The 2016 European Championship from Barcelona, Spain marks a turning point between the 2016 quadrennial and the 2020 Tokyo Quadrennial. As most of the Olympic fleet has been decided, many top team who will not be racing in Rio will take a break, or maybe just a breath, before reassessing their futures in Olympic sailing. At the same time, for many teams this championship marks the beginning of their road to Tokyo, trying to get a head start on the group that will chase the next prize.
The 49er fleet is complete here, with all of the remaining contenders here to race save for Erik Heil and Thomas Poessel of Germany who won their trials last week in much tighter fashion than they would have imagined 18 months ago. For Beijing 2008 Gold medalist Jonas Warrer and his new crew CP Lubeck, for London 2012 Gold medalists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, for the Austrian duo of Nico Delle Karth and Niko Resch, for Polish contenders Lukasz Pryzbytek and Pawel Kolodzinsky, for Portuals Jorge Lima and Jose Costa, this will be their last chance to try and match up head to head over a real championship with New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. The Kiwi sensations have gone 24 regattas in a row without a loss in the 49er, but now is the time that the rest of the fleet is really able to put clear the rest of their issues and focus on results.
This is particularly true for Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, who have had some fantastic pieces of regattas recently but have not pulled together a full regatta at the highest level. At the 2015 World Championship in Buenos Aires they had the best Gold fleet, at the Palma regatta last week they had the best second half of the event so this European championship represents a chance for them to slay the dragon, bring Burling and Tuke off their pedestal of invisibility, and set up a fantastic face off in Rio.
There are other battles still raging within squads, particularly with the British and Italians still seeking to secure Rio nominations. The British selection is unpublished, but passed on Pink/Bithell medaling in Porto, Fletcher/Sign medaling in Clearwater, and otherwise close regattas it seems likely that a particularly good finish here by one of these two could be enough to lock in the berth.
The 49erFX fleet is only 37 boats strong this week, with squad selection, illness, and injury all contributing to the smaller than typical fleet turn out. Many of the Rio contenders will be here but the regatta will feel like just another event in the sequence as there are more opportunities for future regattas of this size for the 49erFX sailors on their way to Rio, including a juicy opportunity to face off on Olympic waters for the 2016 South American Championship July 11-12, 2016.
There are also a whole host of new teams to 49er championship racing. With the fleet having headed away from Europe for the past 2 World Championships, many of the new teams will have been eying this European Championship for a while as they plan, plot, and otherwise dream of Tokyo 2020. One such team are the recent 29er Youth World Champions from Slovenia who will be racing in their first ever senior age championship. It is a lofty leap from youth worlds to the final year of an Olympic cycle, when the level is as high as possible, so hopefully they and other teams will be inspired by what is possible in a skiff.
Join us for qualifying from April 11-13 and finals from April 14-17, with a medal race in each fleet also scheduled for April 17th. The event website is https://49er.org/2016-european-championship/
There will be live tracking for the gold fleets during the second half of the regatta.