WEYMOUTH & PORTLAND tomorrow plays host to Britain’s elite sailors, who will aim to capitalise on their home advantage when they take on the world’s best in the Volvo 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championships.

The seven-day regatta marks the return of Olympic classes racing to Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, home of the London 2012 sailing events.

More than 400 athletes from all over the world will face off for the European Championships crown in the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 classes – three of the fastest and most exciting Olympic classes.

Not only is the regatta one of the largest in the 2019 calendar, it is also one of the most significant with numerous nations counting it towards Tokyo 2020 selection.

Racing begins tomorrow and will culminate in double-points medal races for all three classes on Sunday, May 19.

The British Sailing Team fields six crews in the 98-boat 49er fleet, five in the 55-strong 49erFX class and four in the 53-boat Nacra 17.

Among those looking to assert their dominance will be 49er pair Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, and 49erFX crew Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth, who both came home from the 2018 Europeans with bronze.

Both will face stiff competition from an international line-up that includes world and European champions, as well as Olympic medallists.

“We know Weymouth can be anything this time of year – there could be four seasons during the regatta, it’s also a long one with 22 races,” said Fletcher, who alongside Bithell scooped gold with a day to spare at the Princess Sofia Trophy regatta in Palma.

“To have everyone at our home venue is brilliant, competing on our home waters really pushes us to perform to our best. We have spent a significant amount of hours sailing on these waters, we know them well and will be drawing on that experience.

“We know that we are in a place where if we sail to our ability we will be very difficult to beat. It’s all about us and the race course, doing our jobs and focusing on one race at a time.”

Weguelin added: “We’re really looking forward to getting the event under way. There are some interesting and slightly chillier conditions than we’d expect on the cards, but we’re excited for the challenge of racing on home waters.”

Fellow 49erFX pair Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey will be looking to emulate their success in Palma when they brought home bronze for Britain.

“We are preparing for a marathon here in Portland,” said Weymouth-based Dobson, who represented Team GB at Rio 2016 alongside Ainsworth. “The series is longer than normal so it will be a real test of endurance. Being at home is a double-edged sword but I hope we will be able to mitigate the downside and capitalise on the good. In any case, the forecast looks great and we are ready to rip.”

In the foiling Nacra 17 class John Gimson and Anna Burnet scored bronze in Palma, while Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface were runners up at the recent World Cup Series in Genoa. Both teams are looking to make their mark on home territory.

“It’s really nice to be sailing at home – we haven’t done it for a while and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Gimson. “However in our fleet a lot of sailors have spent plenty of time here and feel very comfortable on these waters. There’s a slight danger that being at home makes you too relaxed so we will be mindful of that.

“It’s going to be a long game of attrition this week, so it’ll be about chipping away and getting through the week with the lowest score possible. Consistency is going to be the key. We’re feeling pretty focused on what we need to do right now and we’re very motivated.”

Saxton added: “We’re expecting a fun week. The conditions look good and I love racing so I just can’t wait to get started.”

As well as providing world-class racing, the regatta will also seek to set a benchmark in sustainability.

Taking inspiration from the work of The Green Blue, a joint initiative by the RYA and British Marine to promote sustainable environmental practice in boating, and World Sailing’s Sustainability Agenda 2030, the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 European Championship will implement a sustainability plan that includes the elimination of single use plastics on site, recycling points throughout the venue, fresh water stations to prevent the need for plastic bottles and raising awareness of the risk of invasive species.

The RYA’s sustainability team will measure the environmental impact of hosting this event in order to create a baseline for future RYA events.

In the run-up to the event, hundreds of sailors took part in a beach clean at nearby Chesil Beach and the WPNSA boat park to raise awareness of the threat of plastic pollution.


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