Back to the future
Thursday, April 20, 2017
When round two of the 2017 World Cup Series takes place in Hyères, France from 23 – 30 April, many attending sailors know what it feels like to stand on top of an Olympic podium. To reach such a feat is the pinnace for all Olympic class sailors and the need to return to that feeling drives them to return to the World Cup circuit and campaign for the next Olympiad
Tamara Echegoyen, Sofia Toro and Angela Pumariega won gold in the Women's Match Racing at London 2012 but as the class was replaced with the 49erFX, a Women's Skiff, for Rio 2016 they had to look elsewhere for their Olympic sailing thrill.
Echegoyen made it to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro in the 49erFX but her gold medal winning team mates, Toro and Pumariega were not so lucky in the Women's 470.
Toro failed to make the first South American Games with Nora Brugman and Pumariega suffered the same fate with Patricia Cantero Reina. But now at the 2017 World Cup Series Hyères the two former team mates and Olympic champions will join forces to take a tilt at Tokyo 2020. It may be a different boat, but why change something that has worked before.
Following disappointment at missing out on her country's Olympic 470 selection, Pumariega took some time out for some relaxation and to decide her next move, "When I didn't qualify Rio 2016 I spent the summer sailing in other classes and trying to enjoy the water without the stress that comes with the final months of a campaign. My idea was always to continue with another Olympic campaign, but it was difficult to find a good crew for the 470 that motivated me to sail hard the next four years."
Despite wanting to campaign again, it wasn't until a phone call from her old friend Toro that Pumariega finally overcame her doubts and made the commitment, "At the end of the 2016 I took some photos of my boats to sell them. Then I got a phone call from Sofía. She asked me to be her crew but I thought she was joking because I'm very slim. But she wasn't, she was totally serious!"
Both Toro and Pumariega took the helming duties in their previous 470 partnerships, but with Pumariega now locked in as crew, the gold medallist is looking forward to getting back to what she knows, even if it has changed a little, "Being crew in the 470 is a very nice challenge. Although I have sailed most of my career as crew it's the first time with the trapeze."
Both sailors have proved they have pedigree and are winners at the highest level and at a time when some partnerships take a break after a tough Olympic campaign the Spanish pair have time to get back in that winning groove they had in the past and know so well. Hyères presents an opportunity to start making the journey to the top step of the Olympic podium again.
The team Toro and Pumariega, and it seems everyone, need to beat at the moment are the World #1 Dutch team of Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes Van Veen. The pair are on a winning streak taking gold at Round 1 of the World Cup Series in Miami and the Trofeo Princesa Sofia. You wouldn't bet against them to make it three in a row in France.
Looking closer to home for the Spanish Olympic medallist the competition will be with the team that beat her to Rio 2016 selection, Barbara Cornudella Ravetllat and Sara Lopez Ravetllat, as well as the Miami bronze medallist Silvia Mas Depares. Depares does however come to Hyères with a different crew from that third-place finish. Pumariega's previous crew, Reina, will join her in the boat in France.
Across in the Men's 470 there are two Rio 2016 medallists on the start line, Australia's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan took Olympic silver and Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis took bronze.
Looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, Tetsuya Isozaki and Akira Takayanagi (JPN) have got off to a flier in the quad leading up to their home Olympics with a silver medal in Miami followed by a gold in Palma, Mallorca, Spain at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia. There is still a long way to go before the medals are handed out in Tokyo, but the early signs are looking good for the pair.
The World Cup Series Miami medallists all return in the Finn. Jorge Zarif (BRA) topped the podium with a strong regatta followed by Ben Cornish (GBR) in second and Anders Pedersen (NOR) in third.
Zarif held a winning margin of 28 points over the field last time out, but this time around he will have home country favourite Jonathan Lobert to contend with as well as the Netherlands' Nicolas Heiner who continues learning his trade in the Men's Heavyweight Dinghy since moving up from the Laser.
The Laser field that Heiner has left behind is looking strong yet again with a who's who of leading sailors. Matt Wearn (AUS). Nick Thompson (GBR). Pavlos Kontides (CYP). Philip Buhl (GER). And we haven't even got to the Rio 2016 podium yet.
Australia's Tom Burton, Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic and New Zealand's Sam Meech will all be on the start line looking to add to their summer Olympic medals.
France's Jean Baptiste Bernaz dominated World Cup Series Miami, but can he continue that form against a stellar field in front of his home crowd? We will know soon enough.
Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) won her first major Laser Radial title in Miami and the Greek sailor will be heading to France to prove that it was not just a one hit wonder.
It could be a tough ask to win again though as Rio 2016 champion Marit Bouwmeester (NED) returns to the fleet to join London 2012 medallist Evi Van Acker (BEL) in another strong line up.
Other notable entrees include 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Champion Dolores Moreira Fraschini (URU) and Trofeo Princesa Sofia winner Dongshuang Zhang (CHN).
France's poster boy for Paralympic sailing, Damien Seguin, is the stand out name in the 2.4 Norlin OD field as he looks to add yet another medal to his impressive and ever growing collection.
With Paralympic stalwart Helena Lucas absent, Great Britain's Will Street and Carol Dugdale will look to step up and take the British fight to the Rio 2016 Paralympic champion.
Also on the start line with Paralympic experience will be Italy's Antonio Squizzato and Austria's Sven Reiger.
Racing begins in Hyères, France on the 23 April and concludes with two days of LIVE Medal Races on 29 and 30 April 2017.
By Richard Aspland - World