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Focus on Olympic Sailing in Denmark

Published on August 1st, 2018

Aarhus, Denmark (August 1, 2018) – The countdown is almost over and after four years of preparation the Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus 2018 will begin tomorrow on the Bay of Aarhus in a building wind beneath an unending sun.

With 1,400 sailors from 85 nations in close to 1,000 boats in 10 Olympic classes studded with stars old and new, the competition (August 2-12) promises to be ferocious, with epic head-to-heads in every fleet. More than 1,100 volunteers are supporting the competition.

There is even more than medals at stake as these Sailing World Championships are the first and largest qualification regatta for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and Enoshima (sailing), with 40% of the places being decided.

While the individual sailors cannot qualify for the Olympics through the World Championships, this is how their nations claim one of the limited entries for the 10 events in Tokyo.

The excitement in the city and the boat parks are palpable, particularly for the Danish competitors. Even the seasoned home Olympic champions have never experienced anything quite like it. A gleaming new Aarhus International Sailing Center will bear witness to it all.

“It’s amazing how big it is,” said Jonas Warrer, the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist in the 49er, who grew up a mile away. “The interest is far bigger than anything before, it’s more like the Olympics, except it’s happening where I grew up. Everyone is coming to Aarhus. To have your friends here watching is incredible.”

Likewise for Jena Mai Hansen, a bronze medallist (with Katja Salskov-Iversen) in the 49erFX in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“I’m super-excited, this is a dream come true,” Hansen said. “Denmark dreamed about this for years and we’re all so happy that it finally happened. This is a city of sailors, and it’s also so young. This event is perfect for Denmark and this city especially. There are not many places that would be able to be hosts like this.”

The World Sailing Championships, held once every four years to bring all ten Olympic classes together, are where the future meets the past. Illustrious names from the Olympics and beyond find the next generation vying for all their tomorrows. That has never been the case more than in Aarhus 2018.

The only Olympic champions from Rio missing are Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (New Zealand, 49er) and Giles Scott (Great Britain, Finn). Sime Fantela (Croatia, Men’s 470) has switched to the 49er. But the rest are here along with those who chased them onto the podium, the rising stars and those from their own countries seeking to seize the one national Olympic spot.

The plots and sub-plots will twist and turn with each race, starting with the Finn and 470s. In the Finn, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist, Caleb Paine (USA), is back on form after taking 2017 out. Jorge Zarif (BRA), who just missed out in Rio, is the form man.

Previous Worlds medallists, Edward Wright (GBR) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) will also be competing in Aarhus, but it will be hard not to keep an eye on Australia’s Tom Slingsby, the Laser gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics.

After not quite getting an Australian America’s Cup bid to fly, Slingsby has switched to the Finn after six years out of dinghy sailing. He is lighter on pounds and practice than he would like in this class of the giants, but he sprinkles the kind of stardust evident throughout the fleet.

There is more America’s Cup experience in the shape of New Zealand’s Josh Junior and Andy Maloney (both Finn), winners with Team NZ in Bermuda in 2017.

In the women’s 470, three Olympic medallists – Hannah Mills (GBR), who took gold in Rio 2016 after silver at London 2012 – Camille Lecointre (FRA) and Fernanda Oliveira (BRA), will all be sailing with new crews. Mills, who has a new partnership with Eilidh McIntyre, picked out the Japanese and Spanish crews as particular threats. Her words also echoed those of the other champions through the boat parks.

“I tend to perform better under high pressure,” Mills said. “I probably let myself off the hook a bit too much when it doesn’t feel like it really matters. For Elidh and I it’s good to be in this position because you hope going into the Olympics this is the position you’re going to be in; that everyone wants to try and beat you and so to have it now, I think it’s great experience for us as a team.”

In the men’s 470, Mathew Belcher and William Ryan (AUS), Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE), and Luke Patience (GBR) are Olympic medallists and will be the ones to beat.

And that is just for starters. Coming up, in the 49erFX, the top four from Rio will continue their battles across the world. Four three of the helms – gold medallist, Martine Soffiati Grael, Jena Hansen, and Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez – the contest takes on added dimension, having just been facing each other offshore in the 65ft Volvo Ocean Race boats.

Meanwhile, among a deep and powerful Nacra 17 fleet still mastering the foils, Nathan Outteridge (AUS), the Olympic gold medallist in London 2012, silver medallist in Rio 2016 and latterly America’s Cup skipper with Artemis, will be in a new partnership with his sister Haylee. Meanwhile, Outteridge’s old partner, Iain “Goobs” Jensen will be back crewing in the men’s 49er.

And can anyone beat the formidable flying Dutchwoman, Marit Bouwmeester, in the Laser Radial? Along with the Laser, these singlehanded fleets are the deepest with 284 sailors from 71 nations.

Along with the windsurfers which start August 5, this fifth edition of the Sailing World Championships will also include kiteboarding, for men and women, for the first time.

They will all be cheered on by a deeply knowledgeable crowd on the pontoon, especially for the stadium sailing courses. “They say that you’re never more than 50km away from the sea wherever you are in Denmark – and that you’re usually standing next to a sailor,” said Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark.

“These Sailing World Championships are the result of the long-term collaboration between the Danish sailing federation, the City of Aarhus and Sport Event Denmark. Their legacy will be for the whole of the sailing world and fans both old and new. When we bid to be the hosts we said Aarhus would be the right place at the right time, now we are going to prove that.”

Another proud Dane, is World Sailing’s president, Kim Andersen. “To host the Hempel Sailing World Championships in my home country and in Aarhus, a legendary sailing city, is a very special feeling,” Andersen said. “From the 29 August 1866, when Aarhus hosted English, Norwegian and Danish sailors in the first international competition on these waters, the city has become a renowned venue, regularly hosting youth and elite competition.

Racing for the 10 Olympic classes and kites are staggered from August 2 to 12 in Aarhus, Denmark. Click here for schedule.

For information on how nations qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, click here.

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Source: World Sailing

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