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Olympic dress rehearsal about to get under way

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Like any big show, a dress rehearsal is critical and the most realistic practice for next year’s Tokyo Olympics gets under way tomorrow.

Six New Zealand boats are competing in this week’s Olympic test event in Enoshima, which is being sailed at the Olympic venue, with the same fleet sizes and at virtually the same time as next year’s Games. The New Zealand sailors are also backed up by the same on-shore team that will support them in 12 months’ time.

A typhoon rolled through Enoshima today, bringing strong winds and big swells which made practice sailing impossible. It is expected to improve by tomorrow, enabling racing to get underway in all 10 Olympic classes.

“We are one year out to an Olympic Games at the Enoshima test event and it’s a really valuable opportunity to sail on the Olympic waters and understand the race courses in pretty much the same conditions we would hope to expect in a year’s time,” Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said.

“It’s a breezy day here on the back of a local typhoon. We expect to see a few of these systems come through. The nice thing is it will be cleared by tomorrow and we will be into what we perceive to be forecasted conditions for racing at the Olympics, which is light, onshore breezes, tricky conditions. For our guys, a dress rehearsal for the Olympics in those conditions is ideal.

“What is also really valuable is that we are going through a dress rehearsal on land. We are staying in the accommodation we will use for the Olympics and we have our chef cooking the meals at what will be our HQ for the Olympics, so it’s super-valuable. Our guys are starting to feel like Enoshima is a second home and that’s a big part of, I believe, us being successful here.”

Success in 12 months’ time is the main objective but history has shown that success at the test event is a good omen.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, 13 sets of medallists at the test event went on to stand on the podium at the Games. That number was 18 in the London Olympic cycle.

Among those were 49er sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who won gold at both the Rio Olympics and test event in 2015. They also won bronze at the 2011 test event before going on to collect silver at the 2012 London Olympics.

The pair are in Enoshima this week as their comeback to the 49er class after a two-year break gathers momentum and go in having won their last regatta at the 49er European championships in Weymouth.

Along with Burling and Tuke, New Zealand will be represented by Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Andy Maloney (Finn), Sam Meech (Laser), Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox (men’s 470) and Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17).

  • Pic: It was too breezy to sail in Enoshima today because of a typhoon so it was quiet in the boat park. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.