Weymouth and Portland, the London 2012 sailing venue, will play host to the final big hit out before sailors make their way to Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games.
From 6-12 June, Weymouth and Portland will host 380 sailors from 44 nations across the ten Olympic fleets for the next instalment of the Sailing World Cup.
Many of the sailors racing on the British waters will be crowned an Olympic champion in just 66 days' time. Weymouth and Portland will offer all the final opportunity to fine tune their technique and test themselves against their rivals in a formal regatta environment before Rio 2016.
The 25-boat Nacra 17 fleet will be one of the most competitive in Weymouth and Portland with no fewer than nine of the world's top ten set to compete.
Whenever Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) set sail in a Nacra 17 regatta they are viewed as favourites by the sailors, spectators and the media and that is unlikely to change for Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland. The duo have dominated the Rio 2016 quadrennial, becoming one of the first teams to win all four World Championships in an Olympic cycle. Their feat was matched by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) in the 49er.
Following their victory at the 2016 Nacra 17 Worlds in Clearwater, USA they took a further gold at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Trophy in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Just two weeks later, at Sailing World Cup Hyères, they showed they were human after all, only managing a sixth place.
It will be the first time that Besson has competed on the London 2012 Olympic waters but for Riou, the surroundings will be all too familiar. Riou campaigned for and competed at London 2012 in the Women's Match Racing event. The 2016 edition of Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland will be her sixth event on the waters so her experience and knowledge will prove vital if the French pair are to walk away as champions.
Australia's Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin took the Weymouth and Portland Sailing World Cup gold medals away in 2015 and make a return to the venue. The Australians, currently ranked World #2, sealed victory in the Medal Race, overcoming Switzerland's Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger. The Swiss team will be back in 2016 aiming to go one better.
The World #1 Nacra 17 team Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) will be in amongst the front runners as will Sailing World Cup Hyères gold medallists Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) and Sailing World Cup Miami winners Mandy Mulder and Coen de Koning (NED).
In the 49erFX, Spain's Tamara Echegoyen will make a return to the venue where she was crowned an Olympic champion in Women's Match Racing. Soon after London 2012 she switched to the 49erFX to sail with Berta Betanzos. After a slow start to the campaign they found their legs in the Women's Skiff and secured their first Sailing World Cup podium finish at the 2015 edition of Weymouth and Portland. Their rise through the ranks continued and at the 2016 World Championships they walked away as victors and remain a mainstay at the front of the fleet.
Joining them in the 19 boat 49erFX fleet in Weymouth and Portland will be 2013 World Champions Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL), Sailing World Cup Hyeres gold medallists Lisa Ericson and Hanna Klinga (SWE) as well 2016 European Champions Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov Iversen (DEN).
The 49er will welcome 40-boats in Weymouth and Portland. The World #1 crew Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) will lead the charge with Delta Lloyd Regatta and Sailing World Cup Miami victors Diego Botin and Iago Lopez (ESP) alongside them. Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta winners Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL) will also be within the fleet.
The Men's and Women's RS:X fleets will welcome 20 and 10 sailors respectively. London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nick Dempsey (GBR) will spearhead the Men's RS:X fleet and he will be joined by Olympic Test Event gold medallist Aichen Wang (CHN), World #2 Tom Squires (GBR) and World #10 Daniele Benedetti of Italy. Two-time Youth Worlds gold medallist Stefania Elfutina (RUS) and 2015 Women's RS:X World Champion Peina Chen (CHN) will go in the Women's fleet.
Racing kicks off on Wednesday 8 June and will conclude on Sunday 12 June with the Medal Races which will be broadcast live on the World Sailing TV YouTube Channel.
By Daniel Smith – World Sailing