration sullied an otherwise excellent performance which would otherwise have one them the title. The cruel irony is that when they capsized in Friday's third race, they were sailing super conservatively with Besson off the wire and on the trampoline, holding third place. Their boat stalled in the back of a wave, the ebullient French helm was washed off the boat but for his leg and they capsized when he lost control of the helm.

Meantime Martinez and Pacheco are focused on winning the world title in Santander, where the Spanish sailing team do a lot of their strong winds training, their second home. A fourth Volvo round the world race awaits Martinez but he confirms his strong commitment to a programme which he hopes will bring him a second Olympic gold medal.

"It will be a difficult balance. Now from the Volvo to the Olympics there is much more time. But I probably wont do all the legs of the Volvo. It is not 100 per cent yet. My idea is to help the team as much as I can but I have a commitment here with the Spanish Olympic committee and with Tara and with everyone involved here. I cant stop completely but I will help the team as much as I can and try to make the Volvo team as good as we can. We don't even have 100 days before the start and we have to prepare a boat and a team, the whole game. It is a pretty exacting, exciting project and a very busy year for sure." Finished Martinez.

Final standings

1 Iker Martinez/Tara Pacheco ESP 23pts
2 Vittorio Bissaro/Silvia Sicouri ITA 42pts
3 Billy Besson/Marie Riou FRA 46pts
4 Allan Norregaard/Line Just DEN 59pts
5 Jason Waterhouse/Lisa Darmanin AUS 62pts
6 Pippa Wilson/John Gimson GBR 67pts
7 Rene Groeneveld/Steven Krol NED 69pts
8 Thomas Zajac/Tanja Frank AUT 70pts
9 Matjas Bahler/Nathalie Brugger SUI 73pts
10 Nicole Van Der Velden/Thijs Visser 80pts

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Andi Robertson
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