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Displaying items by tag: Tokyo 2020

Day two of the 49er event at the 2020 Olympic Games regatta proved a bit less successful for the Irish pairing of Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove after taking the first race in what was a dream debut.

Sailed in a 14 knot southerly, in bright sunny conditions, the Irish boat was consistently mid-fleet from 13th at mark 1 to 12th at the finish. Spain, Netherlands and New Zealand took the top three places.

There was a slight increase in wind speed for race 2 and once again the Irish pair sailed consistently to finish 11th. The race was remarkably close, with the first 13 boats crossing the finish line in just over 1 minute. Australia, Spain and Netherlands were the first three in this race, with the British a place behind in 4th.

Today's final race was completed in 16 knots and was won by Great Britain with New Zealand 2nd and Denmark 3rd. Ireland was less consistent in this race, dropping from 6th at Mark 1 to 13th at the finish.

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are lying 11th after four races sailed Photo: Sailing EnergyRobert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are lying 11th after four races sailed Photo: Sailing Energy

After the four completed races, the Irish boat is 11th overall.

GBR, ESP and AUS are currently occupying the top three places. There are two races scheduled for Thursday to make up for the two lost on Tuesday.

Speaking afterwards, Dickson said: “It was a lot windier and wavier, pretty nice conditions and pretty enjoyable!” with Waddilove agreeing before adding; “We’re not coming in confused or deflated.  We know what we need to change for the next day which are some simple things.”

Results are here

Annalise Murphy Back in competition on Thursday

Ireland's Annalise Murphy returns to the water on Thursday as well, with winds forecast to build during the day.

The regatta is using six race areas. To date the Radials have sailed on the more inshore Enoshima and Kamakura courses, tomorrow they will sail on the Fujisama course.

The 49ers sailed on Enoshima on day 1, Sagami today and will be on Zushi tomorrow. The inshore courses are reported to suffer from backwash in these onshore breezes. There should be a cleaner wave regime in the outer courses.

The Tokyo Olympic Regatta race areasThe Tokyo Olympic Regatta race areas

Published in Tokyo 2020

Olympic debutants Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove from Howth and Skerries in County Dublin got their regatta off to a sensational start today winning the opening race with a nail-biting finish, holding off the GBR boat by mere centimetres on the line.

While the result is provisional the early season promise shown by the two Irish debutantes when they secured the Irish nomination in style in Lanzarote.

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove secured a mid-line front row start with plenty of clear air to blast off their Olympic Regatta Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove secured a mid-line front row start with plenty of clear air to blast off their Olympic Regatta Photo: Sailing Energy

A good start in clear air laid the ground work and favouring the left side of the course they took the lead at the first mark and then had a ding-dong battle with GBR all the way to the finish.

After the race the pair were relieved to start their campaign strongly, emphasising the changing nature of the sport. “I feel thrilled,” said Waddilove after the race, “We can’t ask for a better start, but you have to remember that this is the very first race, and anything could change with eleven races to go, plus a medal race, hopefully!” Dickson added, “It was pretty close, but you only have to win by a few centimetres. We didn’t know crossing the line that we’d done it until we came in and our coach told us.”

Racing is now cancelled for the rest of today and will resume tomorrow.

Silhouetted in the Enoshima sunshine, there's no mistaking the Irish tricolour in the lead of Race One of the 49er fleet Photo: Sailing EnergySilhouetted in the Enoshima sunshine, there's no mistaking the Irish tricolour in the lead of Race One of the 49er fleet Photo: Sailing Energy

The 49er scoreboard says it all - Ireland in the lead in TokyoThe 49er scoreboard says it all - Ireland in the lead in Tokyo in the first of a scheduled 12 races

Results are here

More on Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove here

Published in Tokyo 2020

Annalise Murphy took her first top-ten finishes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games today, as she secured a ninth-place position in the fifth race of the Laser Radial and took tenth in race six.

Tuesday's 16-knot northerly wind proved to be the refresher that Annalise Murphy needed to boost her chances of sailing in Sunday's medal race. Placings of 9th and 10th have improved her overall ranking to 20th, 33 points behind the 10th place that qualifies for the last medal race spot.

In the first race of the day, Murphy improved from 17th at mark 1 to finish in 9th in a race that was won by Sweden's Josefin Olsson. In race 2 her improvement was more marked - from 22nd at mark 1 to 10th at the finish. This race was won by Switzerland's Maud Jayet.

Overall, Rio Bronze medallist Anne-Marie Rindonm (DEN) has proved to be the most consistent, counting 5 top ten results to lead by 12 points from Olsson with Rio Gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) a point further back making it an all Scandinavian top three.

Consistent sailing from Dane Anne Marie Rindom gives her a consistent score of 6, 5, 3, 4, 4 to lead at th half way point of the regattaConsistent sailing from Dane Anne Marie Rindom gives her a consistent score of 6, 5, 3, 4, 4 to lead at th halfway point of the regatta

Analysis of the statistics suggests that Murphy will need to improve her start and first beat performance. In today's two races (race 5 and race 6) the winners led wire to wire and most of the top ten finishers were in the top ten at the first weather mark.

In race six today, Annalise Murphy went from 22nd at mark 1 to 10th by the finishIn race six today, Annalise Murphy went from 22nd at mark 1 to 10th by the finish

Wednesday is a day off for the radials, before returning Thursday and Friday to complete the qualifying stages. At this stage, it appears that the light winds will return.

Full results are here 

Published in Tokyo 2020

The first of Monday's two Olympic Laser Radial races off Enoshima Harbour near Tokyo got underway in a 13/14 knot easterly, suggesting that there may have been some effect from the now down-graded typhoon that was forecast to pass north east of Tokyo during Monday evening. Annalise Murphy normally strong in these conditions, could not seem to put her height advantage into play consistently during the race. Still in touch after the first three legs, a poor third windward leg saw her drop 7 places to 26th, recovering a bit to finish 24th.

On seven points with scores of 3,1, 3 Flem Hoest Line of Norway is the overall leader of the 44-boat Tokyo Radial fleet On seven points with scores of 3,1,3  Line Flem Hoest of Norway is the overall leader of the 44-boat Tokyo Radial fleet

In the second race of the day, the wind dropped to below 10 knots and was shifting through 20 degrees, emphasising the importance of getting the shift phases in the correct sequence. With the left side turning out to be favoured at top of the first beat, those on the right, including Murphy, struggled to stay in contact and the gap to the leaders was over a minute. The right side of the second beat proved costly as well, as Murphy dropped to 41st place, once again recovering somewhat on the final couple of legs to finish 37th.

Annalise Murphy in the thick of it during the second day of racing for the Women's Radial ClassAnnalise Murphy in the thick of it during the second day of racing for the Women's Radial Class

Now lying 32nd overall, the Rio silver medallist has her work cut out to make the medal race.

Speaking after today’s two races, Murphy said: “Having such a bad day makes it really hard for me to get a result that I want from this regatta with only six races left. I’m upset for Rory (coach), for my family and everyone who supported me because I really wanted to do them proud. I actually thought it was going to be a good day for me today - I love those conditions - small things just didn’t go the way I wanted them to.”

How much the typhoon impacts on Tuesday's two races will determine the trajectory from here.

After a shaky start to her regatta yesterday, Rio Gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) is back up into fifth placeAfter a shaky start to her regatta yesterday, Rio Gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) is back up into fifth place

Norway, Greece and Denmark are the current overall top three, with Rio Gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) in fifth place.

Vasileia Karachaliou of Greece celebrates her race win in race four Vasileia Karachaliou of Greece celebrates her race win in race four to put her second overall after four races sailed

Line Flem Høst (NOR) is the surprise package of the Olympic Sailing Competition so far, the Norwegian sailing an unbelievably consistent regatta in such unpredictable conditions. "I was actually feeling kind of shaky, a bit nauseous, not quite ready," admitted Høst. "So it was really great to have such a good day and really feel like I was in the zone."

Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) rose up the rankings too, on the back of 6,1 scores and sits two points off the lead. "It’s nice to win a race, but it’s just another regatta, even if it’s the Olympics. My most important goal is to try to keep all my scores in the top 10, and then see what happens at the end."

Until the fourth race this afternoon, Anne-Marie Rindom had been the only athlete to keep all her results inside the top 10, but then the Dane proved that even she is fallible in the vagaries of Enoshima as she finished 13th late this afternoon.

Anne-Marie Rindom of DenmarkAnne-Marie Rindom of Denmark

However, the bronze medallist from Rio is still in bronze medal position in Tokyo. "I’m a little bit disappointed about that last race. But all in all, I think I managed to keep to my goal, which is to be present in the moment, to look out of the boat and not be affected by my emotions, which is not that easy because there are a lot of emotions at an Olympic Games."

Following a hard first day on the water, defending Olympic Champion Marit Bouwmeester (NED) really needed to up her game and she came away from the day with a 7,2, lifting her to fifth place overall, two points behind Italy’s Silvia Zennaro. Bouwmeester had been leading the fourth race before being passed by Karachaliou, but at least the Dutch two-time Olympic medallist is in striking distance, 16 points off the overall lead. Two years ago when she won gold at the Hempel World Cup Enoshima, she celebrated with singing ‘Barbie Girl’ at a karaoke bar. Bouwmeester admitted the gold medal looks like a big challenge, but promised, "If I win, I will sing Alphaville." Alphaville’s best known song from the 80s being ‘Big in Japan’.

Full results are here 

Racing continues for Murphy tomorrow with Races 5 and 6, while fellow sailors, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove will begin their Olympic campaign tomorrow as the 49er class gets underway.

Additional reporting by Andy Rice

Published in Tokyo 2020

Annalise Murphy's defence of her 2016 podium result got off to a slow start in race one of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Her 35th place of the 44 sailors that started the race in an Easterly wind that never rose above 9 knots will hopefully be discarded later in the qualifying series.

Without the need for full hiking skills, the light winds were always going to prove problematic.

Spain, Greece and Malayasia took the top three spots in a race that saw many pre-regatta favourites struggle.

Murphy said: “I’m relieved to get the first day out of the way, disappointed it didn’t go as I wanted it to. I did exactly what I didn’t want to in the first race, had a bad race, went the wrong way, didn’t stick with my plan, got caught up in a bit of an incident with another boat. I dealt badly with that by freaking out and doing the wrong thing".

Attention to detail - Annalise Murphy's sail reveals a tiny self adhesive lucky shamrock on her tell talesAttention to detail - Annalise Murphy's sail reveals a tiny self-adhesive lucky shamrock on her tell tales

The 'incident with the other boat' happened just before the start of the first race which saw Murphy come together with the Fijian Sophie Francis Morgan, whose mainsheet became entangled around Murphy's boom impeding her start plans.

Rio Gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) was 21st, while Rio Bronze Medallist Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) finished 6th. Alison Young (GBR) and Paige Railey (USA) finished 24th and 40th respectively.

There's just a glimpse of Annalise Murphy's second-row start to leeward of Peru (13 boats from right) in the first race of the Laser Radials in the Tokyo Olympic competition. The Irish Rio silver medalist started mid line and recorded a 35th in the first race of her 44-boat fleet, the biggest fleet of the Olympic regatta. Photo: Sailing EnergyThere's just a glimpse of Annalise Murphy's second-row start to leeward of Peru (13 boats from right) in day one of the Laser Radials in the Tokyo Olympic competition. The Irish Rio silver medalist started mid line and recorded a 35th in the first race of her 44-boat fleet, the biggest fleet of the Olympic regatta.  Photo: Sailing Energy

Second race in stronger breeze

The second race was in a slightly stronger breeze from the south and Annalise made big gains on the second beat which she maintained to finish in 12th place to lie 23rd overall.

Gemany leads, with Rio Bronze medallist Anne-Marie Rindom second and Croatia in third. Rio Gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) improved to lie 18th overall.

"I had a slightly better second race, I was gaining around the race course rather than trying to do damage control which was good. I’m glad the first day is done and I’m looking forward to moving up from here – no more mistakes.”, Murphy said.

With major rival Ann Marie Rindom of Denmark leading this group at the gybe mark, Annalise Murphy rounds just ahead of reigning gold medalist Marit Boumeester of the NetherlandsWith major rival Ann Marie Rindom of Denmark leading this group at the gybe mark, Annalise Murphy rounds just ahead of reigning gold medalist Marit Boumeester of the Netherlands

Few would have predicted that Germany’s Svenja Weger would emerge from the melée in first overall, following a solid fifth place in her opening race with a runaway victory in the next. Asked for the secret to her consistency, Weger said, "My coach gave me some really, really good information. I chose to go to the left side which was favoured a lot and which helped me have a good race. And then the second race, I don't know... I just started in the middle and played it from there."

The German couldn’t hide her excitement. "It's amazing. It's amazing. I don't know what to say about it. Like, I was almost crying when I was crossing the finish line, but it's a great feeling. I couldn't have imagined that the regatta would start like this for me."

Much more expected is that Anne-Marie Rindom sits in second overall after finishing sixth and fifth, and the Dane must be counting her lucky stars that she didn’t suffer the fate of other medal favourites. "I’m happy about my performance. It was a solid day. I made a great comeback in the second one, which I'm very proud of. It's not easy at the Games. There’s a lot of nerves."

Rindom was the bronze medallist from Rio 2016. Marit Bouwmeester, the reigning Olympic Champion from the Netherlands, opened her day with scores of 21,14, which leaves her in 18th overall. Five places further back in the standings is Murphy.

While some of the established names struggled with the unpredictable conditions, others seized the opportunity. Two points behind Rindom in third overall is Elena Vorobeva (CRO) who was vying for the front of the first race before being given a penalty for too much kinetics downwind. She came 11th in that heat and then followed with second place in the next.

Cristina Pujol (ESP) had the most thrilling of starts to her first Olympic Games. "I scored a first in my first race at the Olympic Games! I couldn't believe it! I'm very, very happy!"

On the other hand, spare a thought for Paige Railey of the USA who has been campaigning hard in the Laser Radial since 2005. Now at her third Olympic Games and widely considered a serious contender for the podium, she crossed the finish line of race one in 40th, and was disqualified in the next for starting too early. "It’s a rough day for me," said the 34-year-old. "Now I just need to take one race at a time and just do as good as I can."

Typhoon arrival 

As Afloat reported previously, a weakening approaching typhoon should bring stronger winds on Monday afternoon and Tuesday - meteorologists are predicting up to 25 knots for Tuesday.

Next races

Two more races are scheduled each day before a break on Wednesday.

The Radial fleet returns to racing on Thursday with the final qualifying race on Friday and the medal race scheduled for Sunday. 

The top ten boats from the series go through to the medal race.

Overall results are here

Published in Annalise Murphy

It’s the eve of competition for sailing at Tokyo 2020 and the boat park has been a place of focus and precision in the final 24 hours before battle commences in the Laser, Laser Radial and Men’s and Women’s RS:X.

There’s a broad array of names who could be challenging for the Laser Radial Women’s One Person Dinghy podium, notably Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) and Emma Plasschaert (BEL). Could Annalise Murphy’s late run yield another medal for Ireland, following on from her incredible silver medal performance in Brazil five years ago? Possibly Japan’s own Manami Doi (JPN) could make the most of local knowledge to cause an upset. But Marit Bouwmeester (NED) is a woman on a mission. With a silver from London 2012 and gold from Rio 2016, the defending Olympic Champion looks as strong as anyone for the title in Tokyo. Read more on this epic fight for Radial Gold here.

While other fleets are still training and putting their boats through the measurement process, the sailors in the four fleets that are due to begin racing on Sunday 25 July have either taken time out off-site to relax and unwind, if it’s possible to do so on the eve of the biggest regatta of your life, or crammed in some last-minute time on the water.

Then again, windsurfers pride themselves on their laid-back approach to life, and it’s hard to detect any nerves from the outside. What’s going on inside their heads though? Who’s going to rise to the occasion, and who will crumble under the pressure, under the weight of national expectation?

Someone who has been waiting four, no, five years for redemption after finishing in the ‘leather medal’ position of fourth place at Rio 2016 is Lilian de Geus. The Dutch windsurfer is seen as the favourite for gold in the Women’s RS:X fleet. A three-time world champion and reigning European champion, de Geus would probably trade all that international success for an Olympic gold.

"The Olympic Games is definitely the most important event," commented de Geus. "There is only one entrant per country per event, unlike at the Worlds, and that makes it a special event. It's a big event that you work towards for four years, or this time five years."

Enoshima with Mount Fuji watching over the field of play Photo: Sailing EnergyEnoshima with Mount Fuji watching over the field of play Photo: Sailing Energy

The waiting game is the hardest thing, and de Geus is not alone in wanting to get on with it, especially after the long, long delay caused by the pandemic. "I'm really looking forward to the start. It's been a long time with the one-year postponement."

Psychologically, the 27-year-old struggled to stay on track with her campaign. "For the first half-year we had no races, no competitions, and that was quite tough for me because you don't have any goals. I was World and European champion at the time, but I didn't have any motivation. I had struggles with my motivation until we got some competitions in and I got it back, and I went to Lanzarote to train. And then we had the Worlds in Cadiz and the European Championships, so we had a pretty good programme. I feel like I have a higher level now than I did last year."

Enoshima Olympic dinghy park (Above and below) Scenes from the Enoshima Olympic dinghy park

While the breeze during the build-up period has been mostly light to medium in Enoshima, the forecast points towards the effects of a strong weather system making itself known a couple of days from now. That doesn’t faze de Geus. In fact, she relishes the prospect of variety as it will help deal with the specialists in the fleet, the ‘one-breeze wonders’. "We had a lot of light winds, but you can't do anything about the forecast. It looks like we'll get some variation, some strong wind days. It would be nice to have some variation during the Olympics. It's more challenging."

Enoshima Olympic dinghy park

One of the benefits of being part of a bigger sailing team with participation across multiple events is the ability to share knowledge, particularly vital, race-winning intel on wind, wave and tidal conditions. Sailors starting later in the regatta will be watching the windsurfers and Lasers intently on day one of the competition. For the sailors - and for any fans wanting to dig into the detail - they can use the GPS tracking data to help work out which side of the course is paying.

While in the windsurfing there is the strong prospect of a Double Dutch performance, with de Geus looking strong in the women’s division and Kiran Badloe even more of a nailed-on favourite in the Men’s RS:X, the Laser Men’s One Person Dinghy fleet is wide open.

Matt Wearn carries the pressure of expectation, following in the footsteps of Tom Slingsby’s runaway gold for Australia at London 2012, then the last-gasp gold won at Rio 2016 by Tom Burton, the man Wearn beat to Aussie selection for Tokyo 2020. Can Wearn make it three in a row for Australia? Against Wearn you could equally put up Philipp Buhl (GER), Elliot Hanson (GBR), Tonci Stipanovic (CRO), Pavlos Kontides (CYP) and Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA). Oh, and Brazil’s Robert Scheidt! Aged 48, he has competed at every Games since the Laser made its Olympic debut at Atlanta 1996. A regatta he won, by the way. Five medals already to his name, can the Brazilian magician make it number six in Tokyo?

Find out how to watch tracking in your country here.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that, by the end of day one of competition, the Netherlands could be leading in three out of four events.

The Laser Radial and the Men’s RS:X will be the first fleet to set sail at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition.

The Men’s RS:X will sail three races on the Enoshima course area and the Laser Radial will sail two on Kamakura. The Laser fleet will follow at 14:30 on the Kamakura course area before the Women’s RS:X start the first of three races at 15:00.

- Andy Rice

Published in Tokyo 2020

Weather experts are monitoring a developing typhoon that is threatening to affect the Tokyo Olympics. With the storm in its infancy, accurate trajectory predictions are difficult, but it is certainly a potential threat reports New Zealand's Stuff website.

This week's building storm has surfers excited at its potential to provide decent sized waves for the sport's Olympic introduction, to be held at Tsurigasaki Beach, in Chiba, south-east of the capital on the Pacific coast.

The weather is on the radar of the powerful New Zealand sailing team, with Laser ace Sam Meech opening their campaign in Enoshima on Sunday.

"There is a lot more typhoon activity in the area than there has been," Meech, a bronze medallist from the Rio Olympics, told Stuff on Friday.

"We have been in a pretty nice south-westerly flow for the last week. There's a bit of a mix-up coming with some typhoons hitting which will be good for the surfing, but it might be a bit different for us."

Meech said some of the weather models weren't aligning at this stage, but it appeared the wind would flip in the complete opposite direction with north-easterlies forecasted which could develop to "really strong" on Monday.

Much would depend on the course the storm took, with the small island of Enoshima situated 50km south of Tokyo.

The sailors were expecting the storm to provide a lift in swell as well as the increased winds.

More from Stuff here.

Published in Tokyo 2020
Tagged under

The 49erFX made its first Olympic appearance at Rio five years ago, when the battle for gold and silver remained in the balance until the final stages of the Medal Race.

The gold and silver medallists from Rio 2016 - respectively Brazil’s Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze and New Zealand’s Alex Maloney and Molly Meech - will again be in contention for the podium. They’re not the stand-out favourites, however. No one is. This field appears to be wide open to a number of contenders.

This includes Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Saskia Tidey from the Royal Irish Yacht Club who has every right to expect a medal from Tokyo as she represents Team GB with Charlotte Dobson.

Spain’s Tamara Echegoyen and Paula Barcelo sailed a really smart series to win the 2020 World Championship in Australia. Echegoyen knows how to win at the Olympics, having taken gold as helm of the Spanish entry in the women’s match racing event at London 2012. She also went to Rio 2016 as the reigning 49erFX World Champion, but just missed out on the Olympic podium, finishing in the dreaded fourth place.

Arguably the most consistent performers over the past five years since Rio are the ever-smiling Dutch duo of Annemiek Bekkering & Annette Duetz, who won back to back World Championships in 2018 and 2019.

Duetz recalls when they first came across each other as keen youth sailors in the 29er skiff, the junior go-kart version of the bigger 49erFX, "There was this superstar, we met at training sessions, we sailed a few times together, but not knowing we would one day sail together all the time!"

Bekkering can’t speak highly enough of her tall crew, "Annette, she can do anything. She’s amazing. We really like the windy conditions, we still keep on racing, pushing through the big waves. It doesn’t matter what happens, Annette is always the same emotions, - keep going, keep fighting - that’s a really good strength to have in the boat."

Duetz returns the compliment, "You’re really on it, if there are any gains to be made on the race course, you find them!"

The team needed all of their composure to bounce back from a difficult start to their qualification trials after being outsailed by their Dutch rivals, Odile van Aanholt and Marieke Jongens, at a really light and fluky Hempel World Cup Genoa regatta in early 2019.

Bekkering and Duetz pretty much needed to win the next qualifying event, the 49erFX European Championships in Weymouth a month later. When the pressure was on, they executed the plan and won the event and with it, selection for Tokyo 2020.

They will be leaning on that experience when they start racing at their second Games together. "There was a lot of pressure on us to sail those European Championships well, and we did," says Bekkering, looking to do much better than their seventh in Rio five years ago.

"It was a good experience to compete at the Games, but we struggled with the whole Olympics. In some ways it was not the nicest Games, didn’t enjoy it as much as we hoped, but it was super useful to do Rio. We’re super keen to do a great event this time and make the most of it, to get the best out of ourselves."

Of course, every Olympic athlete believes that competing at the Games is a dream come true, but no team will appreciate that feeling of arriving at the venue and getting that buzz than the German 49erFX crew. Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke have dreamt of this moment for most of their lives, and have been sailing together as a team since 2007. After narrowly missing out on selection for London 2012 and Rio 2016, when they finally earned selection for Tokyo 2020 it was a huge release of emotions for the two friends. It happened at the European Championships in Austria, one of the few events that actually managed to take place in late 2020. The German team found they had boat speed to burn, and if they can carry that speed edge from the smooth fresh waters of Lake Attersee to the salty swell of Enoshima, then they will be right up there in the fight for gold. It was Lutz and Beucke’s first major regatta win having finished fifth and ninth in the two most recent World Championships.

A few short years ago, Stephanie Roble was an incredible match racer in keelboats but when she stepped aboard the 49erFX she discovered that it was a much more wobbly platform than she was used to. Hundreds of capsizes and nosedives later, Roble and her crew Maggie Shea have emerged stronger from the all the bruises and moulded themselves into serious skiff contenders who seem to be able to come out on top in marginal situations. They had a battle on their hands to beat USA rivals Paris Henken and 2008 Radial Olympic Champion Anna Tobias (née Tunnicliffe), but Roble and Shea passed the test with flying colours, taking bronze at the 2020 World Championships.

The crew that finished just ahead of the Americans at those Worlds in Geelong is Great Britain’s Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey who competed at Rio 2016 as rivals in separate boats. Dobson, crewed by Sophie Ainsworth, finished eighth in Rio while Tidey, sailing for Ireland with Andrea Brewster, were 12th. Born to an Irish mother and English father, Tidey took a lot of heat from some Irish quarters for switching flags to Great Britain ("the hardest and probably one of the most controversial things I’ll ever do in my life"), but as a sailing partnership Dobson and Tidey worked almost straight away. They have always been strong in the breeze, Tidey standing 1.88m tall helps, but they’ve worked hard over the past two years to iron out any weaknesses at the lighter end of the wind spectrum. Now Dobson and Tidey look like the full package and have every right to expect a medal from Tokyo.

The Scandinavian nations have a strong history in the 49erFX and Denmark, Sweden and Norway are all ones to watch. Ida Marie Nielsen and Marie Olsen (DEN) have been at or near to the top end of the FX fleet since competition in the women’s skiff began back in 2013 when they won the first European Championship. A third place at the 2019 World Championship is the high point of more recent years for this tight-knit crew.

The daughter of five-time Olympic medallist Torben Grael, can Martine Grael along with Kahena Kunze repeat their gold from Rio 2016? The Brazilians continue to reach the podium on a regular basis, most recently at two winter regattas in Lanzarote. Grael and Kunze seem to thrive on the big occasion, and they won on Olympic waters at the Test Event two years ago.

Having been beaten by the Brazilians by the tightest of margins five years ago at Rio 2016, perhaps this time it will be the Kiwis’ opportunity to turn the tables on their long-term rivals. Alex Maloney and Molly Meech have been sailing together now for nine years, experience which should count on their favour at such a unique event. "I think as a team we can feel pretty confident that we’re in good shape," says Maloney. "It will be a case of who executes on the day."

The fact that the Games is going ahead at all is something to celebrate, says Meech. "I think that with everything that has been happening over the last year and coming to an Olympics that was postponed, it feels quite special," she says. "It feels quite different to Rio. You were racing and seeing your competitors quite a lot in the build-up to Rio. This feels quite fresh. It’s exciting.

"It's also really cool to finally be back in Japan. Getting the bus across the bridge [to the yacht club] the other day actually felt like coming back to somewhere really familiar."

Racing in the Women’s Skiff – 49erFX starts on Tuesday 27 July. The 21-boat fleet will start the first of 12 fleet races on the Enoshima course area at 1200 JST. They will finish racing on Monday 2 August with their Medal Race.

A full list of competitors is available here.

-Andy Rice

Published in Tokyo 2020
Tagged under

Since winning Olympic gold in the Men’s Skiff – 49er at Rio 2016 five years ago, Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) have packed a whole lifetime of sailing achievements into their busy careers.

In 2017 Burling steered Emirates Team New Zealand’s foiling catamaran to victory at the America’s Cup in Bermuda, with Tuke further forward running the flight control for his best mate. A year later they were pitched against each other on rival boats in their first round-the-world adventure. Coming into the finish of the final leg of that year-long marathon called the Volvo Ocean Race, Burling or Tuke looked set to emerge as first-time winners of the race, before being pipped by the other boat, the Chinese, in a three-way, last-gasp battle for victory.

Earlier this year Burling and Tuke were again right at the core of New Zealand’s successful defence of the America’s Cup. This was meant to have happened after the Tokyo 2020 Games, but with the year’s postponement, the Kiwis had to hop straight off their multimillion-dollar foiling AC75 spaceship and reacquaint themselves with the somewhat more affordable, simpler pleasures of 49er racing.

New Zealand's Burling and Tuke start as 49er favourites in TokyoNew Zealand's Burling and Tuke start as 49er favourites in Tokyo

Despite the distractions of the Volvo Ocean Race, two America’s Cup campaigns, and more recently the SailGP circuit, the six-time World Champions still start as favourites for 49er gold in Tokyo.

Among the Tokyo line-up is Ireland’s debutantes Sean Waddilove and Rob Dickson who probably wouldn’t have made it to Tokyo if it had taken place in 2020, but this young team made the most of winter training in southern Europe to really show that they mean business. The young Irish crew earned the final spot for Tokyo competing at the Lanzarote International Regatta in March, winning their first-ever Medal Race at the event and seizing a bronze medal ahead of a world-class fleet. 

Among the challengers to the Kiwi crown are the bronze medallists from Rio 2016, Erik Heil and Tommy Ploessel (GER) who always turn it on for the big occasion. Despite taking time out from their campaign, they scored second at the 2019 Worlds and third at the 2020 Worlds. Now in their early 30s, Heil and Ploessel feel ready for another life-defining performance in Tokyo.

"We want to win a medal again," said Heil, "preferably in an even more beautiful colour than last time."

Medical student Heil and mechanical engineering graduate Ploessel ran the Kiwis close for the 2019 world title in Auckland. "We have come closer to them, closer than ever before," Heil remarked at the time.

In with a shout of a medal at the end of Rio 2016 was Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher who, crewed by Alain Sign, ended up sixth overall. Fletcher has since teamed up with Stu Bithell, Olympic silver medallist in the 470 at London 2012. Fletcher is focused, sometimes spiky, while Bithell appears to be the entertainer but is far more than that. From being rivals they have become good mates and have strung together some good results over the past four years, including victory at the 2017 World and European Championships.

However, in 2017 Burling and Tuke were absent from the 49er as they raced their way around the Volvo Ocean Race world. Fletcher and Bithell haven’t beaten the Kiwis at a World Championship, so do they have the self-belief to take away the Olympic crown from their feted rivals?

Bithell admits the duo are "super tough competition".

"We’re up against perhaps the most successful sailing team in the world – they are formidable together," he expressed. "I like to put a positive spin on things and say it creates an opportunity for us to go out and beat the best team in the world."

Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Marra have spent the last few years chipping away at the front of the 49er fleet, gradually improving their scores season by season. The Spanish team were fourth at the 2019 Worlds and runners-up in 2020 to their regular training partners Burling and Tuke, who they know probably better than anyone in the Olympic fleet.

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Champion Jonas Warrer is back representing Denmark, crewed by Jakob Precht Jensen. In 2008, even Warrer would admit he used more than his fair share of fortune to clinch gold in the most extraordinary and controversial of circumstances. Contrary to predictions of a windless Beijing, the 49er Medal Race that year proved extremely breezy and enormously wavy, and everyone was unprepared and underweight for those heinous conditions.

"I was sailing before the start with my crew Martin Kirketerp," Warrer recalls. "We broke the mast half a minute after hoisting the spinnaker. We thought our regatta was over but we rushed ashore and the Croatians lent us their boat for the race." There’s much more to that incredible story, but the story now is can the 42-year-old repeat gold, 13 years on?

Warrer knows what it’s like to finish first, and he knows how it feels to finish fourth, his position at Rio 2016. "I had a break from sailing after Rio, but I think my idea was to do another Olympics. I know what it’s like to be in the medals and to be out of the medals. Winning a medal is more fun."

Warrer’s crew Jensen is hoping the spirit of 2008 returns to carry them to victory.

"Leading the regatta, breaking a mast and winning a medal, let’s do that again," jokes Jensen about his helmsman’s streak of Beijing luck. "Of course we want to come away from Tokyo with a medal and if it’s made of gold, even better."

Sime Fantela became the first sailor to win a sailing gold medal for Croatia in the 470 class five years ago in Rio. Teaming up with his brother Mihovil, Sime made a rapid and successful switch to the 49er. The brothers won the 2018 World Championship after just 18 months in this demanding class. They’re probably an outside bet for the 49er podium, but Sime is a wily competitor who’s unlikely to be intimidated by the occasion.

Another couple of brothers to watch out for, particularly if the breeze and the big waves kick in, are first-time Olympians Will and Sam Phillips racing for Australia. Following in the wake of the London 2012 gold medallists and Rio 2016 silver medallists, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, the Aussie siblings have big footloops to fill, but a recent big wave training session on the Queensland coast with Burling and Tuke should stand them in good stead for the Pacific swell of Enoshima.

Others to watch include Austria’s Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl, who have a very good record on Olympic waters with the high point being a silver medal at the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima two years ago. They were bronze medallists at the 2017 Worlds, with sixth in 2019 and fourth in 2020, very consistent scores that make the Austrians a real threat for the podium.

The fast-improving Dutch team of Bart Lambriex and Pim van Vugt are starting to look like the real deal, regularly finishing in the top six of major events.

The 49er fleet features 19-world class teams. They will sail an Opening Series of 12 races, with the first three races scheduled for Tuesday 27 July on the Enoshima course, starting at 1445 JST. Their Medal Race on Monday 2 August will bring their competition to a close.

A full list of competitors is available here.

-Andy Rice

Published in Tokyo 2020

After five long years the moment has come – it’s time for Tokyo 2020. The delayed Olympics is on!

With less than a week to go until the opening ceremony –  and a promising forecast –  here’s how you can follow the Irish sailors looking to bring home medals.

Ireland is represented in the Laser Radial by Annalise Murphy who starts racing on July 25. Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove represent Ireland in the men's 49er dinghy and start on July 27.

Irish sailor Saskia Tidey from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is sailing for Team GB in the 49erFX and also starts racing on July 27.

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove represent Ireland in the men's 49er dinghy and start racing on July 27Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove represent Ireland in the men's 49er dinghy and start racing on July 27 Photo: INPHO/OFI

Where is the Olympic sailing venue?

Enoshima, around an hour south of Tokyo. It is one of Tokyo 2020’s legacy venues, having staged the sailing competition for the 1964 Olympics. 

When does the racing start?

Racing starts on July 25, two days after the opening ceremony. The first medal races are on July 31, and the final medal races are on August 4, although there is a reserve day on August 5 just in case. The full schedule and results can be found here.

How can I watch the racing? 

Live Olympic action begins on RTÉ2, RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ Player from 1:30 am on 23 July as the Irish rowers take to the water with the Olympics Opening Ceremony following from 11:30 am. 

There's no schedule of what RTE will cover sailing wise but RTÉ Sport says it is geared up to report on the largest-ever Irish Olympic team of 116 Team Ireland athletes including Kellie Harrington, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Paul O'Donovan & Fintan McCarthy, Annalise Murphy, Thomas Barr, Mark English, Phil Healy and many, many more.

Eurosport/Discovery+ and the BBC. Unlike in past Olympics, the BBC will not be streaming all events live via the red button, so if you want to watch it live you’ll need to subscribe to Eurosport or Discovery+. The good news is it’s cheap – around a fiver for the entire month (UK rate). Via the Eurosport player, you’ll be able to watch live racing from one pre-determined course area each day. 

Is there any other way to keep up to date with the racing? 

We hope to keep you right up to date as we have done over the past five years on our dedicated Tokyo 2020 page

Where can I find out more about the sailors representing Team IRL?

Afloat has got you covered. Our dedicated Tokyo 2020 page has biographies of our athletes plus the latest headlines from Enoshima.

I only do social media. What have you got for me?

Not one but three social media channels. Head to our Facebook for the headlines and daily galleries, Instagram for the best pics coming out of Tokyo 2020, and Twitter for, well, everything else.

For full results and the competition schedule, please click here.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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