With just six months to go to the start of the Olympic sailing competition, this week’s combined 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships (9-14 February) in Clearwater, Florida, is set to provide fierce competition in the fastest Olympic Games boats.
Thirteen British crews will be in action across the three double-handed events, where world title honours and potential Rio 2016 places are up for grabs across the international fleet.
Six British Sailing Team crews will be looking to make their mark in the 74-boat men’s 49er skiff event, with John Pink the only British entrant to have previous World Championship medal-winning form in the class, having won silver in 2009.
Now sailing with Stuart Bithell, the duo have finished sixth at the previous two editions of the World Championships so will be looking for an upgrade in 2016, while Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign will also be keen to improve on their previous World Championship finish of tenth at the 2015 event held in Argentina last November.
“The Worlds are always important and given that it’s the last Worlds before the Olympics the previous run you’ve seen that the people who medal or win at the Worlds will likely be medal contenders for Rio,” Fletcher explained.
“Our goal is to medal. It’s just as important as any other World Championships and we’re looking to deploy what we’ve got and come out with the best result.”
Podium Potential squad teammates James Peters and Fynn Sterritt had an impressive run to finish fifth at last month’s Sailing World Cup Miami, while Scottish brothers Rory and Neil Hunter, Chris Taylor-Sam Batten and Jack Hawkins-Chris Thomas complete the British 49er line up in Florida.
In the women’s 49erFX fleet, Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth, who are joined by fellow Brits and FX World Championship debutantes Sophie Weguelin and Anna Burnet, are expecting some tough battles as the crews jostle in the pecking order ahead of Rio.
“It’s reasonably far away from the Games so it’s a good opportunity for a peak event early in the year,” explained Dobson, who finished fifth alongside Ainsworth at the 2015 Worlds.
“We’re really looking forward to bringing everything we’ve got. It’s a good opportunity for us to see where we are against the fleet and we’ll be trying to do the best we can.
“The Kiwis completely smashed Miami so I think they’ll be coming in to this with some really good form, “ assessed Dobson of her international rivals. “The Brazilians and the Italians have been medalling pretty much all the time for the last two years so I think they’ll be there in the hunt and it’s also part of the Danish trials and they’re bringing a different level at the moment. There are plenty of people who are really stepping it up so it should make for a good week.”
Five British crews are set to contest the Nacra 17 mixed multihull event, with the top British crews changing regatta finishing positions regularly. Lucy Macgregor and Dave Evans had the best pre-Worlds warm-up of the Brits, finishing fourth at the Sailing World Cup Miami, with Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves winning bronze at the Copa Brasil de Vela in December and European Championship gold in September. John Gimson and Hannah Diamond were the only British crew in the 2015 World Championship medal race, and were in the hunt for the podium positions until a capsize saw them end the event in tenth.
Podium Potential squad crews Tom Phipps-Nikki Boniface and Rupert White-Kirstie Urwin will also be looking to impress in the 50 boat multihull fleet.
Racing gets underway for all three classes on Tuesday 9 February with the final medal races on Sunday 14 February.
Results will be available at http://www.saillife.com/#!results/xnacl
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