49er showdown in Clearwater for the 2016 World Championships
Will Peter Burling and Blair Tuke ever lose… like ever? Will they run the table to the games, will they win in Rio, will they keep on winning and take the America’s Cup too? In sailing winning streaks are uncommon, to the point it’s not clear if the preceding sentence could ever have been contemplated previously. Burling and Tuke seem just that unstoppable now, with 22 49er wins in a row, undefeated for 1305 days and counting.
Burling and Tuke have also never been so busy after being named World Sailors of the year in 2015. Their success has come with innumerable opportunities in the sailing world, increasing sponsor commitments, personal appearances, moonlighting in other extreme classes like the moth and A-Class. Dominant of course is their America’s Cup commitments, it wasn’t long ago that an America’s Cup campaign was something to be done after Olympic retirement. Now that the racing is as fast paced and intense as 49er racing, AC teams are bringing in active sailors at the top of their game to make sure their racing skills are at their peak, not just AC specific skills. It adds to the time burden facing Pete and Blair who have been steadfast on their goal of Olympic Gold.
A fleet of 70 teams from over 29 countries are looking to upset Burling and Tuke and end their unprecedented streak. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen served notice at the 2015 World Championship that they are rounding back into top form when they scored the fewest points in gold fleet racing, only held back into Silver by a poor qualifying series in part due to illness. They had a poor (for them) finish in Miami but were on chartered old equipment, so we have not yet seen them at full strength since their Gold medal in London 2012, until now. Of course Nathan and Iain are arguably busier than Burling in Tuke, with even more responsibility within their America’s Cup team Artemis. Nevertheless, the Aussies are full of motivation to put some doubt in their kiwi rivals before Rio.
Aside from the two big names in 49er, there is a huge amount of talent in the fleet, and plenty of teams ready to show the sailing establishment to turn their gaze beyond the boys down under. On building form are Britain’s John Pink and Stuart Bithell. Pinky missed going to London 2012, but Stu went in the 470 and claimed a Silver medal on home waters, a surely inspiring experience. Inspiring is how this duo has been sailing of late, emerging from the mix in a talented British squad and putting the pressure on their squad rivals to come up with top performances at big events in order to be usurped from their leading position.
There are literally too many nations to mention with the possibility of having a great regatta. The Spanish squad is one worth discussing as they have delivered some top performances for the first time since legends Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez won the worlds in 2010. They Alonso brothers took the Bronze medal at the 2015 Worlds, while Diego Botin and Iago Llopez won the Miami World Cup to kick start this Florida swing. They are chased by the Paz brothers as well, and this regatta will be a big part of their Olympic selection, so the rewards for a good event here will be huge.
The Danes are set, with 2008 Gold medalist Jonas Warrer with Anders Thomsen looking for a good event. The German team has the second leg of their trials, so early favorites Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel must have a good event in order to fend off up and comers Justus Schmidt and Max Boeme, who beat them in the first leg.
Tune in all week for what could be the hardest regatta to win in all of sailing in 2016.