SAILS 14 PUBLISHED JUNE 2012
With the London 2012 Olympic Games
just around the corner we take a close look at the event, suggest who to keep an eye on, and assess our chances for gold, silver and bronze.
Text Craig Heydon and Jodie Bakewell-White Photography Victor Kovalenko / Paul Kane / Johannes Berg / Yachting New Zealand / Kristine Lederis
It all comes down to this. Thousands of hours of training, hundreds of races, leaving no stone unturned in the relentless pursuit of perfection, all for that one shot at Olympic gold.
Between July 29 and August 11 the eyes of the sailing world will focus on Weymouth, with 380 sailors from more than 50 countries set to compete for gold across 10 Olympic sailing events.
At the time of writing Australia had confirmed its crews in four classes with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page to defend Australia’s 2008 gold in the 470 men, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen to contest the 49er, Tom Slingsby the Laser and Jessica Crisp the women’s RS:X. The remaining team members will be announced closer to the Games.
The 470 is a two-person dinghy that will be raced by both men and women at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The 470 has a single trapeze, spinnaker and weighs 120kg, having first been used at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games and then featuring as the first women’s Olympic class in 1988.
Australia has a proud history in the 470 class, having won four of the past six Olympic gold medals, two in Sydney to Tom King and Mark Turnbull, and Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell, and two in Beijing to Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, and Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson – all under the guidance of Australia’s head coach Victor Kovalenko – known in sailing circles as “the Medal Maker”.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will represent the country at London 2012, with the event to be Mathew’s first Olympics and Malcolm’s third. The pair are currently world number one and have won the past two 470 World Championships and Malcolm is the most successful 470 sailor in history. They have won every 470 trophy possible and rightly will be one of the teams to beat this year.
The competition will be tough with the pair having not won yet on Olympic waters. French duo Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos have been the team to beat in recent years, with Belcher and Page finishing second to the French in three of the four regattas they have contested in Weymouth.
Other crews that will be in contention include home team hopefuls Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, and Croatians Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic who were second and third respectively at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, Israelis Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela and Americans Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl.
Racing begins for the 470 men on August 2 with the medal race to be held on August 9.
Just like the 470 men, the 470 women’s class is wide open, with numerous crews in a position to get on
Australians Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell are campaigning to represent Australia in the class with the pair only teaming up together in October 2011. They tasted instant success with a victory in their first regatta, Sail Melbourne, backing it up with a ninth place finish on home waters at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships and a fourth at the World Cup in Palma.
Amongst the teams to beat are Dutch 2010 World Champions Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout, Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata from Japan who won the Olympic test event last year, Great Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark and Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie of New Zealand.
The 470 women class will be contested between August 3 and 10.
The 49er is an Australian designed, two-person, high performance skiff, which debuted at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have had great success at the Olympic venue, winning all four regattas they have contested there. They have won two of the last three 49er World Championships, with Outteridge also representing Australia at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, finishing fifth following ‘that’ medal race capsize with the final finish line in sight. Working closely with coach Emmett Lazich, this team have been meticulous in their preparation.
Though the pair will have a fight on their hands for gold this August with a number of strong challengers for the top step of the podium. Right up there will be Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez of Spain who will step off the Volvo Ocean Race entry Telefonica and straight back into the 49er. The last time Outteridge and Jensen raced against Martinez and Fernandez was at the Olympic test event and the result couldn’t have been any closer, the two crews were tied on points after 16 races with the Australians winning on a count back after finishing higher in the medal race. The Spanish won Silver at Beijing 2008 and Gold at Athens 2004 and have proven countless times before that even with limited time in the boat before a regatta they will be right up there.
Kiwis Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will also be in the mix, along with British and Danish crews, with both countries still to select their representatives. There is great depth in the class for both countries with three British crews currently in the top 10 in the world and four Danish in the top 12. The 49ers will race between July 30 and August 8.
The Finn is a men’s single-handed dinghy, which requires great strength and athleticism to sail and has been contested at every Olympic Games since 1952.
Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie is the favourite to win his third Finn gold medal at London 2012, adding to his already impressive record. Ainslie has dominated on the water in recent years, winning the Olympic test event last August by a massive 31 points, and having one hand on the trophy at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships before being disqualified on the penultimate day and missing the medal race.
Hot on Ainslie’s heels will be French sailor Jonathan Lobert, Spain’s Rafael Trujillo, Pieter Jan Postma of the Netherlands and New Zealander Dan Slater. Australia’s Brendan Casey will make his Olympic debut at London 2012 having recently qualified for the team following his first ISAF Sailing World Cup round win in Hyeres, France. Casey narrowly missed out on selection for Beijing 2008 and campaigned for Athens 2004 in the Laser class, with his Olympic selection the culmination of plenty of hard work, particularly over the past two years with coach John Bertrand – a US Olympic medallist in the Finn class.
Racing begins on July 29 with the Finn class the first medal to be decided on August 5.
The Laser is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world with more than 250,000 boats in circulation. The boat is robust, simple to rig and sail and features close, tactical racing. The class first appeared at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
Tom Slingsby heads into his second Olympic Games having learnt a lot from the disappointment of finishing 23rd at Beijing 2008. Since then, under Olympic medallist and former rival Michael Blackburn as coach, Slingsby has regained his world number one position, won his third and fourth World Championships in 2010 and 2011 and was named the 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. Slingsby has also been untouchable in Weymouth, winning all four regattas he has contested there.
Beijing 2008 gold medalist Paul Goodison of Great Britain will go toe-to-toe with Slingsby in Weymouth
with the pair having had some great battles in the past. New Zealander Andrew Murdoch, Dutchman Rutger van Schaardenburg, Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus and German Simon Groteluschen will also be ones to watch out for.
The Laser class kicks off on July 30 and continues until August 6.
The Laser Radial class utilises the same hull as the Laser class, with a smaller sail used for the women’s class. Dutch sailor Marit Bouwmeester and Evi van Acker from Belgium have been neck and neck at the front of the class recently with van Acker currently world number one while Bouwmeester won the Olympic test event and the 2011 World Championship.
Australia’s Krystal Weir is campaigning to compete at her second Games, having represented the country in the three-person Yngling class in 2008. Also amongst the front runners this year will be American Paige Railey, China’s 2008 Bronze medalist Lijia Xu, Sari Multala of Finland and Ireland’s Annalise Murphy.
Racing begins for the Laser Radial on July 30 and finishes on August 6.
The RS:X windsurfer made its debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and will be raced by both men and women this year.
The men’s class is hotly contested with nothing separating the top crew. The 2012 World Champion, Julien Bontemps of France, won Silver at Beijing 2008 and will race against 2011 World Champion Dorien van Rijsselberghe of the Netherlands, Israel’s Nimrod Mashich and New Zealand’s Jon Paul Tobin. Australia has qualified for an entry to the Games and three athletes are actively campaigning to represent – Luke Baillie, Patrick Vos and James Levy.
The RS:X men begin racing on July 31 with the medals to be awarded on August 7.
Australia’s Jessica Crisp will compete at her fourth straight Olympic Games this year as she works towards winning the Olympic medal that has eluded her so far.
Crisp will face tough competition in her quest for that medal with the RS:X women’s class incredibly competitive. Amongst the leading sailors is Zofia Noceti-Klepacka of Poland, Israel’s Lee Korzits, Marina Alabau of Spain and veteran Italian Alessandra Sensini. British fans will have their hopes pinned on local sailor Bryony Shaw who won Bronze in 2008.
The RS:X women’s schedule is identical to the men’s, with racing being held between July 31 and August 7.
The Star is the oldest class at the Olympic Games, having been designed in 1910 and a part of the Olympics since 1932. The two-person keelboat does not use a spinnaker and will compete at its last Games in London, having been dropped from the program for Rio 2016. Australia has not yet qualified for a place in the Olympic Games Star fleet but Paul McKenzie and Phil Toth continue to campaign to qualify to the country and for subsequent nomination.
Great Britain’s Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson head into their home games as defending champions having won Gold in 2008. The pair was beaten to the top step at the Olympic test event by Brazilians Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada with other competition to come from Sweden’s Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen, New Zealander’s Hamish Pepper and Craig Monk, and Germany’s Robert Stanjek and Frithjof Kleen.
The Star class begins on July 29 with racing concluding on August 5.
WOMEN'S MATCH RACING
Women’s Match Racing will make its debut at the London 2012 Olympic Games with racing taking place in identical Elliott 6 metre keelboats. Women’s Match Racing is different than the other nine Olympic classes with crews going head-to-head in a round robin two-boat match racing format rather than the traditional fleet racing. Since the class became a part of the Olympic circuit in 2009 the competition has stepped up a level at every regatta, with crews pushing each other to the limits.
Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty are working towards representing Australia at London 2012
with all three aiming to be first time Olympians. Price and crew have been sailing together for a year and recently had success at ISAF Sailing World Cup rounds in Miami and Palma, with Silver and Bronze
Amongst the crews to beat will be America’s 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist in the Laser Radial class Anna Tunnicliffe, Great Britain’s Lucy Macgregor, Russia’s Ekaterina Skudina and France’s Claire Leroy.
The Women’s Match Racing program is the longest of the Games, beginning on July 29 and continuing until August 11, and the final medal awarded.
FOLLOWING THE ACTION
The London 2012 Olympic Games will be broadcast in Australia on Channel 9 and Foxsports. Foxsports will feature two races a day from Weymouth, along with all 10 medal races. News from the Australian Olympic Committee can be found at: www.london2012.olympics.com.au and for all the information on Australia’s sailors head to: www.australiansailingteam.com.au
TEAM KIWI ON FORM
The New Zealand Olympic Sailing Team for London 2012 is young and talented, and, as they enter the final countdown to Weymouth, has built a track record of top results.
The man at the helm of Yachting New Zealand’s Olympic programme, Jez Fanstone backs all his charges selected to represent the country this year.
“Hard work and determination has returned good results for these sailors recently. They all earned their spot on the team by impressing our Olympic selection panel, and they’re all capable of a great result in London and of making New Zealand proud,” says Fanstone.
“I believe we’re on track to perform at this year’s Games and things look really good for the future of New Zealand Olympic yachting.”
A review of recent form provides some insight into what the New Zealand 2012 Olympic Sailing Team is capable of.
New Zealand’s 49er pair of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke has reaped the benefit of enlisting the world’s best as training partners over the last three years, repeatedly collecting podium placings at ISAF World Cup events through 2011, culminating in a World Championship silver medal in Perth. Having represented in the Men’s 470 in Qingdao, helmsman Burling has Olympic experience to boot. The pair’s results from the Weymouth Olympic venue are solid – after a 12th at Skandia Sail for Gold last year they went on to collect bronze at the Olympic Test Event.
Another crew with previous Olympic experience with a hand on the tiller is Jo Aleh and her crew Olivia Powrie. Aleh represented in the women’s single hander in 2008 switching to the double-handed 470 for this Olympic bid. There’s undoubtedly a little magic in this combination with a World Championship silver medal in 2010 and a string of 2011 podium finishes including Gold in Weymouth at Sail for Gold and a World Championship Bronze.
Consistency at the major internationals secured Andrew Murdoch New Zealand’s single Olympic berth in the Laser event after stiff competition from his domestic training partners, selectors naming him as New Zealand’s representative last December. It seems he likes the venue with a silver medal at 2011 Sail for Gold and a fourth place at the Olympic Test Event. At Qingdao in 2008 Murdoch finished fifth, but with four World Championship medals to his name, including a bronze in 2011, the Northlander definitely has the mettle to bring home an Olympic medal if things go his way.
Excellent form, and results on the world stage during 2011 rewarded Jon-Paul Tobin with his long-time goal of a chance to contest the men’s windsurfing event at the Olympic Games. Traditionally a strong breeze man, Tobin pulled results in Weymouth last year – a second at Sail for Gold and a fourth at the Olympic test event. His form has continued into 2012 with a World Championship bronze medal in March.
Perseverance has also brought rewards for 30-year-old Sara Winther earning her debut spot in the 2012 New Zealand Olympic Team after seven years of campaigning in the Laser Radial. During 2011 Winther recorded her best ever results at the major internationals, a highlight being back to back gold medals at both the Spanish and French ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas in Palma then Hyeres. In Perth 2011, Winther hit a career high making a World Championship medal race and finishing tenth overall. She also boasts form at the Weymouth venue having collected a bronze at 2010 Sail for Gold Regatta.
Paul Snow Hansen and Jason Saunders have significantly upped their game since opening their bid to secure the Men’s 470 Olympic berth for New Zealand, and earned early selection in December 2011. Rarely finishing outside the top ten at major internationals this season and last with a career best World Championship result –eighth – and a recent victory at the 2012 470 International Spring Cup. This young duo now has plenty of medal race experience and come August, with nothing to lose, will put their best foot forward in this highly competitive event.
WOMEN’S MATCH RACING
Women’s match race helm Stephanie Hazard (22 years) and her crew of Jenna Hansen (25 years) and Susannah Pyatt (21 years) are a young trio climbing through the ranks by putting in the hard work and forging strong partnerships with their coaches. A top ten finish at the 2012 Perth World Championships
was a career high point and the team is excited to be representing New Zealand racing the Elliot 6 metres in Weymouth.
At the time of writing no selections have been made in the Star, Finn or Women’s RS:X events.
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