2016 is almost here and with it comes the greatest sporting event of them all – the Olympic Games. And it just so happens that Team GB has a history of doing rather well at sailing…
We are about to tick over into another Olympic year and with it comes the excitement, anticipation and inevitable highs and lows of competition.
While we were spoilt by having the home Olympic in 2012, the distance from London to Rio is a whopping 5,767 miles, or 5011nm. Despite this there will be huge support for Team GB, both in the UK and over in Rio.
The sailing regatta will be one of the most anticipated events for British spectators with expectations of a good medal haul. Having been top of the medal sailing table at the last four Olympic Games both the team and fans will want to make it five in a row. This might be a pressure for the team, but also provides an incentive to perform to the best of their ability.
Team GB also has another winning record to preserve having won more Olympic sailing gold medals than any other nation. Since the sport was first introduced into the Olympics at the 1900 Paris games Team GB have brought home 25 golds – four of them belonging to Sir Ben Ainslie – and 54 medals in total.
Fittingly it was the London 1908 Olympic Games that saw sailing begin its unbroken run as an Olympic sport. There have been plenty of changes in the 100 or so years that have passed. Since the 2012 Games alone the following class changes have taken place:
- Women’s (Elliott 6m) and men’s (Star) keelboat events have been eliminated.
- Multi-hulls return, represented by the Nacra 17.
- Women’s skiff has been added, represented by the 49erFX.
These new classes, along with the others already featuring, have already been confirmed for Tokyo 2020. Sadly, though, Paralympic sailing classes are already out of the 2020 Olympic Games.
With the two changes to sailing classes there will be a total of 10 events at Rio 2016.
Single-handed heavyweight dinghy – open. Originating in Finland, the Finn is a one-person, single sail dinghy that has been part of the Olympic Games since 1952.
2012: Gold for Sir Ben Ainslie
Men’s single-handed dinghy. one of the simplest of the Olympic class boats. The Laser first participated in the Olympic Games in 1996.
Women’s single-handed dinghy. It made its debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, replacing the Europe class.
Men and women’s double-handed dinghy. The 470, first recognised as an Olympic class in 1976, was also the first women’s class, accepted into the Olympic Games in 1988 in Seoul.
2012: Silver for Luke Patience/Stuart Bithell
2012: Silver for Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark
High performance skiff – open. Designed by Australian architect Julian Bethwaite in 1995, the class made its debut at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Women’s two-person skiff. The boat will be making its Olympic debut as the Women’s Skiff event at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Nacra 17 NEW!
Mixed Multihull. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will see the return of the mixed multihull to the Olympic program in the form of the Nacra 17.
Men and women’s windsurfer. Replacing the Mistral, the NeilPryde RS:X was the new windsurfing equipment used at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
2012: Gold for Helen Lucas
Double-handed keelboat – open. It made its first appearance at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
2012: Bronze for Alexandra Rickham/Niki Birrell
Three-person keelboat – open. The Sonar has been sailed in the Paralympics since sailing was included as a Paralympic sport in 2000.
BRITISH SAILING TEAM
The team is managed by the Royal Yachting Association and is made up of approximately 80 sailors. The team in the Olympic and Paralympic classes consists of two squads of sailors – the Podium Squad and Podium Potential Squad. They take part in regattas around the world, including World and European Championships and the ISAF Sailing World Cup series. Each win brings them closer to being selected for Team GB or ParalympicsGB.
The first members of Team GB for 2016 were announced in September and, fittingly, they were sailors. The eight athletes have already won four Olympic medals and seven World Championship titles between them, and so the sailing prospects in Rio are looking good.
Luke Patience & Elliot Willis – 470
Alison Young – Laser Radial
Nick Thompson – Laser
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark – 470
Giles Scott – Finn
Bryony Shaw – RS:X
When their names were announced Team GB chef de mission Mark England said: “The selection of the first Team GB athletes is a landmark moment on our journey to next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. As one of our most successful medal-winning sports it is fitting that sailing kick-off our Rio 2016 team announcements.”
However, another athlete was announced even earlier. Back in April Paralympic sailing champion Helena Lucas became the first GB athlete selected for Rio. Helena was the first British sailor to win a Paralympic medal since the sport became a full-time part of the Paralympic programme in 2000 when she won gold in the 2.4mR class in 2012.
British Sailing Team Manager Stephen Park believes his charges are well-placed to meet the challenges of Rio 2016. Stephen said: “We’ve got plenty of talent within the team – sailors who really have put in some good performances over recent weeks, months and years, and in addition we have a good mix of some younger sailors coming through, some new first time Olympians and indeed some older hands. I am sure that this mix of age, experience, youth and enthusiasm is going to help create a great team atmosphere and be good for our 2016 performance.”