In the home of the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, Weymouth and Portland, the Sailing World Cup is the last opportunity for fleet racing at a recognized regatta for the majority of the sailors before the torch gets handed over to the Marina da Gloria for Rio 2016. One Olympic venue straight to the next.
It may be the last big regatta before the Games, but for some sailors it’s also the first since they got the news that they would have the honor of representing their nation this summer.
Two sailors in that category are New Zealand’s Laser sailor Sam Meech and Australia’s Jake Lilley in the Finn. Something else they share: relief.
“It’s really important to get through the selection process, it takes about 18 months and it does start to weigh on you a little bit, so to get the nod is a bit of a relief,” says Lilley.
With relief evident and selection confirmed the focus for Lilley is now, as simple as it sounds, racing, “I’m working on a bit of race process here [at the Sailing World Cup]. Most of our equipment is in Brazil right now so the main focus is on racing and not the equipment set up so much. The calibre of the fleet here is full of guys close to the top end so it’s all about racing and execution. This is the first and last regatta before Rio since the selection.”
In his ‘first and last regatta’, Lilley will compete against formidable opponents such as Great Britain’s four-time world champion Giles Scott, France’s London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Jonathan Lobert and Finland’s Tapio Nirkko in the Finn Sailing World Cup fleet.
In another strong fleet and echoing the thoughts of his Trans-Tasman neighbour, Meech also felt the weight lift from his shoulders with his national selection confirmed, “It’s fantastic and it’s a pressure release which has been building since half way through last year.”
Again with the same train of thought as the Aussie towards the Sailing World Cup timing, Meech says, “It’s the last big race for all us really and there are some things I want to work on before I head back out to train in Rio. The fleet looks pretty good. There are a lot of the top guys here so there should be some good racing.”
An area that Meech’s preparations differ is in the processes the Kiwi has to get used to, “The fleet size will be very similar to that of the Games so in that respect this regatta is fantastic but working one on one with the coach is a bit different as there is usually a team of us. That’s a bit strange.”
Meech won’t be totally alone in Rio as compatriot Andy Maloney will be in attendance to act as a training partner, but the coaching will be solely focused on him as there is only one spot per country in each Rio 2016 fleet. This is a big step out of the comfort zone for Meech who usually has a team to rely upon, “There has been five or six of us in the squad every time I have been sailing. It feels really weird not having the other guys here and training with them.”
Whether comfortable or not, both Meech and Lilley will be looking to take the opportunity presented to them at Weymouth and Portland to race in high calibre fleets in the home of London 2012, before they head to the next adventure of Rio 2016.
Getting used to the processes, the similar size fleets, the high calibre opponents and racing in the last big regatta before the Olympic Sailing Competition are all achievable steps for every sailor, including Meech and Lilley who have their national selection confirmed.
For the rest, it is the final chance to test against the future Olympians and push for a Sailing World Cup medal.
Racing kicks off on Wednesday 8 June and will conclude on Sunday 12 June with the Medal Races which will be broadcast live on the World Sailing TV YouTube Channel.