Rio played out just as it should have, with the most dominant 49er team ever winning by a landslide, and the most even of the Olympic fleets, the 49erFX, coming down to a 4-way shootout. The lasting image of Brazil’s Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze being carried by their countrymen out of the water and onto the top step of the podium will live on in Brazilians sailing lore, but for the rest of us it’s time to look forward to the Tokyo quadrennium and what’s in store!
Enjoy a video from the IOC on the Best of the Games!
2017 is the first year of the quad, and in some ways, the most interesting. This is the quiet time for the world’s top teams, creating an opening for new sailors to improve, transitioning sailors from other classes to get their feet wet, and for the senior teams to commit to another four years of full effort.
Already some headline grabbing names are jumping into the skiff fleets! The most ambitious Olympic sailor of all time, Robert Sheidt, has jumped into a 49er for the first time with Brazilian Olympian crew Gabriel Borges. It’s a huge transition for Robert to take in his 40’s, but having so much experience and a legendary work ethic, who would doubt him?
In the 49erFX, recent World Sailors of the year Hannah Mills looks like she’s going to give transitioning from 470 to 49erFX a try. Quite smartly, it seems like she’s going to hold some crew auditions, with a number of potential crew mates, and she’ll also do some sailing with a few male crews to get up to speed as fast as possible. With the 2020 games line up confirmed to have all the same classes as 2016, she can always go back to the 470, but why not give a bit of skiff ripping a try!
As for returning teams, 2 time European Champions Ida Nielsen and Marie Olsen (DEN) have already announced that they will try again for Tokyo. Austria’s Nico and Niko, no doubt disappointed by their Rio results after such a promising 2016 season otherwise have not yet made up their minds, while there are rumour swirling that Burling and Tuke will return to try and defend their title.
Behind the scenes there are also some changes happening. The Nacra 17 class has hired the same management team that has been with the 49er class, so Marcus Spillane and Ben Remocker will lead both classes. Some events will be held in common, like was done at the 2016 Worlds in Clearwater, in an effort to put the best mix of sailing together in a common package for global sailing fans.
As an added bonus, a surprising decision was taken by World Sailing at the annual conference to put in place theatre style racing for the final day of Tokyo 2020. The 49er and 49erFX are planned to do windward-leewards while the Nacra 17 are planned to do an America’s Cup style course. None of the details like scoring, geometry, or target times are set, so these classes will work through the permutations in consultation with our media teams with the aim of putting on a real show! If you’re new to Theatre Style Racing, enjoy the 2014 Finals in Helsinki!
This brings us to the 2017 season of events! The highlights are familiar destinations able to handle the demands of a growing fleet of top professional sailors.
The 2017 World Championship for 49er will be in Porto, Portugal, from August 28 to September 2, 2017. Porto was the site of a spectacular 2015 European Championships, and brings together the best of big ocean swells, great sea breezes, and a commercially driven event organization. We hope sailing fans from all over will join us for some racing, enjoy a glass or two or port, and possibly even head up the river Duoro for a cruise. To see why we’re returning so quickly enjoy the final day from 2015.
We’ll finish the 2017 Worlds on a Saturday instead of the normal Sunday, to make a bit more room for the Nacra 17 World Championship which are on the following week in La Grande Motte, France.
The 2017 European Championship will be held in Kiel, Germany, alongside the Nacra 17 European Championship. Kiel is the 1972 Olympic venue and home of the World famous Kieler Woche regatta. Few venues are capable to handle all three Olympic events simultaneously, and we are confident Kiel Yacht Club will be able to handle this for us. The way things are lining up, this event will likely be the Championship premier of the Foiling Nacra 17, so all eyes will be on our broadcasts to check out the worlds best racing, and a new configuration for the Mixed Cat.
The Junior World Championship for 49er and 49erFX is set for another Olympic legacy location, Kingston, Canada. The JWC is a U23 event, and will be paired with the North American Championship so teams heading over can get two quality events in the same trip. The JWC is from June 29-July 2, 2017 and the North Americans will be from June 22-25, where a 29er Canadian Nationals will go on simultaneously. Already teams from Australia and Europe have confirmed attendance, alongside a huge American renaissance into the skiff. The Oak Cliff development program has 18 boats available for charter, with some boats reserved for teams from every continent to attend. The event is timed so that teams from Europe can depart from the Delta Lloyd regatta, do both events in Kingston, and then return ship to Kiel in time for the European Championship, if they wish.
While the Junior fleets head to North America, the top qualified teams will head back to Santander, site of the 2014 World Championships for the latest incarnation of the Sailing World Cup Final. With only 20 teams in each fleet, we figured it was OK to take the Junior teams to North America at the same time, as few of them would qualify in the top 20.
The only other event of significance next summer is the test event for Aarhus 2018. Immediately following the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 Europeans fleets of up to 50 teams may compete in practice regatta for the 2018 Worlds. As it’s such a short drive from Kiel, we expect many teams to attend. World sailing recently announced that the 2018 Aarhus World Championship will award the first 40% of Olympic berths, while the rest are not quite set. It is expected that the system will otherwise remain the same, with one berth awarded per continent as the final chance, and the balance of places awarded on a worldwide basis at the 2019 World Championship.
So, after all these words, if you wish to simply look through the calendar, it’s all set out for you on the 2017 tab at 49er.org.
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