With less than one month to go until the 2016 Rio Games, we look at the British Olympic and Paralympic sailors who will be going for gold...
The London 2012 Olympic Games will be hard to beat in terms of creating a wave of support for the British Sailing Team, and Sir Ben Ainslie making history as the world’s most-successful Olympic sailor.
However, the home Olympics also saw Great Britain end its 12-year reign as top sailing nation, when Australia achieved more gold medals. That’s a crown Team GB’s sailors hope to reclaim at the Rio 2016 sailing regatta, which will take place from 8-18 August.
The Paralympic sailing regatta will run from 7-17 September.
Racing will take place in front of three iconic landmarks – Copacabana Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer – and Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Olympic manager Stephen ‘Sparky’ Park hopes this will draw the eyes of the world to our sailing stars.
He said: ‘The Olympic stadium is quite far out of the city, so there won’t be that many sports that get the same opportunity to frame the athletes and the action in front of that dramatic backdrop.’
This impressive backdrop will also be a defining factor of this Olympic regatta, says team meteorologist Simon Rowell: ‘Those big sticky-up bits of rock – the ones that make Rio such an incredible city – also get in the way of the wind. They create lanes and blockages, and as most of the exposed rock is dark it can heat up massively, causing concentrations of heat around the harbour, creating local thermal effects.’
Racing may be taking place around 6,000 miles away, but the home support will still be instrumental, says the RYA, which is hosting a Sail for Gold roadshow at six locations across England, Wales and Scotland which have a special connection to our Olympic contenders.
The roadshow will take place during the Olympic sailing medal race week and each event will offer free sailing and windsurfing taster sessions, big-screen footage of the medal races and British Sailing Team members on hand to offer tips and advice.
Luke Patience and Chris ‘Twiggy’ Grube, 470 dinghy (Men)
Luke, 29, won an Olympic silver medal in 2012 with his good friend Stuart Bithell but the partnership would have been ‘too heavy’ to be competitive in the light-wind Rio venue. Luke initially won 2016 Team GB selection with Elliot Willis who announced in December that he had to take time out after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. Luke then achieved selection with Chris Grube, 31, who goes to the Games for the first time.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, 470 (Women)
Following a whirlwind 18-month partnership in the run-up to the London 2012 Games, Hannah, 28, and Saskia, 36, narrowly missed out on gold to the Kiwis. The Olympic silver medallists recently claimed World Cup victories in Hyères and Weymouth.
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, 49er skiff (Men)
Dylan, 28, and ‘Signpost’, 30, have a decade’s experience sailing the 49er together and are finally going to their first Games.
Sophie Ainsworth and Charlotte Dobson, 49erFX (Women)
Charlotte, 30, and Sophie, 27, compete at their first Games in the new and physically demanding 49er FX skiff.
Giles Scott, Finn heavyweight dinghy (Men)
Giles, 29, was Ben Ainslie’s biggest rival in the run-up to London 2012 and only narrowly missed out on selection. He is the reigning Finn World Champion and has dominated the class for the past three years. Giles is also involved in an Americas Cup campaign with Ben Ainslie Racing.
Nick Thompson, Laser dinghy (Men)
A many-time podium finisher at the World Championships, Nick, 30, finally won his first
Laser World Championship in 2015.
Alison Young, Laser Radial (Women)
Ali, 29, who is a skilled unicycle rider, goes to her second Olympic Games as the reigning Laser Radial World Champion.
Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves, Nacra 17 multihull (Mixed)
A brand-new class for the Games and a first-time Games for Ben, 26, and Nicola, 27, who won the European Championship in 2015.
Nick Dempsey, RS:X windsurfer (Men)
Competing at his fifth and final Games, if Nick, 35,can succeed in adding Rio gold to his London
silver and Athens bronze medals, he’ll make history as the most successful male Olympic windsurfer. Keen snapper Nick ‘Dempo’ has plans to become a professional photographer post-Games.
Bryony Shaw, RS:X (Women)
Britain’s most successful female windsurfer Bryony, 33, won bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finished seventh at the London 2012 Games after illness hampered her training build-up. Her sights are firmly on a podium spot at Rio.
Sunday 14 August – Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, Dorset: Sailing and windsurfing taster sessions: 9.30am – 4pm; watch the Olympic sailing medal races live from Rio on screens at 5pm in the academy – Weymouth windsurfers Bryony Shaw and Nick Dempsey have a chance to be competing on this day. There will be food and refreshments available including a barbecue so come and cheer on your local heroes.
Monday 15 August – Lymington Town Sailing Club, Hampshire: Sailing taster sessions: 10am – 4pm; watch the Olympic sailing medal races live from Rio on screens at 5pm in the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. Local sailor Nick Thompson and Ali Young have a chance to be competing on this day.
Tuesday 16 August – Grafham Water Sailing Club, Huntingdon: Sailing and windsurfing taster sessions: 10am – 4pm. Watch the Olympic sailing medal races live from Rio on screens at 5pm. Local sailor Ben Saxton will be aiming for victory with sailing partner Nicola Groves in the Nacra 17 and Giles Scott will be racing for gold in the Olympic Finn class at Rio 2016.
Wednesday 17 August – Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, Wales: Sailing taster sessions: 10am – 7pm. Watch the Olympic sailing medal races live from Rio on screens at 5pm. Cheer on local sailor Hannah Mills and her crew Saskia Clark as they seek to add another medal to their collection. Luke Patience will be looking to add a gold to the silver he won at London 2012 in the men’s 470. In Rio, he will be joined by crew Chris Grube, competing at his first Olympic Games. Everyone is welcome!
Thursday 18 August – Rutland Sailing Club, Leicestershire: Sailing taster sessions: 10am – 4pm. This is the last day of the Olympic sailing medal race week in Rio so what better time to come along and try sailing for free! Meet some of British Sailing Team and watch the Olympic sailing medal races live from Rio on screens at 5pm in the clubhouse. Come and cheer on local sailor Dylan Fletcher sailing with Alain Sign in the 49er class. There will be food and refreshments available including a barbecue.
Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 August – Yorkhill Quay next to the Riverside Museum on the River Clyde, Glasgow: Free try sailing sessions for school children on the River Clyde; Watch the Olympic sailing medal races live from Rio on a big screen at Yorkhill Quay. In Scotland, there will two packed days of free sailing sessions for school children on the same days that two Scottish Team GB sailors will be aiming for victory at the Rio 2016 Games.
To book your school on the free ‘try sailing’ sessions please click here for more information: www.ryascotland.org.uk. Luke Patience will be looking to add a gold to the silver he won at London 2012 in the men’s 470 joined by his new crew Chris Grube. Olympic debutant Charlotte Dobson from Glasgow and crew Sophie Ainsworth will be in action in the 49erFX, which is making its first Olympic appearance.
Meet the Paralympic team
Helena Lucas, 2.4mR
Helena, 41, made history when she won Britain’s first Paralympic gold medal at the London 2012 Games, in the male-dominated 2.4mR class.
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, SKUD18
Five-time World Champions and bronze medalists at London 2012, Alex and Niki have what it takes to win gold in Brazil.
John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas, Sonar
John, Hannah and Steve narrowly missed out on bronze at London 2012 due to an off-the-water penalty imposed by the International Jury. The trio go to their fourth Paralympic Games as reigning World Championships.
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