The Europe 2021 sailing season opens this week with top level events for the 470 and RS:X classes at Vilamoura, Portugal.
With many of last years International events, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, cancelled, competitors in the ten Olympic classes are keen to get some championship level events under their belts before the rescheduled Games start in late July.
Most sports teams, including the Britsh Olympic squad, have been able to continue sailing and training throughout the pandemic under the Elite Athlete framework.
Recently this has involved members of the squad training and taking part in events in Lanzarote, Portugal and Italy.
While top level events continue to be cancelled and rescheduled, often at short notice due to fast changing coronavirus restrictions, the two events at Vilamoura Sailing Centre from 8 March, will be a welcome return to International competition.
Most of the competitors have been based in Vilamoura for some time, and recently completed the Portugal Grand Prix as a warm-up event for this weeks 470 Worlds and RS:X Europeans.
Team GB sailors Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre are defending their 2019 470 World title and the strength of the competition they face was highlighted by their third place finish in the Portugal GP . . . Won by 2019 Junior World Champion Luise Wanser of Germany, with former world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Camille Lecointre of France taking second place.
“With only five months to go until the Olympic Games, this regatta is a huge opportunity for us,” said Mills, “we will be doing everything we can to try and retain our world title. Win or lose, will really lead our focus and direction between now and the Games.”
In the men’s fleet, Team GB members Luke Patience and Chris Grube also face a high quality fleet. They finished fifth in the Portugal GP, which was won by 2019 World runners-up Jordi Xammar and Nicolás Rodríguez of Spain.
The fleet will also include fellow Brits Martin Wrigley and Alex Hughes.
Back in the spotlight is the 470 mixed fleet following the switch back to a single mixed fleet for the Paris 2024 Games.
The Olympic 470 event was initially an open class for its first four Olympic appearances, but since the 1988 Games there have been separate events for men and women.
The new Olympic mixed event has meant that a number of dedicated events have been added to the circuit and 24 mixed crews will race for the Mixed Worlds title this year.
Among those putting down an early marker for 2024 will be the British teams of Amy Seabright/James Taylor, Vita Heathcote/Ryan Orr, Georgina Povall/Arran Holman, and Freya Black/Marcus Tressler.
Also at Vilamoura are the RS:X class for their 2021 RS:X Open European Championships.
With the RS:X losing its Olympic status after Tokyo this is something of a swansong, but important as possibly the only high level event before the Tokyo Games.
Team GB members Tom Squires and Emma Wilson will mark their return to racing at the RS:X European Championships. Wilson took part in the Portugal GP warm-up where she finished fifth, the event won by Katy Spychakov of Israel.
Squires did not compete in the warm-up event but knows that he will face a tough field here, including the defending, double world champion, Kiran Badloe of Holland, and Poland’s 2016 world champion Piotr Myszka who walked away with the warm-up event.
New Location and Dates for 2021 RS:X Worlds
Following the cancellation of the RS:X Worlds in France at Hyeres Week, the 2021 “Gotas de Oro” RS:X Windsurfing World Championships will now be held in Puerto Sherry, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Spain, between 21-28 April 2021.