MySailing Editor-in-Chief Greta Quealy met Nacra 17 sailor Lisa Darmanin on her return home in Sydney after a hotel quarantine following a hectic Tokyo Olympics.
Cousins ââLisa Darmanin, 30, and Jason Waterhouse, 29, had a colossal task ahead of them in the Nacra 17 Medal Race mixed race at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – and they almost pulled it off.
Bronze was up for grabs. They only had to put four boats between them and the German crew. It sounds achievable, but they had to contend with a huge pool of talent in the Nacra 17 fleet.
Right from the start line, the odds seemed to favor the Australian duo who won silver in Rio (they missed gold by one point to the Argentinian crew). They entered the Medal Race in Tokyo in fourth place, with bronze in their sights.
âWe had a penalty at the start on the Germans, so that job was done. And we handled the Germans and the Spaniards from there, âsaid Darmanin of the Tokyo Medal Race start line.
âUnfortunately, we don’t know when it happened, but we think it was within seconds that we caught some plastic on our foil and didn’t notice it. We couldn’t really outsmart [where the boat sits above the water at an incredibly fast pace] downwind.”
And that was when, Darmanin said, that she and Waterhouse knew they were no longer in contention for a medal.
The Italian team, Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti, won gold with 10 points. Silver medalists John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR) were 18 points ahead of bronze medalists Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer (GER).
Darmanin and Waterhouse finished in fifth place overall.
This loss devastated the duo who have been sailing together for more than 12 years.
âAt the moment, it always hurts not to bring home a medal, especially when you feel like you have the skills to do it,â said Darmanin, who learned to sail when he was young at the Manly 16ft Skiff Club. âBut the point is, we raced incredibly well and all of the decisions we made on the track were good.
“It will be easier to live with in the future.”
The preparation for the Tokyo Olympics was different from the usual routine of Darmanin and Waterhouse. Due to COVID-19, they were unable to train and run abroad.
âUnfortunately being in Australia we have been isolated from the rest of the fleet for too long and the Nacra 17 is new so the class was growing very quickly and we probably underestimated its size,â said Darmanin. âSo it definitely hurt us, but I guess you can’t control a pandemic. “
The Nacra 17 mixed class was new to the Rio 2016 Olympics scene, before the class became a foiling for Tokyo 2020.
Darmanin said conditions at the Enoshima Marina were tough.
âIt was not what we expected in terms of racing conditions,â said Darmanin. âMost of our races were around 12-15 knots and choppy. While we expected more light choppy or big wind and waves.
Highly skilled competitors added another layer of complexity and pain to the mix.
âThe competition was pretty tough. We were really shocked – gold and silver were miles faster than the rest of us. We certainly did not expect this. “
That’s not to say the Australians haven’t fought well. They got results in the top 10, the majority in the top group. They won a second place in the first race and won the seventh race.
Darmanin and Waterhouse coach Darren Bundock, silver medalist in the Tornado category at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, was in Enoshima to witness the victories.
âWe ran very well. Speed ââwas our biggest enemy, and we spent a lot of time looking at the footage every night, and we tried to learn, âsaid Darmanin. “But we didn’t have enough time to catch up [the winning teams]. They were too fast.
Although disappointed with the overall result, Darmanin remains proud of her accomplishments and those of Waterhouse.
âI was really proud of the way we mentally faced the Olympics. It’s disappointing, but I’m not going to blame myself too much because I don’t think, looking back, that there would have been a lot that I could have changed.
His partnership with Jason Waterhouse, “Jase”, is watertight. Waterhouse is currently in Europe for Sail Grand Prix where he is the flight controller for the Australian SailGP team.
âJase and I get along really well – most of the time,â Darmanin said with a laugh. âIt makes it a little easier to be with family, but our goals are aligned. We know we’re both here to do our best, we’re both here to chase the highest pedestal. It makes it a whole lot easier, when the two of you are in full swing. And we have so much respect for the other person.
Darmanin takes off in the coming months after five turbulent years. She is also looking forward to developing her skills as a commentator for events such as SailGP.
When the time comes to get back on the water, the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are not on the agenda. Darmanin said she would not rule out another gold crack.
âAt this point, I feel like there’s a bit of unfinished business,â Darmanin said. âWe have the skills to win the gold medal, but there is a lot to be done to have an Olympic campaign. So we have to think about whether we are ready to make all these sacrifices for a few more years. What if we have the right tools to do it. For now, the Olympics will have to be a TBC.
If she and Waterhouse decide to target Paris, the Nacra 17 will no longer be the only class of mixed sailing. Class 470 will also be mixed in 2024.
âIt’s good that there are more mixed classes at the Olympics,â said Darmanin. âIt’s good for men to sail with women and [for men to] realize that women are sailors and not women sailors.
Darmanin and Waterhouse’s successful partnership with Nacra 17 is proof of this. According to Darmanin, the future of women sailors looks bright.
“I think it’s a good time to be a woman in sailing.”
By Greta Quealy