With the selection of 12 of the 15 strong sailing squad for Tokyo 2020, Team GB has opened the door to next summer’s Olympic Games.
The selections were recommended by the RYA Olympic Selection Committee (OSC), following their appraisal of recent championship, World Cup and the Olympic test events.
First up are the “bankers” – those most likely to medal and with a high expectation of bringing back gold.
Right up there is Giles Scott, sailing in the Finn class event.
Won gold at Rio 2016, when he continued the unbroken run of wins in the event by Iain Percy and Sir Ben Ainslie going back to Sydney 2000.
Scott is a four-time winner of the Finn Gold Cup (world Championship) and despite being heavily involved in the INEOS Team UK America’s Cup challenge, found time to win the Finn 2019 European title, and take bronze at the final Tokyo Test event in August.
This is the final appearance of the Finn dinghy at the Games and Scott will want to make that final gold his.
Also firmly in the ‘banker’ category is Hannah Mills in the women’s 470.
Sailing with crew Saskia Clark she won Olympic silver in 2012 and gold in 2016. After a (very) brief sojourn into the non-sailing world, she returned to the professional race circuit.
Now sailing with Eilidh McIntyre they won the 2019 World Championship and then took silver at the final test event in Enoshima.
Next in line for a podium finish are Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell in the men’s 49er event.
In Rio 2016, sailing with Alain Sign, Fletcher finished 6th. Since joining with Bithell (a silver medallist in the 470) they have won the 2017 European and World titles, and this year they won the Europeans and finished second at the final Tokyo test event.
Fletcher and Bithell are part of the SailGP Great Britain team racing ex-America’s Cup F50 multihulls on the world-wide circuit. Both also race in the International Moth class – Fletcher won the 2019 UK Championship.
Britain has not medalled in the 49er event since Athens 2004 and has never won gold. This would be a very good one to win.
The women’s version of the 49er, the 49erFX makes only its second appearance at the Games.
In Rio 2016 Charlotte Dobson sailing with Sophie Ainsworth finished eighth. Now sailing with Saskia Tidey – who represented Ireland at Rio 2016 – they finished 7th at the 2019 Europeans and took bronze at the final Tokyo Test event. If they can maintain the progress this looks another podium result
As has been noted, the 2020 squad has a high number of returning Olympians, and in the men’s 470, Luke Patience returns for his third Games.
He won silver at London 2012 with crewman Stu Bithell, and then at Rio 2016 sailing with Chris Grube, finished fifth.
Patience and Grube have not had a great year, finishing 14th at the Europeans early in the year, then managing 7th at the Worlds, and 8th in the final Tokyo test event. The signs are not great at present, but they are the best British pair, and who knows what the Games will bring.
In the women’s Radial event Alison Young is also going to her third Games.
Young finished fifth at London 2012, and then eighth in Rio 2016. In between she won the 2016 Radial World Championship.
In the lead-in to selection for Tokyo 2020 Young was under some pressure from younger squad members.
She turned things around with a bronze at the 2019 Worlds, then placed 6th in the final Tokyo test event, and capped it with bronze in the World Cup series event, all in Enoshima . . . Enoshima certainly seems to suit her, just keep whistling for the wind.
The last two places announced in this selection round were for the RS:X windsurfer.
Here there has been a generation change, with Nick Dempsey retiring after competing in five Olympics, and winning three medals, two silver and one bronze.
And in the women’s event, Bryony Shaw, who competed at three Olympics, winning bronze at her first in Beijing 2008, has failed to gain selection this time round.
Emma Wilson, at 20 the youngest member of the team (so far) goes to her first Olympic Games.
Wilson finished fifth in the final Tokyo test event, and fourth in the World Cup series event in Enoshima. She then missed out on the Medal race at the recent RS:X Worlds on Lake Garda but took the U21 Bronze . . . Enough to clinch selection.
Tom Squires the long-time heir apparent, in the men’s squad came back into the reckoning this year.
He had good results in Japan, finishing 5th in both the final Tokyo test event and the Enoshima World Cup event, winning races in both events.
Missing the medal race cut with an 11th place finish in tricky conditions at the Garda RS:X Worlds did not stop the OCS naming him for Tokyo 2020.
With some ten months to the Tokyo 2020 Games, the OSC is banking on no loss of performance or health issues arising.
Two more event selections are still to be resolved, the mixed Nacra17 and the men’s Laser. Expect these to be announced early in 2020.