Sailing Towards Paris 2024: Predicting 49erFX Olympic Berths at the 2023 World Championship

The Paris 2024 Olympics are on the horizon, and anticipation is building among sailors and fans worldwide. The 49erFX class promises exhilarating competition, and the 2023 Sailing World Championship serves as a crucial qualifying event. As nations battle it out on the water, we take a closer look at the top sailors and the teams that are likely to earn berths for the Paris 2024 Olympics in the 49erFX class.

All But Guaranteed Berths

Several nations have consistently showcased their sailing prowess and are highly likely to secure berths for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

  1. Netherlands: The Dutch skiff team is headlining the Allianz worlds, with Odile Van Aanholt and Annette Duetz seeking to threepeat World Championship victories. The pair have been dominant all season and should easily qualify. Their ambitions go beyond just another victory, however, as securing a win would distinguish them as the first pair to win three World titles in the FX. It would also mark the fifth championship win for crew Duetz, who previously earned two titles in the last quad alongside Annemiek Bekkering.
  2. Brazil: Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze are also seeking records but of the Olympic kind. Having started the FX from day 1, there is no team with more experience together than this pair, and they’ve won both Olympic games, in 2016 and 2020. If they can win again in Paris they will be the first female sailors to win three gold medals, and be the GOAT in women’s sailing. They’ve been sailing well this season but will have to step up their game somewhat to overtake the on-form Dutch if they want to win the regatta.
  3. Sweden: The Swedish 49erFX team had a disastrous time in 2020. They had three teams competing for medals from time to time, including a Silver at the 2018 European Championship, but missed qualifying entirely and had to miss the games. For the Path to Paris, only two of those six sailors remain, but since teaming up in 2022 they have been a force. Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler, have been one of the few teams to consistently push the Dutch for regatta wins. They narrowly missed winning the 2022 Worlds and 2022 Test Event. For now, they’ll be aiming at qualifying, but we should expect big things from this pair in Paris.
  4. USA: The American duo, Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea, have proven themselves as formidable contenders and are all but guaranteed to qualify for the Paris Olympics. They have all the tools and experience necessary to compete at the highest level and should qualify based on their form in 2023. Additionally, the USA is sending Paris Henken and Anna Tobias, who are jumping back into the FX and will be up to speed quite quickly. If the conditions get rough they may not have the time in the boat necessary to stay upright, but on racing smarts, speed, and regular sailing form they could also qualify should Steph and Maggie falter.

Likely to Qualify

52 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca, © Sailing Energy / Princesa Sofía Mallorca 06 April, 2023

Several teams have shown promising performances and are likely to secure their berths based on current form and potential.

  1. Spain: Tamara Echegoyen and Paula Barcelo of Spain have displayed impressive improvement, and their competitive edge makes them strong contenders for an Olympic spot. Tamara is the 2012 match racing gold medalist and a two-time FX World Champion. She’s been fourth at the past two Olympic games, each time narrowly missing out on a medal. Nobody smiles harder on the course, but she’s also a fierce competitor and looking to grab another medal.
  2. Belgium: Isaura Maenhaut and Anouk Geurts from Belgium have shown commendable performances and are realistic contenders for an Olympic berth. The pair are on an uptrend since joining together in 2018, and are in some of the best form of their careers to date.
  3. Norway: Helene Naess and Marie Rønningen from Norway are one of the most experienced teams in the 49erFX. They’ve been top ten at three of the four important regattas in the last twelve months, and are likely to be ready for the qualifying challenge. There is also a young Norwegian team, Pia Dahl Anderson with Nor Edland, who won the 2022 Junior Worlds and were tenth in Palma that could step up to qualify should the veteran pair falter.
52 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca, © Sailing Energy / Princesa Sofía Mallorca 06 April, 2023

On the Bubble

These teams have the skills to qualify, but it’s going to be a fierce competition

  1. New Zealand: 2016 silver medalists, Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech, have split up following their Tokyo 2020 performance, and each leads a team from New Zealand. Jo Aleh, the 2012 470 Gold medalist, has stepped in with Molly Meech and the pair have had an up and down quadrennial so far, with some moments of greatness and lots of lessons learned too. With the retirement of Alex Maloney, who had been sailing with a new crew, team New Zealand will be relying solely upon the veterans to qualify.
  2. Argentina: Maria Sol Branz has moved to helming and brought with her the gold medal crew, Cecilia Sarroli, from the Nacra 17 in Rio 2016. The pair can often be found in contention for medals, but at other times are off the pace and seemingly out of sorts.
  3. Britain: Britain’s Freya Black with veteran Saskia Tidey is also a new combo, with this being Black’s first Olympic cycle with the experienced crew Tidey aiming for her third games. They have the skill to make their mark on the international stage.
  4. Germany: With the retirement of bronze medalists Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke, the German squad will have to step up and replace big shoes. The Germans have a huge squad, and it was a very competitive trial to get the Worlds spot.  Maria Bergmann and Hanna Wille are often at the front of the German pack and will look to secure the spot. The German sailing federation chose to block youth standout Sophie Steinlein from competing at the Worlds, despite her tenth-place finish in Palma, so if they don’t qualify that decision will be questioned for sure.
  5. Poland: Aleksandra Melzacka with Sandra Jankowiak are Poland’s leading sailors in the 49erFX class, with a strong chance of securing a berth. They were fourth at Worlds last year and top ten in Hyeres, but have also suffered a couple of lesser results at Palma and the Test Event. Truly a bubble team with all the potential to grab a spot but even odds to miss as well.
  6. Italy: Four Italian crews are working hard to move up the standings. One of them may well be able to qualify.
  7. Denmark: The Schmidt sisters lead the charge of a new generation of Danish skiff sailors.
  8. Canada: Canada’s Olympians, Ali ten Hove and Mariah Millen, have the potential to make it to Paris. They are pushed by the Lewin Lafrance sisters who took Europeans Bronze in 2021.
  9. Australia: Four Aussie teams are competing for the spot, lead by the return to skiff sailing of Silver medalist, Olivia Price.
  10. Finland: Ronja Gronblom with Veero Hokka won the first race at the 2022 Worlds, and then had to withdraw through injury. They haven’t really got back up to top flight speed in 2023, but an 11th-place finish at the Test Event could be a sign they’re rounding back into form.
  11. Malta: The Schultheis sisters are striving to make history as Malta’s first female sailors at the Olympics. The pair are studying, so not sailing full-time, but when they do come out to race they usually race well. The pair were leading the 2021 Europeans for the first few days before finishing fifth, and have had other bright moments too.
  12. China: Xiaoyu Hu and Mengyuan Shan are China’s top sailors in the 49erFX class, hoping to represent their country in Paris.
  13. Singapore: Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low are Singapore’s brightest prospects in the 49erFX class. The pair are in a great training group but results have been tough to come by so far in 2023. They have all the potential to get back to their top-10 performance at the last games.
  14. Croatia: Croatia’s 49erFX team, Enia Nincevic and Mihaela De Micheli Vitturi, have shown promise on the international stage.
  15. Japan: Anna Yamazaki and Sena Takano are aiming to qualify for the Paris Olympics and represent Japan again for Paris.
52 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía Mallorca, © Sailing Energy / Princesa Sofía Mallorca 06 April, 2023


The road to the Paris 2024 Olympics in the 49erFX class is packed with thrilling competition, as sailors from around the world, led by top athletes, battle for the coveted berths. While the French team enjoys an automatic berth, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, and the USA are all but guaranteed to qualify due to their consistent performances.

Spain, Belgium, and Norway are likely to secure their spots, thanks to their recent improvements and strong showings. The battle for the remaining berths will be intense, with numerous teams on the bubble showcasing their skills and determination.

The FX competition is weighed down considerably by the unbelievable gold this class has attracted to is. With gold medals are Grael and Kunze (BRA FX x 2), Aleh (470 NZL), Picon (RSX FRA), Carranzo (Nacra 17 ARG), Tobias (formerly Tunnicliffe Laser USA), Echegoyen (Match Racing ESP). That’s 5 gold medal team members from 2012 and 2016, and there are only 4 other gold medal hems in all of the Olympics from those years (Xu, Alabau, Bouwmeester, and Clark). Add in Tobias, and it’s clear the FX is where sailing talent has landed!

The 2023 Sailing World Championship will be a spectacle not to be missed, as sailors and fans eagerly await the final results and the announcement of the ten nations that will earn their berths for the prestigious Paris 2024 Olympics in the 49erFX class.


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