More than 320 sailors from 34 nations will compete at the first test event of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games from 2-9 August from the Marina da Gloria.
The Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 is set to be the largest Olympic classes sailing competition ever held in Brazil and many of the world's top competitors are ready for the test.
Organised by Rio 2016 and Confederação Brasileira de Vela (CBVela) in conjunction with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the regatta will test the field of play, equipment, workforce, systems and procedures two years out from the Olympic Sailing Competition. Five race courses will be assessed during the course of the regatta with three areas – Ponte, Escola Naval and Pão de Açucar –situated inside Guanabara Bay and the other two – Copacabana and Niterói – located outside the bay in open water.
Each nation is entitled to two places per Olympic event for the Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta and two teams will have full squads racing on Rio's water.
World #1 49erFX team Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) will be the favourites in the 16-boat fleet having finished on the podium at 11 of 14 ISAF ranked regattas since jumping in the skiff. The pair are local to Rio but won't be taking anything for granted, “We train here but racing is always different. I expect a low number of sailors but with a high level so it will be the perfect training session.”
As Grael predicts the level is set to be high in the 49erFX fleet with 2013 World Champions Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) within the fleet. Speaking on their blog the pair said, “The main goal for the trip is to get accustomed to being in Rio, and the sailing conditions here. This competition is the first run-through event for both the organisers and sailors, and it will be great to get to know the rough course areas planned for the 2016 Olympics. After a great break, we are ready to get back into and learn as much as possible.”
Strong teams from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and the USA will join the Brazilians and Kiwis on the 49erFX start line in Rio.
Fresh from 49er Open European success Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) will spearhead the 19-boat 49er fleet. The Kiwis have won five consecutive 49er regattas including two ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas, one World Championship and two Open European Championships. The Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta will be their first opportunity to showcase their talent on Olympic waters but they will be joined by a small yet competitive fleet that includes London 2012 gold medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) and consistent British racers Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign.
The Laser Radial fleet features 28 sailors and includes six of the world's top ten, including World #1 Marit Bouwmeester (NED).
Many of the Laser Radial competitors have Rio experience under their belt and that includes Annalise Murphy (IRL) who, like many of the competitors, isn't focused on the end result, “I am really looking forward to experiencing some proper fleet racing in Rio, I think racing two years out from the Games is going to be hugely beneficial in my preparation for the Olympics.
“I hope to get a better understanding of Rio, get a feel for the bay and the different conditions we will experience. Everything is important to get used to, the wind, the tide, the food and finding a gym.
“I came to Rio for three weeks training last year and experienced a big mix of conditions; it is pretty tidal so it is going to be a tricky event. I think the racing will be very competitive; nearly everyone is here for this regatta so it will be a very high standard. I am looking forward to going out and enjoying myself on the water.”
Joining Bouwmeester and Murphy in the fleet will be World #2 and ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres victor Evi Van Acker (BEL), ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao gold medallist Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) and World Cup Miami winner Paige Railey (USA).
The Laser fleet will be the largest in Rio with 36 boats registered to race. Top competitors include home favourite and 2013 Laser World Champion Robert Scheidt (BRA), Australia's Tom Burton, World #2 Nick Thompson and strong Kiwi sailors Andy Maloney and Sam Meech.
The Nacra 17 fleet will see 16-boats on the start line and includes a number of leading teams. 2013 World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) will be joined by the experienced Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS), World #2 Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR), Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim (FRA) and World #3 Thomas Zajac and Tanja Franck (AUT).
Giles Scott (GBR) is the Finn class' man of the moment having won nine of the last ten regattas. Scott has won his last five regattas and will be the one to beat in Rio but strength in depth is present throughout the fleet. Brazil's Jorge Zarif and Bruno Prada will have home water advantage whilst World #2 Bjorn Allansson (SWE), World #3 Thomas Le Breton (FRA) and the seasoned Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Pieter Jan Postma (NED) will provide stern competition.
Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 is the first of two test events with the second following in 2015, provisionally scheduled for 12-22 August