While we wait to see if the Tokyo Games will take place, it is worth taking a look at just how Team GB sailors are coping with this very different Olympics.
After a very reduced 2019 sailing season, particularly for events with international status, the Olympic sailors have crammed a small selection of events into the early months of 2021, to prepare for the delayed Tokyo Games starting at the end of July.
Some of these have been championship events and some specially organised events to provide a decent level of properly organised competition.
The next, and most likely final Olympic classes event prior to the actual Games, is the Allianz Regatta in Medemblik, Holland, but this has only one Team GB entry to date, Alison Young in the Radial event.
After that there should be the Enoshima ‘test event’ but that has been postponed to a – TBC – date in July.
Looking at the latest 2021 events cycle, only two of the Team GB selected sailors have managed a podium finish – a silver for the women’s 470 team, Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre, and a silver for Finn sailor Giles Scott.
Hardly a promising lead up to the Games.
Back in February 2020, before Covid-19 reset the world, Ian Walker, Performance Director of British Sailing, forecast a five-medal haul for Team GB sailing at Tokyo 2020, dependent on the weather conditions. A reference to the general opinion that the British Sailing Team perform better in windier conditions than light.
Five medals would be average for Team GB over the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games, but an improvement on the 2012 (4 medals) and 2016 (3 medals) Games.
Looking at the recent performances and given that the present sailing team was mostly selected back in 2019, I asked Ian Walker if he thought that was still a reasonable prediction?
Ian responded . . . ‘Clearly there has been a lot of disruption and every country and every athlete has been impacted in different ways either by Covid or by the postponement. It is going to be a very unusual Olympics with a lot of disruption to everyone’s plans.
We still believe that everyone in our team has the potential to win a medal in Enoshima and we are confident in our local preparations.
There has been very little international racing in the last 18 months, and with the potential for very varied conditions, this will perhaps be the most unpredictable and open Olympics ever.’
There are still a number of unknowns to clarified, a major one being whether the team will be vaccinated before they leave for Japan, with some countries announcing that they will vaccinate their teams before heading to Japan.
In the recently published edition of the Games ‘playbooks’, participants at the Games will be required to take two COVID-19 tests on separate days, before they fly to Japan and obtain negative certificates for both. There will be a further COVID-19 test on arrival in Japan and athletes and all those in close proximity with athletes will be tested daily.
Participants will also be supplied with a Samsung smartphone, and must download a health reporting/contact confirming application (COCOA) and will need to input their daily body temperature.
When they get the green light from the IOC, the first sailing team members will head to Enoshima at the end of June to acclimatise and train on the local ‘field of play’ waters from 15 July.
Sailing is scheduled to start on the 25 July.
From Zero to Hero . . .
Although the number of participants allowed has decreased, sailing has expanded from five to ten separate events in recent Games and Britain has always sent full teams, but with relatively poor return.
After a series of poor medal results, culminating in a single bronze (for Lawrie Smith, Robert Cruikshank and Ossie Stewart) in the Soling event at the 1992 Barcelona Games from the ten events, and then only one gold medal for the whole British Olympic Team at Atlanta 1996, action was taken to put sailing (and all the Olympic sports) on a more professional basis.
For sailing this resulted in the RYA expanding to become responsible for the development and training of the British Sailing Team, who were now supported by UK Sport funding as full-time professional sailors.
Sailing received £5,100,000 for Sydney 2000 . . . now £25,757,417 for the Tokyo Olympic Funding round from UK Sport.
The results were immediately seen at the 2000 Sydney Games where Briton won five sailing medals (3 gold, 2 silver) and were top sailing nation, a position they retained in the 2004 and 2008 Games.
And although Team GB dipped to 3rd place at the 2012 London Games, they regained top spot at Rio 2016 with 3 medals.
The results shown below are the most recent event results for the selected Team GB sailor.
Finn Giles Scott – 2021 Europeans 2nd, Worlds 9th
470 Women Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre – 2021 Worlds 5th, Euros 2nd
470 Men Luke Patience and Chris Grube – 2021 Worlds 13th, Euros 8th
RSX Men Tom Squires – 2021 Worlds 8th, Euros 5th
RSX Women Emma Wilson – 2021 Worlds 4th, Euros 4th
49er Men Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell – 2020 Euros NA, 2020 Worlds 8th. 2021 Lanzarote 9th
49erFX Women Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey – 2020 Euros NA, 2020 Worlds 2nd, 2021 Lanzarote 9th,2021 Cascais 6th
Nacra17 John Gimson and Anna Burnet – 2020 Euros 4th, 2020 Worlds 1st
Laser Men Elliot Hanson – 2020 Euros 1st, 2021 Vilamoura 6th
Radial Women Alison Young – 2020 Worlds 17th, 2020 Euros RTD, 2021 Vilamoura 7th
The Olympics are scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August, followed by the Paralympics from 24 August to 5 September 2021.