Aug 17, 2016

Rio Olympics 2016, Nacra 17, Argentina Olympic Champ & Gold Medal: The Legend of Santiago Lange

All images Matias Capizzano /  &  Sailing Energy / / World Sailing. HQ click for slidewhow & original size.  Need to get an AUT pic from today still. They got main one Day 4 though. - Full galleries Matias  Full Gallery Sailing Energy / Worlds Sailing a -
Medal Race stream replay:
- US go to  NBC Olympics Stream
- In Argentina  + Espn Play + TYC Sports Play.
Sailing history books will remember this day, August 16, 2016 as the day Santiago Lange became a living Legend. In his sixth Olympic games he achieved his 3rd consecutive Multihull Class medal (no Cats in London 2012...) , two bronze on Tornado along another Arg Olympic legend & 4 time medalist windsurfer/catsailor Camau Espínola, and the Gold Medal today at Rio with another fierce and focused sailor like Cecilia Carranza.

Santi Lange has endured much in his life, with a higher degree of intensity last months as we'll see later. Lange has 4 sons but a marriage separation, leaving the kids home while he working abroad full time campaigning Tornado, TP, Volvo or AC , you name it. This week he recalled in a major local newspaper how he had to sleep on a moored yacht a friend let him at his local club, Nautico San Isidro, as not much money or resources were available in the early days.

Trying a sailing career in Argentina is not easy to build up, no much support if any, Lange kept going. Many know him from those latest campaigns but he also competed at Greece 2000 on the Classic Tornado (No spi 1 trap)  before that, he was crowned Snipe World Champ and also help greatly to develop Optimist in Argentina. plus two previous Olympics in Laser 96, and Soling 88.

Last year I visited him for chat at his club, he was working on the boat and getting ready to travel for a Rio test event, his friend Ferdi Garcia Guevara was there, he introduced him:  "Thanks to this guy I'm sailing cats, he put me on a Tornado".

Argentina never had history of local multis, old traditional monohull sailing was the only choice.
Used to sail Laser or Solings, Santiago couldn´t resist what his friend offered: the wide open World of speed sailing without limitations, the Tornado was too much for his standard monohull sailing education and experience to let it go. he embraced multis forever from then on.

Tornado Sport & campaing with Camau Espinola
After Sidney 2000 Santi got in touch with Camau Espinola, a double Silver medalist in Mistral ('96,'00) , the Tornado 'Sport' (Spi double trap)  was proposed by Mitch Booth to update the old outdated T Classic mode.
Lange success in the Olympics was still elusive and Camau with two Silvers wanted to look for further challenges and together they joined forces to form a special team.

One of their first projects they had in 2001 was to sail from San Isidro, Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata 300 NM in open sea, non stop. That was hard as hell, and Camau swore never again to embark in such beachcat cruising.

Later they put their training to the limit to establish the 'Rio de la Plata Crossing Record' from Arg to Urugay coast.
Our open river is not easy to sail (go figure why Santi and others are so good)  less to attempt a crossing full speed on a 20knots Southeastern.

First attemp and in the middle of the crossing (30NM), Camau went flying on a hard capsize and ended later 1000mts apart from Santi and the Tornado. That was not fun at all, as we know in harsh weather and waves with the cat saling capsized , tramp as sail, is hard to recover your crew.
He was lost for some hours,  until a support boat reached them , both sailors got together again, to return back to try the crossing another day.

Chop is steep and hard, more in the middle of both shores (Buenos Aires - Colonia, Uruguay) beachcat open ocean sailing or non stop crossing record attempts are not for rookies,  these two experiences got them even more committed to the new project. After the Crossing experience Camau also wondered how was possible for them to previously sail open sea to Mar del Plata, simply nuts without the right support.

First Achievements in Multis
A World championship in 2004 came before Athens Olympics which got them on the performance zone. Later the known Bronze medal repeated at Beijing , Chupacabra code zero threat included...! They were looking for a Gold which never came, but instead they  were the only crew to repeat medals in the Tornado Sport Era.

In the middle a smart and dedicated campaign done with their top competitors, Roman Hagara & Peter Steinacher. That was a great strategy as both teams would improve each other. From that period
Santi recalled today how Thomas Zajak (Bronze Medal today with Tanja Franck for Austria) was part of the training too, praising him for being a rookie attempting to follow those two monster crews ryhtm.

After 2008 , the Multihull fiasco shocked the Catsailing community as many times described here, so Santi went looking new horizons away from Olympic racing. I don´t think going back to Laser was ever an option for him.

2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 were out of the question for him until Cecilia Carranza, a former Laser Olympic sailor herself went looking for him to give a try to the new Olympic Multihull.
Being Lange, what else to do than going for it after some good rides?
Both start training together and results came rather fast already at Santander Worlds 2014, a  vice WC behind Billy & Marie and Rio qualification included.

All seemed on wheels for the new mixed Argenine crew, getting to know each other, gaining on the water and competition hours.

Until Santi was diagnosed cancer in 2015, tough direct hit and delicated situation as the surgery demanded to remove great part of his left lung, so it was major hospital time & deeds.
After that, the campaign for Rio 2016 seemed to get too complicated, as health was priority.
All his family, friends, Ceci and sons worried plenty.

We all wished him promptly recovery with health above all...  Not in that order precisely for him, I remember contacting him and he told me "I'm ready to sail again" to which I replied "this time sailing is secondary get well first"

Rio was only  few months ahead, and at the time it was mission impossible.
Not in the mind, body & spirit of Santiago Lange.

They slowly returned to training with Ceci, he was way weak and barely able to speak, he went back to sail in our local waters which are a great training ground. Bypassed some events and went to Clearwater Worlds  for a modest 12th overall. Later they travelled back to Rio where they established base camp towards August 2016.

Living and sailing in Rio was key to final achievement. Nothing was left to luck. Medals medals are not randomly delivered as some thought in the beginning of this year Olympic regatta,
I replied random my 'head' , if you only knew the work behind for today's medal Race 'out of this world' recovery....

Medal Race Rio 2016
Have you seen the Medal Race? If not please watch it, I will try to search one able to be re published.
Update: Medal Race stream replay:
- US go to  NBC Olympics Stream
- In Argentina  + Espn Play + TYC Sports Play.

All was ready for a controlled regatta by the most experienced sailor in the fleet against the new top guns as we reported on Friday after the youth got top 4 leaders, who where caught back yesterday by the old Master & Ceci in an impressive form.

Today MR was set up, 10 boats, 5,7 & 9pts respectively for the nearest competition before the final race, a  3rd place alone guaranteed Lange&Carranza the Medal without any other consideration.

Not easy task though, Jason Waterhoue & Lisa Darmanin scored 3 bullets during the week, Vittorio Bissaro & Silvia Sicouri had the consistency needed along Thomas Zajak & Tanja Franck from Austria to fight for the medals. An Injured Billy Besson & Marie Riou could also win the final race no problem so the possibilities and combinations were endless.

THE Race
1 Minute to the start, plenty of space to maneuver on a small ten boat fleet, we all thought... and then you have 80% of the fleet on a port start , including ARG who was near the pin along GBR.
Only FRA & AUS decided to reduce chances of messy start and went starboard pin mode.

GBR crossed ahead AUS with a clear penalty, leaving no chance for Jason to bare away, which put him direct course with ARG who bore themselves to avoid contact.

Lange was penalized and had to do a 360. We were following the race also through our local Arg F18 group,  we were in awe of what was going on, it was some kind of joke? This guy wanted to lose? w**!!!!!  I thought to myself, for that kind of crazy stuff we have plenty of specialists here, I can do that awful start blind myself any minute, any day !!

Dead last then to start their medal ""hope"". I went "that's it, but why this way...."
Gemma Jones  & Jason Saunders got onto Santi's initial plan, but  well implemented , the port start payed dividens putting the Kiwis where ARG pretended to be, leading first upwind leg.

First Mark : NZL, AUS, BRA & AUT ,  3 of the top 5 contenders were doing what it was needed to get a medal, ARG was trailing back badly and ITA was nowhere to be seen also.
Both reached the mark 9th & 10th , with Lange leading backwards...

I was following in disbelief, wathcing the live stream and also checking the tracking and predictive ranking, at the time useless effort ever I thought.

Breeze was on, with double trap conditions downwind. Lange decided to go right, not much options left beyond he could see an advantage or not. Dead last was now a 6th! in one leg distance.
5th already half upwind to Mark III.

Leaders NZL & AUS tacked to left, ARG in 5th to 4th followed suit behind, FRA & AUT kept going right. That positioning and good speed put Lange in third place?!

ARG tacked at the mark in front of AUT coming on starboard, Arg inside the zone, as per graphics. Zajak had to bareaway a bit,  at the mark rounding plus gybe got complicated for Lange as AUT gybed inside, both crews start "chatting" each other with the Europeans waiving protest , Lange proceed to respond with one of his own.

Jury was at the mark on a rib, and raised Red flag, it was clear it was for us in Argentina, that penalty was for ARG, as Odyssey is the name of the game for us. Both boat kept full speed downwind without a clear knowledge of who was penalized, the jury chased Lange who was 3rd by then! and Gold medal at hand at that moment of time, no yet.

Broadcast got a closeup of the Argentinean boat, and guess what ? Yes, what else? windward rudder blade was flying back unlocked, Santi trying to put it down again and the Nacra 17 going zig zag all over the place, meanwhile he acknowledge penalty as the Jury boat came closer, and set Ceci for a yet another 360. That was it , again, medal and hard work lost for ever.

The regatta looked already a blockbuster thriller , terror & suspense film altogether, it was too much. It was the end again with NZL still in lead, AUS second and AUT in 3rd with Jason & Thomas securing medal respectively over ITA who was trailing Billy Besson & Marie Riou.

USA passed through ARG like they were a fixed mark, BRA did the same on the right with GBR windward to Lange , FRA gybed in front of ARG with  ITA  gybing too on port but at same height.
Arg was speeding again by now double trap and they got ahead the mess following Besson who was 5th.

Argentina managed to keep 6th place at last mark, while Aussies Jason & Lisa  and Austrian Thomas Zajak & Tanja Franck   were celebrating  finishing 2nd and 3rd.
English commentators spell disaster all race on ARG, and with a reason, one of them even assigned Gold to AUS, in fact it was no easy to calculate at the moment, as Santi & Ceci finished 6th with long faces wondering what hell was going on, how on this Earth that race developed for them was literally out of this world.

I followed predictive tracking raking who placed them first, but no Argie was cheering at the moment, all streams (I watched TV network & Internet feed at same time plus tracking) were in awe too, no one dare to crown an Olympic champ , my twitter feeds were stop 2 seconds after the start of the race....... so it was silence all over the place, Arg looked to the support boats (and mighty God in Heaven) for answers , local Arg TV filming boat got near ,
Santi asked for results, they replied maybe a medal, whichever color and metal was ok for them (and for us) after that horror & twilight zone show.
Seconds later tv crew shouted "Gold"  Lange stare in disbelief , after hearing the magic word he went bersek with Ceci , got together in  long hug while the Nacra 17 going direct collision course to another post race near crash..-

Breath a little and that was it. Gold for Argentina, Silver for Australia and Bronze for Austria.
If World Sailing, former isaf, wanted to show excitement, speed, drama and action in one race, they got an Oscar level short film, of course provided by the multihulls they so happily banned in 2008.

That regatta was the perfect analogy of how Santi & Ceci campaign and path to the Gold medal.
What a way of suffering, I told you Argentina is all about suffering two days ago, do you want any more proof than this race? Well today stand tall Gaucho walk against Germany in field hockey was rather easy going for a change.

Images of Arg flags and official announcer going "Argentina, Argentina" now confirmed the final positions, but I couldn´t post more than "Heart Attack" or "Close the Games" , the "ARG Olympic Champions" keyboard entry was not going to happen until the Gold medal was awarded. Spent half an hour in disbelief, shocked, not for us of course, but for what these two sailors had done.

Cecilia Carranza, the Iron Lady
Now that I named Santi's career and deeds in this final race, is time to give Cecilia Carranza the deserved recognition in achieving this Gold medal, not on her drive and stubbornness to convince Santi to compete again, or to learn to sail & crews Multis coming from Laser in such a short time, not even to speak the special training Lange put specially for her,
but mainly on how she responded this week, and even more in this final race.

Ok this guys is a helm Gran Maestre by now, and he decided today to took her for a roller coaster ride, 360s , hard dives and full pressure handling for a Catracing crew can take.

Maybe he was testing her for next Tokyo 2020 foiling campaign, go figure, but Ceci stood up to the challenge and responded with a performance of her own, Lange made everything he could to throw her out of the boat today, I can assure you that no problem. Or just look shot above!

Cecilia Carranza might have some years to match Santi's career , but she was key for Lange's greatest achievement so far, Ceci is a Gold medalist by own right representing the hard work done by all the Nacra 17 crews in past campaigns, specially girls in both positions.

Future & Legacy
To finish I would like to praise  again as done whole week with Billy Besson & Marie Riou, hat off to the French , racing with a broken back is way beyond duty or Olympic spirit, that was simply brave.

Vittorio Bissaro & Silvia Sicouri had a good chance for the medal at Rio, they missed a bit in this final race but  Gemma Jones & Jason Saunders, Jason Waterhouse & Lisa Darmanin and Thomas Zajak & Tanja Franck also delivered.

Respect for them all, and proud again to have these guys following the Cat racing arena left by Bundock, Ahsby, Hagara, Steinacher, Echavarri, Paz , Booth and many others including Andrew Landenberger who coached the Australian Youth to a Silver medal in their first attempt.

For the new generation (read report from Friday) , Lange's lessons learned are clear, keep pushing always the limits, keep training and keep participating year after year, Olympic after Olympics, even after you've been removed a lung for Christ sake. Eternal glory only awaits those who had the will and drive to solve or put errors back, to learn from them and to never give up.

It were long hard decades path for the Argentinean to final pedestal, being inherited talented it's not enough, medals came rather late (54 by now), and that might be one of his best legacies, the hard work as base for long term success.

Billy & Marie didn´t gave up and they will get more chances for their own series of medals, Santi and Ceci didn´t gave neither up today in spite all odds against them, it was the triumph of persistence and preparation.

The new catsailing generations racing at Rio and watching at home are left with a tremendous legacy, from those great Tornado sailors, yet a new legend was born today:

The Legend of Santiago Lange.

Watch emotional post prize giing ceremony interview with Santi & Ceci below by World Sailing:

Final top 10 results below , full at

Pos Flag Helm & Crew R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 R9 R10 R11 R12 R13 Tot Nett
1 ARG Santiago LangeCecilia Carranza Saroli 11 2 13 2 12 6 1 6 9 (21)
2 1 12 98 77
2 AUS Jason WaterhouseLisa Darmanin 6 7 4 1 1 5 15 11 11 1 12 -17 4 95 78
3 AUT Thomas ZajacTanja Frank -12 3 12 6 9 8 8 3 4 10 4 5 6 90 78
4 NZL Gemma JonesJason Saunders 9 -13 7 5 4 2 4 8 12 13 13 2 2 94 81
5 ITA Vittorio BissaroSilvia Sicouri 10 12 3 3 3 7 6 -13 13 2 7 4 14 97 84
6 FRA Billy BessonMarie Riou 7 -17 15 8 13 15 2 1 1 3 11 7 10 110 93
7 SUI Matías BühlerNathalie Brugger 1 6 6 -19 11 18 10 7 5 5 1 10 20 119 100
8 USA Bora GulariLouisa Chafee 13 9 (21)
12 21
4 9 2 8 8 9 3 8 127 106
9 GBR Ben SaxtonNicola Groves 3 4 2 7 5 3 13 12 -16 15 15 12 18 125 109
10 BRA Samuel AlbrechtIsabel Swan 17 1 17 9 2 16 12 4 -19 7 8 8 16 136 117