Sweden Qualifies for 49er Rio as Sole Nation Into Gold Fleet

Another Breezy Day of Qualifying

Sweden’s men can finally exhale after two soul-trying previous Olympic qualifiers they have placed 2 teams into Gold fleet in the last chance continental qualifier for Europe, the Princess Sofia Trophy regatta.  As they are the only nation not yet qualified in the gold fleet they will get the spot to Rio.

The experienced Swedish team of Victor Bergstom and Niclas During are all the way up in 11th overall on only 36 points, almost 60 points clear of the Gold cut off.  Their team mates Carl Sylvan and Marcus Anjemark also qualified for gold fleet in 18th overall, showing the strength of the Swedish quad.  They have the experience and skills to remain at the front of the fleet for the remainder of the Princess Sofia Trophy Regatta even through their job is done.

Niclas During, 2012 Olympian had this to say, “We didn’t know it until we saw the results. We thought the Russians were making it to gold since they had some good races. Of course it was great relief, we’ve been fighting hard to get this spot and it felt a bit unreal that fight was over before the finals even had started. Now our national trials starts and we’ll do our best to keep up our progression and deliver some great results on upcoming events. We’re 3 strong teams in the Swedish squad and all of us have to perform pretty well to earn the right to the get the ticket to Rio. Hopefully we’ll we be to one!   I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m hoping that the competition amongst us will make the one going as prepared as possible to deliver some great results in Rio.”

Victor Bergstrom had a similar reaction, “Well, we realised it after we came in on shore after the qualification. It was a great to do it so early in the regatta, we where prepared for a bigger battle then that.  We still have to keep improve during the spring so the Swedish Olympic committee think we are good enough to do well at the Olympics and at least have a chance to medal.”  This last part is a critical piece of the puzzle.  In the past, the Swedish Olympic Committee has been know to hold teams back from the games that they don’t think can hit a certain level, which would in theory shift the qualification spot to the next in line.  On top of that there is only one Swedish spot available, so the teams will need to fight for selection during the Europeans and Hyeres World Cup both in the next month.

In a curious decision for an Olympic qualifier, there was only 2 days of qualifying scheduled instead of the normal 3, adding pressure to an already trying moment for all teams looking to get that European spot.  Sitting just on the outside are the Pavel’s from Russia, who sailed well in the challenging conditions and sit in 28th, 3 places outside of their goal.  Farther down the rankings are the Swiss and Greeks, who both gave a great effort and will have to set their sights on Tokyo, where hopefully the 49er will have a few more places after being the toughest fleet to qualify for the games in two Olympics in a row.  It may not have mattered if Russia or any of the others squeaked into Gold fleet given how well the Swedes were sailing, and now we’ll never know.

In the 49erFX, the fleet is small enough that not qualification series is needed, so the flight for the Olympic berth will remain valid through to the end of the event.  Out in front are Finland’s Noora Ruskola and Camilla Cedarcruetz who sit in 10th overall.  They are trailed by Austria’s Laura Schoefegger with Elsa Lovrek back in 18th and Estonia’s Kaitlin Tammiste with Anna Maria Sepp in 24th.  With 3 days remaining to race there is plenty left to be decided.

At the front of the fleets Bekkering and Duetz (NED) have stormed out of the gates to lead, matched by Hansen/Iversen (DEN), Grael/Kunze (BRA) and Dobson/Ainsworth (GBR).  All four teams are within 5 points of each other at this early stage of the 49erFX racing.

Small lead from Day 1

Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern have the smallest lead after the first three races of the 49er fleet, chased by four duos all one point behind. Austria’s Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch, silver medallists at the 2016 world championships behind the Kiwis, were happy with their opening which included one race win.

Gold medallists Nathan Outterridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) won the middle race which they partner to a 12th and 11th, while there was disappointing start to the regatta for GBR’s Dylan Fletcher and Alan Sign. The duo who significantly enhanced their Olympic selection challenge with a bronze medal at the recent world championships in Florida, cracked the aft end of their port wing early in  the first race with their shiny brand new boat. They scored DNF, DNC and limped to a 21st with a makeshift, rough fix for the third. But with a little later afternoon composite repair they should be back in the mix Tuesday.

The Netherlands’ Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz count two wins from their three starts in the FX Class. Spain’s newly anointed world champions Támara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos started modestly, fighting back after a capsizing several times: “Conditions were so difficult. We have capsized several times, in the first race when we were second, in the second race when we were leading. The most important thing is that we have come back without too much pain, just hurting a little,” said Echegoyen who steered the Spanish women’s crew to Olympic match racing gold in 2012.

Gold Fleet Racing Tightens the Race

With three races down in gold fleet only 14 points separate Finland and Austria in the fight for the final 49erFX Olympic berth for Rio.  Both Ruskola/Cedercuetz (FIN) and Schofegger/Lovrek (AUT) are sailing well and with 6 scheduled races left the spot is still open to anyone.  The racing will be on live tracking for the rest of the week via the 49er.org – Palma page, so check the links there to keep track.

The 49er fleets fell behind schedule today so it would be a shame if this Olympic qualifying battle looses races as they catch up but we’ll see how it goes.

Within the Singapore team the fight is tight too.  Quadrennial leaders Griselda Khng with Sara Tan are sailing well but being pushed by relative newcomers Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low who are only 3 places behind them.  Gris and Sara have a 6 place lead from their first qualier in Buenos Aires so do have some cushion but after missing the 2016 Worlds Due to injury the margin for error is quite small.

In the 49er, the Spanish young guns of Diego Botin and Iago Llopez are out in front at their home regatta, leading the pack.  They had a torturous experience at the 2016 World Championship, doing very well but needing to finish in the top 8 to make the Spanish Olympic squad.  Their countrymen, the Alonso brothers matched raced them out of the top 10 on the final day of competition where they finished 11th and lost out on their Olympic chance.  They remain on form however, and look to salvage a consolation prize in a win.



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