The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition
Tom Burton, of Australia, has been ranked first in the world since I finished [in the Laser]. He’s strong in all conditions. His coach, Michael Blackburn, is excellent, and coached me to my gold medal in 2012. Together, Burton and Blackburn know how to win. Don’t count out Robert Scheidt, of Brazil. He’s a nine-time world champion in the Laser and has five Olympic medals. Not the favorite, in my opinion, but if he’s near the top coming into medal day, his experience will be hard to beat.
The Expert: Tom Slingsby
Slingsby is the reigning Laser gold medalist who won four of 10 races at the 2012 Games. He is also a four-time Laser world champion.
The Prediction: Marit Bouwmeester, of the Netherlands, and Evi Van Acker, of Belgium, each has a shot at gold. Bouwmeester always manages to stay at the top and has the ability to make smart, conservative decisions, and knows when to take risks. Van Acker, when she is on fire, is hard to beat. She has an ability to come back from mistakes and salvage great results. Experience counts. Paige Railey has the experience of two Olympics, while Lijia Xu already has a gold and bronze medal, which could help them into contention.
The Expert: Anna Tunnicliffe
Tunnicliffe won gold in Beijing in the Radial in 2008. She also won two world championships and was named Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year for four consecutive years, from 2008 to 2011.
Giles Scott, of Great Britain, will be the favorite going into the Games. He’s a four-time world champion and won the Olympic test event. He’s not one to take too much risk and uses his speed to his advantage. He is also a very levelheaded sailor with a great deal of experience outside Olympic sailing. There are a number of other main contenders, including America’s Caleb Paine, who could also surprise the fleet with a bronze.
The Expert: Zach Railey
Silver medalist in the Finn in 2008, Railey competed in the US Sailing Team Sperry Olympic trials for Rio 2016. He is a three-time U.S. Finn national champion and placed 12th in the 2012 Olympics.
The overwhelming favorites are New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, of Australia, will give them one heck of a battle. Outteridge’s results are reflective of the fact that he hasn’t been able to focus as completely on the 49er as Burling has. Burling is one of those rare people where nothing fazes him. He’s so relaxed in bad situations that it’s one of his massive strengths. Adversity doesn’t bother him. The real battle in this class will be for bronze.
The Expert: Marcus Spillane
A self-described weekend warrior, Spillane is the 49er class president and former 49er class CEO. Spillane is passionate about sailing and making the sport more appealing to spectators and fans, and follows the class closely.
There is no doubt that the FX class is incredibly close, with seven different teams winning championships this quad. Jena Hansen and Katja Iversen, of Denmark, are going into the Games as the favorites. Denmark had a tough selection process, and they’ll perform better because they’ve been pushed by their teammates. They’ve faced more adversity and have always been at the top. Their selection finished earlier than some of their competition, which gave them time to focus on Rio.
The Expert: Ben Remocker
As manager for the 49er and 49erFX classes, Remocker has followed the lead-up to the first FX Olympic competition closely. He sailed for Canada at the Beijing Games in 2008 with Gordon Cook, finishing 14th in the 49er.
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan, of Australia, will be the hot favorites in Rio, and I say that not because of my background. Their boatspeed downwind, and in certain conditions upwind, is excellent. They’re the most psychologically confident in the class, which comes from experience at the Games. Australia has been so dominant in the 470, and that’s due to coach Victor Kovalenko. His middle name should be Medal Maker. He has an aura of confidence that he passes on to the team.
The Expert: Malcolm Page
As a six-time 470 world champion and two-time men’s 470-class Olympic gold medalist — 2008 with Nathan Wilmot and 2012 with current Australian 470 representative Mathew Belcher — Page is now the chief marketing officer for World Sailing.
Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, of Austria, will win gold in Rio. They showed perfect form in the past at peak moments like worlds and Europeans. The tricky conditions in Rio will be ideal for this team. During stressful moments, Ogar and Vadlau are cool and calm if they need to be.
The Expert: Lobke Berkhout
Dutch 470 crew Berkhout won a silver medal at the Beijing Games with skipper Marceline de Koning, and returned to win bronze in London with Lisa Westerhof at the helm. She won three world championship titles in a row with de Koning, from 2005 to 2007.
The favorites are Billy Besson and Marie Riou, of France. They are four-time world champions and won the Trofeo Sofia Regatta this year. Their boat was damaged and they replaced the daggerboards, moving them outside of the class-specified location. The class has rules on variance, but not the exact location of the daggerboard cases, but the boat was ruled sailable by a jury. They’re the top sailors and would still perform well in a standardized boat, but I don’t think they’d be such clear favorites.
The Expert: Katie Pettibone
Though Pettibone and Michael Easton didn’t win American Nacra selection, she has the inside scoop on the class. She has done three America’s Cup campaigns, a Whitbread and a Volvo Ocean Race, and is the 2013 women’s match-racing champion.
The strongest medal candidate is Great Britain’s Bryony Shaw. She has been the most consistent, winning medals at three out of four world championships since 2012. She’s strong in all conditions, and she never gives up. When I sailed against Shaw in China, she impressed me. She has the mental strength required to make it through the Olympics. Flavia Tartaglini, of Italy, is very strong and completely dedicated.
The Expert: Alessandra Sensini
Italy’s Sensini won bronze in Atlanta (1996) and in Athens (2004) in the Mistral, gold in Sydney (2000) in the Mistral, and silver in Beijing (2008) in the RS:X. She also medaled in eight world championships, winning four gold, three silver and one bronze.
Dorian Van Rijsselberghe, of the Netherlands, is the favorite. He is the current Olympic champion and has been sparring with countryman Kiran Badloe. They finished second and third at the last worlds, so together they make a solid team. Behind Rijsselberghe, depending on the wind forecast, Great Britain’s Nick Dempsey, Poland’s Piotr Myszka or France’s Pierre le Coq will also be in contention.
The Expert: Julien Bontemps
Bontemps won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics. He also competed in the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, finishing ninth and fifth overall, respectively. He is a two-time RS:X world champion (2012 and 2014), and the 2004 world champion in the Mistral.