Olympic sailing: On the eve of the Enoshima World Cup regatta at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games venue in Japan getting under way here’s a breakdown of the likely podium contenders in the main classes.
Following the Hempel Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, the sailors are continuing their journey to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition. Enoshima will welcome sailors in just under two years’ time for the Olympic Games and for many, the World Cup will be their first opportunity to learn about the Olympic venue.
Events held on Olympic waters are often strong indicators on what to expect at the Olympic Games.
After the London 2012 test event in 2011, 17 medallists went on to clinch an Olympic medal, while at the Aquece Rio 2015, Rio 2016’s sailing test event, 16 medallists achieved an Olympic medal a year later.
The fleets in Enoshima feature many of the leading racers who will be aiming to reign supreme and set a benchmark. Eight of the World Champions crowned in Aarhus are racing and will be joined by more than 450 sailors from 45 nations. More than 30 Olympic medallists are also competing.
Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) have been unbeatable in the Nacra 17 in 2018, winning two World Cup events as well as the World Championships.
In Aarhus, the scene was set for a memorable Medal Race as the Italians led by a narrow margin over Nathan and Haylee Outteridge (AUS), Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) and Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lübeck (DEN) who were all in contention for gold.
However, a consistent breeze failed to materialise, handing the Italians the world title. The four teams will pick up where they left off in Enoshima, renewing their rivalry in a bid to show who has what it takes on Olympic waters for the first time.
Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) make a return to the World Cup Series, following Riou’s successful adventure on-board Dongfeng Race Team during the Volvo Ocean Race. Besson and Riou were the unprecedented favourites for Rio 2016 gold two years ago, but Besson sustained a back injury that severely impacted his performance. The pair won all four World Championships in the Rio quad and will once again be a team to be feared.
Further contenders in the Nacra 17 fleet include Rio 2016 silver medallists Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS), Ben Saxton and Nicola Boniface (GBR), Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders (NZL) and Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee (USA).
Over the last seven years, Giles Scott (GBR) has raced at 26 international competitions in the Finn. He has won 23 of those, narrowly missing out on gold in the remaining three and settling for silver. After some months off to focus on the British America’s Cup project, he returns to the Finn fleet in Enoshima.
Many of Scott’s victories in recent years have been comprehensive but the 21-boat fleet in Enoshima has significant strength in depth. Jorge Zarif (BRA), Tapio Nirkko (FIN), Jonathan Lobert (FRA), Ed Wright (GBR), Nicholas Heiner (NED), Caleb Paine (USA) and Max Salminen (SWE) all have what it takes to stop Scott in his tracks.
Pavlos Kontides (CYP), 2018 World Champion, will spearhead the 59-boat Laser fleet, the largest in Enoshima. Rio 2016 medallists Tom Burton (AUS), Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and Sam Meech (NZL) will also sail in the fleet.
Belgium’s newly-crowned Laser Radial World Champion, Emma Plasschaert, will be joined by Rio 2016 gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) in the 54-boat pack. Both sailors will be vying for the podium, as will Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN), Alison Young (GBR) and Paige Railey (USA).
The Netherlands dominated in the RS:X competition in Aarhus, winning gold in the men’s and women’s fleets. Both Dorian van Rijsselberghe and Lilian de Geus will be in Enoshima with strong competition around them in their respective fleets.
Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz won a third gold for the Netherlands in Aarhus and they will race in the 24-boat 49erFX fleet that also features Rio 2016 gold medallists Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA). In the 49er, 26-teams will race.
The Men’s and Women’s 470 fleets will feature 32 and 23 teams respectively.
Racing starts at 11:00 local time on Tuesday 11 September. The Men’s and Women’s RS:X, 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 competition will conclude on Saturday 15 September with their Medal Races and the Laser, Laser Radial, 470s and Finn will wrap up on Sunday 16.
Both days will be available to watch live on World Sailing’s YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/worldsailingtv.
Source: World Sailing