Photography by Beau Outteridge for Australian Sailing Team
17 December 2019
Seven months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a battle of Olympic dimension is set to unfold on Melbourne’s Port Phillip with Olympians, Olympic and World Champions and those who want to make their Olympic dreams a reality racing for world championship glory as well as Olympic selection out of Royal Brighton Yacht Club from Monday, 16 December 2020.
The Olympic Games is the ultimate goal in Olympic sailing and with only 19 countries to be represented at Tokyo 2020 in the Finn Class and only four country spots left, the battle will be tight.
The 2019 Finn Gold Cup will be the Oceania qualification event with Australia yet to secure their Olympic quota spot. However, with New Zealand already having qualified at last year’s world championships this will be more of a formality.
But so much more will be at stake at the Finn Gold Cup with athlete selection far from decided yet in Australia as well as in many other of the 20 countries participating.
Australian Sailing Squad’s Rio Olympian Jake Lilley (QLD) as well as Melbourne local Oliver Tweddell (VIC) are the current top ranked Australian sailors, who will face a tough challenge on home waters in order to convince selectors.
“Australian Sailing has very high standards to send sailors to the Olympic Games and we look at sailor performance at events like the Finn Gold Cup to see if they meet the standards to be part of the Olympic team,” Australian Sailing Finn coach Rafael Trujillo explained.
“We want to see our sailors be amongst the top sailors at the events. The Finn Gold Cup is their opportunity to stake a claim for a place on our Olympic team. We are here to perform and to fight to have Australia at the Olympic Games,” the four-time Olympian and Olympic silver medallist added about the task ahead.
“It will be a long race but Melbourne is a great opportunity and it’s really exciting to be competing on our home waters. It’s the best preparation possible for a world championship and our athletes will have more experience on the water here than anyone else.
“We have been working really well in training, now it’s time to transfer that into racing and I hope this marks the point where we manage to do that.”
Only Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden have already selected their Tokyo 2020 Finn sailors with 2016 Olympic champion and four-time world champion Giles Scott (GBR), World #2 and recent World Cup 1 winner in Japan Nicholas Heiner (NED) as well as former world champion, dual Olympian and 2012 Olympic champion Max Salminen (SWE) already having secured their ticket.
All three of them will also be competing in Melbourne highlighting the calibre of the field as well as the attractiveness of Melbourne as a sailing destination in preparation for the Olympic Games.
“The top level of the Finn class is here and given the level of the class, the biggest hurdle is to actually make it to the Olympic Games. Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Russia, Croatia, France, Finland and Czech Republic are all countries that will be racing here without having secured their Olympic spot yet. Most of them can make the top 10 and they are here in Australia to prepare in the best way to qualify for their spots at (Sailing World Cup) Genoa.”
With world championship glory, Olympic quota spots, team trials as well as Olympic preparation at stake, sailors are expected to race their hearts out when the world championship starts at Royal Brighton Yacht Club on Monday 16 December 2019.
“Racing in the Finn is so high level with so many good sailors in one fleet and 70 minutes of pain each day with two races over six days. The Finn class represents all the values of the Olympic spirit, with our sailors representing some of the fittest athletes in the sport of sailing and it will be a top challenge to race in this bay.
“We hardly have a top limit of wind speed and Melbourne in summer is normally quite windy in the afternoon which will make for a great spectacle to watch,” Trujillo said.
“You will see the best of our sport in the best sailing conditions. The 20 best countries are here and all the top sailors. The sea breeze here in Melbourne with its big wave is similar to what we are expecting in the wind range at the Tokyo 2020 Games and should we also get some hot weather this will be a good test base for everyone who is preparing for Japan. That’s why everyone is here, even all the countries that have not yet secured an Olympic spot.”
The 2019 Finn Gold Cup kicks off a series of Olympic class world championships on Port Phillip over the Melbourne Summer of Sailing 2020 with Royal Brighton Yacht Club also hosting the 2020 Sail Melbourne International Regatta.
“Royal Brighton Club treats us so well that the Finn sailors have a really high-quality environment for training, including the gym and the amazing restaurant. Plus Melbourne also gives the athletes the opportunity to enjoy and have a great time over the long time they are here with a lot of the internationals as well as us training and racing also at Sail Melbourne in January and with some of them staying until the end of February.”
The 2019 Finn Gold Cup started with an Opening Ceremony on Friday 13 December 2019 before racing from Monday 16 December 2019. The final race and medal race is schedule for Saturday 21 December 2019.
The 2019 Finn Gold Cup will be the start to Melbourne’s 2020 Summer of Sailing with Port Phillip Bay hosting a series of Olympic class World Championships over the months December 2019 to March 2020.
The Finn Gold Cup will be followed by Sail Melbourne International, Victoria’s premier event for Olympic class sailing. In February, the Laser and Laser Radial World Championships are coming to Sandringham Yacht Club, while the 49er/FX- and Nacra World Championships will be hosted by Royal Geelong Yacht Club.