With the Princesa Trofeo Sofia in Palma de Mallorca now postponed to October, Irish 49ers could miss out on Olympic selection.
The Palma regatta was the final qualification event for the last European berth in the 49er class for Tokyo 2020, with two Irish 49er teams competing for the place.
Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle, and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are competing for the final Tokyo spot, against teams from Belgium, Sweden and Italy.
With Palma cancelled there is no ‘Plan B’ to date and it seems likely that World Sailing will redesignate the Olympic qualifier at France’s Hyeres Regatta in April, or the 49er European Championships in Greece, just two months ahead of the Games itself.
The Abu Dhabi qualifier for the Asia and African qualification is also cancelled and efforts are being made to see if Oman can host an alternative regatta in March.
British Sailing team members are not involved in the scramble for final Tokyo places, having qualified for all ten events back in 2018, and selected the Team GB competitors in 2019.
The delayed Olympics are scheduled to open on 23 July and the Paralympics on 24 August 2021 but are now themselves the subject of considerable debate following the resurgence of Covid-19 worldwide.
A particular problem, as highlighted above, is the effect on the qualification events and training programmes. With the smaller, less well organised teams facing considerable problems organising travel and quarantine in the constantly changing situation.
Britain, along with some other countries, allows some professional sports (including sailing), designated ‘elete sports’ to continue training and competing during the coronavirus lockdown.
But this has its problems, as British Cycling recently found out when they caused considerable adverse social media comment, following a three-day meeting for 90 riders and 35 coaching staff and race officials in Manchester during the coronavirus lockdown.
Stephen Park, performance director for British Cycling, defended the event commenting:
“We acknowledge that as an elite sports team, we are in an extremely privileged position to be able to continue with our operations, and the race simulation activity forms part of our strategy to ensure we are on track to achieve our ambitions in Tokyo and Paris.”
The RYA, who run the British Sailing Team, have favoured a less confrontational stance throughout the pandemic lockdowns.
But, they are also facing a difficult period in the build-up to the Games, as more Olympic class events face disruption across Europe over the coming months.
Particularly at risk of cancellation/postponement are the 470 World Championship/qualification event (5 to 13 Match) and the RS:X European Championship (7 to 13 March) . . . both set for Vilamoura in Portugal.