When the 49erFX fleet joins the 49er and Nacra17 for the 2019 Volvo Europeans, among the battles for Olympic selection will be the defending World Champions, Annamiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz, (NED) who are looking to keep their Tokyo 2020 campaign alive.
At the recent Hempel World Cup Series event in Genoa, the Olympic classes were plagued with extremely light and challenging conditions, and winning the 49erFX class was the Dutch team of Odile Van Aanholt and Marieke Jongens. While a single event win won't make or break your four-year campaign, in this instance it almost could.
The Dutch Olympic selection process takes into account two regattas: the Hempel World Cup Series regatta in Genoa, and the 2019 Volvo Europeans. Dutch competitors receive 10 points for 1st place, down to 1 point for 10th place. Van Aanholt/Jongens received the full ten points for their win.
Reigning world champions, Annamiek Bekkering/Annette Duetz, finished the regatta in 9th place. They received just 2 points towards Olympic selection and face a mountain to climb at the 2019 Volvo Europeans if they wish to keep their Tokyo 2020 dreams alive.
The 49erFX gold and silver medallists from the Rio 2016 Games look set to continue their battle when Martine Grael/Kahene Kunze (BRA) won Olympic Gold ahead of Alex Maloney/Molly Meech (NZL).
Repeating their Rio 2016 one-two results in Enoshima, Miami, and Palma, Maloney/Meech continually find themselves one step short of their Brazilian competitors. Both teams had differing regattas in the extremely light conditions at Genoa, so we'll put that down as their discards.
For the British Sailing Team, their best 49erFX teams continue to place in the top ten at most regattas. Sophie Weguelin/Sophie Ainsworth placed third at the 2018 World Sailing Championships, qualifying Great Britain for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
In 2019, it has been their teammates and local Weymouth sailors Charlotte Dobson/Saskia Tidey who have been the top performers. While both teams have placed in the top ten at the 2018 World Sailing Championships as well as at Enoshima, Miami, and Palma, Dobson/Tidey have continuously placed higher than Wiegulan/Ainsworth.
The defending European Champions from Norway, Helena Næss/Marie Rønningen have had an inconsistent start to the 2019 season. With a scoreline ranging from fourth to 20th since Enoshima in late 2018, the Norwegians certainly have the skills to make it back to back Championships, but this won't happen unless they can ensure their results rarely dip outside of the top ten.
Consistency has been less of a problem for the Danish team of Ida Marie Baad Nielson/Marie Thusgaard Olsen. After qualifying their country in Aarhus, placing 7th, they have placed 5th or better in three of the past four regattas.
Continuing the trend in strength from Northern Europe are Klara Wester and Rebecca Netzler (SWE). The young duo emerged on the scene in 2019 as one of the most consistent high performers with 7, 11, 6, 7 at Miami, Vilamoura, Palma, and Genoa respectively. If you haven't seen how hard this team trained in their first year, and how quickly they learned, then make sure you do, and don't be surprised if they work their way all the way to the top.
U.S. Sailing Team members, Stephanie Roble/Maggie Shea, should be expected to make the top ten at the 2019 Volvo Europeans and with a bronze medal at the recent Hempel World Cup Series in Genoa, they will be eyeing the podium once again.
While the 2019 Volvo Europeans is not an Olympic qualification event, most teams will be using this regatta as a major turning point in their selection process towards the Tokyo 2020 Games. Many MNA's are using this event as selection for the Test Event in Tokyo, and/or as part of their Olympic selection, so you can be sure all teams will be aiming to put their best foot forward.
Dutch Olympic selection takes in the World Cup Series Genoa, and these Europeans, meaning this is make or break time for all Dutch sailors.