Rio Olympic solo sailor Finn Lynch leads Irish hopes at the start of the Laser World Championship that begins in Sakaiminato, Japan this morning (0800 - Irish time) with the stakes running high ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Ireland is seeking one of five Olympic berths up for grabs among 44 countries from 58 competing in the 160-boat fleet in Sakaiminato. 14 countries previously qualified at the first attempt in Aarhus in Denmark last year.
The regatta marks the start of an extended run of events in the 2020 Olympics host nation which also includes the official Olympic test event and the World Cup Series Enoshima, both in August.
As Afloat previously reported, the three-boat Irish squad this week was the first overseas team to become established at the venue and the trio have fully adjusted to the conditions, afloat and ashore.
“It's been much smoother than I expected,” commented Vasilij Zbogar, the Slovenian triple Olympic medallist who is the Irish Sailing head Laser coach. “We now have good knowledge of the local wind and currents in the race area."
Along with Lynch from Carlow, Liam Glynn from Bangor, Co Down and Ewan McMahon from Howth, Co. Dublin will be seeking to show their best performances of the year.
In terms of qualification for Tokyo 2020, the attention will be on Lynch who has had an exceptionally strong year to date apart from out of form result.
Lynch delivered top ten results at three consecutive regattas in Miami, Palma and Marseilles before slipping to 18th overall at the Laser European championships at Porto in late May.
"It was a little bit expected after four regattas in a row with not much chance to recover from the stress of previous events," said Zbogar. "We were also late getting set-up in Porto and the conditions were very strong so adapting took longer."
The late arrival for the Europeans partly explains the early arrival in Japan to ensure best preparation at the venue.
"Finn is ready, his boat-speed upwind and downwind is excellent," said Zbogar. "But the feeling of stress for the worlds is way more than normal. He has to understand and learn from it and then use it as a weapon."
Meanwhile, the Laser coach is pleased with the progress of the two younger sailors preparing for their first senior worlds.
"Liam has been sailing really well over the last ten days; I am super happy with him and it will be very interesting to see his results," said Zbogar.
"Ewan is quite solid. He’s still quite young and needs experience but he’s a big talent. The good thing here is that there’s no pressure so he can sail freely."
The series begins with two races daily in a qualification round to determine Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets before final rounds next Monday and Tuesday.
Ireland needs to be in the top five of unqualified nations to secure a berth for Tokyo 2020. Once qualified, a trials series will follow to select the best sailor.
Later this month, Ireland's Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller will commence their Laser Radial class World Championships, also in Sakaiminato-City aiming to secure a place in their event for the Olympics next year.