Olympic Medallists Return To Weymouth And Portland - Pavlos Kontides (CYP)
Issued on behalf of ISAF Sailing World Cup
The eyes of the sailing world will be back on Weymouth and Portland with Olympic medallists returning to the venue of the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition for ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland.
Weymouth and Portland, the fourth of six ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas in 2015, will welcome sailors across ten Olympic and three Paralympic events in Great Britain from 8-14 June 2015.
ISAF Sailing World Cup glory, a share of the €78,000 prize fund and Abu Dhabi final spots are on offer with racing commencing on 10 June culminating in the live Medal Races on Sunday 14 June.
The world's top 30 sailors from the 27 April 2015 ISAF World Sailing Rankings release were invited to Weymouth and Portland with the remaining receiving their spot at the qualification event, the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, the Netherlands.
Pavlos Kontides (CYP) made history at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition by becoming the first athlete from Cyprus to claim an Olympic medal. With gold medallist Tom Slingsby (AUS) concentrating on the America's Cup and Rasmus Myrgren (SWE) stepping away from the boat, Kontides is the only returning Olympic Laser medallist in Weymouth and Portland.
"The best sporting moments of my life are obviously from Weymouth,” explained a nostalgic Cypriot. "Scoring two bullets on the second day of the Olympics, holding the yellow jersey mid-way through and finally, glory for myself, my family, my team and my country's first ever Olympic medal.
"[Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland] is a perfect opportunity for me to visit the same place where it all happened. It will just always feel special to me and a strong bond will exist due to the memories.
"Of course I do remember a lot of rainy days as well during my preparation there,” he said with a winking face on his email response.
Kontides will form part of an exceptional fleet of 40 strong Laser sailors in Weymouth and Portland. The 40-boat invitational fleets were introduced at World Cup Hyères and proved an immediate hit as Kontides explained, "This type of racing is challenging and exciting with no mistakes allowed.
"The start and opening of the race are even more important as recovery opportunities are less frequent due to the high level of the fleet and evenness in speed. Consistency is always key for a good result.
"Competition will definitely be tough and together with the conditions Weymouth is known for, hiking, strong changing current and a big swell will provide the sailors with fascinating racing.”
The Laser is one of the most hotly contested Olympic fleets at the moment with a number of competitors consistently fighting for top honours. But what does it take to succeed? "Sailing is a sport which depends on many different parameters,” explained Kontides. "Consistency is a must for success as you have to perform well in all kinds of conditions.
"In doing so you have to start good, sail fast and smart with low risk and finish every race as best as possible. You can always win a regatta without even winning an individual race.”
Matt Wearm (AUS) recently won the Delta Lloyd Regatta by taking just a single race win from nine races. Consistency is certainly king in the Laser and Wearn comes into Weymouth and Portland eager to continue his good form, "The win in Medemblik has prepared me well for Weymouth. It gives me a great deal of confidence that I have the ability to be on the top of the podium.
"It was also great to be so consistent in the tricky conditions against some tough opponents.
"The Laser fleet as always is extremely competitive. It feels that you can go to any event around the world and you can expect to be racing the world's best. The depth in the fleet is incredible to that anyone from the top 20 in the world has the ability to win regattas.
"I feel Weymouth will be no exception to this and that it's going to be another incredibly tight regatta between the top few guys in the world. It is definitely now becoming the time where everyone wants to assert their dominance going in to the last year before the [Olympic] Games.”
World #1 Tom Burton (AUS) heads into Weymouth in good form having won World Cup Hyères whilst Tonci Stipanovic (CRO), Nick Thompson (GBR) and Philipp Buhl (GER) will all make the journey to Weymouth and Portland well prepared.
The Laser Radial Medal Race at London 2012 saw a four way shoot out for the medals between Lijia Xu (CHN), Marit Bouwmeester (NED), Evi Van Acker (BEL) and Annalise Murphy (IRL).
Xu went on to win gold and has since stepped away from the Laser Radial. Meanwhile silver medallist Bouwmeester, bronze medallist Van Acker and the fourth place Murphy all return to the waters for ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland.
"I have fond memories of Weymouth. [It was] a dream come true to become an Olympian in 2012,” commented Bouwmeester. "It will be my first time back in the UK since 2012. I am very excited and looking forward to the nice waves in the bay.”
Van Acker is also of a similar mind set in advance of competition, "I have great memories of Weymouth. The conditions during the Olympics were fantastic with good winds and sunshine every day. I'm looking very much forward going back to the Olympic venue.
"Winning an Olympic medal was something truly exceptional. My team and I worked so hard for it. My friends and family were cheering for us on the mountain [the Nothe]. It was a dream come true, although I still feel like I could have done better.”
The level of the competition at the ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta has the potential to be higher than the Olympic Sailing Competition with multiple entrants per nation possible. The qualification system ensures the best of the best are in the 40 boat fleet, something Bouwmeester enjoys, "In my opinion this concept is the way forward.
"It's nice to have the big fleet qualifying events and then the high level World Cup events. It's nice to race with all the good girls in one fleet, just like the Olympics.”
Van Acker added, "Racing in a 40 boat fleet in Hyères was definitely exciting. It's different in many ways, but good fun and good practice for the Olympics. Pressure is on from day one without a qualifying series and with only the top sailors competing.
"I expect fierce competition in Weymouth. The Laser Radial is a very competitive class and there is always a good battle going on between the girls. We are coming closer to the test event in Rio, many national trials are going on so everyone wants to perform at their best.”
Ireland's Murphy missed out on an Olympic medal by just four points over the third placed Van Acker but looks back fondly on the venue, "I have a lot of great memories from Weymouth as I first competed there in the ISAF Youth Worlds in 2006. I like coming to Weymouth as it is so close to home for me and because I have spent so much time there everything is very familiar.”
Murphy, like Bouwmeester and Van Acker, also pointed out the positives of the elite level competition, "It was really exciting racing with the top 40 boats in Hyères and it brings in a whole new dynamic to Olympic racing. If you make a small mistake you're most likely going to get punished for it as everyone is so close.
"I think you have to work extremely hard to succeed in the Laser Radial right now, everyone is extremely professional and if you're not giving it 100% it is very easy to get left behind.”
Belgium's Van Acker will be the one to beat in Weymouth and Portland. Over the last 15 months she has finished on the podium at every ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta she's competed at, winning gold at the 2014 and 2015 Hyères editions and the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final.
Aiming to halt her run, alongside Murphy and Bouwmeester, will be Hyères bronze medallist Josefin Olsson (SWE), World #1 Alison Young (GBR) and World #3 Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN).
Men's and Women's RS:X
Host nation favourites Nick Dempsey (GBR) and Bryony Shaw (GBR) will be leading contenders in the Men's and Women's RS:X.
Shaw, the current World #1 in the Women's RS:X, took gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami at the turn of the year following victory at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 2014. A seventh followed at World Cup Hyères but she'll be out to make amends on her home waters.
Joining Shaw in the fleet will be former World #1 Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) and British rival Isobel Hamilton (GBR).
In the Men's RS:X, Dempsey will be the spearhead and the man to beat. Dempsey took silver on Weymouth and Portland's waters at London 2012 and knows the surroundings better than most. He will be joined by a strong pack of Men's RS:X racers that includes Brazil's Ricardo Santos, China's Aichen Wang and Hong Kong's Michael Cheng.
A high level of competition is also on the cards for the Nacra 17, Men's and Women's 470, 49er, 49erFX, Finn and Paralympic events. A further preview will follow on Wednesday 3 June.
Racing at ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland commences on Wednesday 10 June. Medal Races on Sunday 14 June will bring the regatta to a close.
Photo : © OnEdition