These 12 sailors are heading to Tokyo. Image: British Sailing Team

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games approach excitement and focus on Japan builds.

After praise was lauded on the Asian nation following a successful Rugby World Cup, there is even more anticipation for the Summer Games.

Due to the very nature of the sport sailors would expect to spend a disproportionate amount of time in the Olympic venue, way more than any other sport on the schedule, as they learn the nuances and weather patterns of their field of play. Because of this Japan has played a big role in the recent history of the British Sailing Team.

After the Olympic class staples of Europe earlier in 2019 such as the Princess Sofia Trophy, World Cup Series and class Europeans, the British Sailing Team were in good shape as attention was turning to Japan.

There were British one-two’s in the Nacra 17, 49er and Laser Europeans. Giles Scott was Finn European champion. Up and coming Emma Wilson took silver in the RS:X and Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre also claimed silver in the 470. The medal count was building.

James Peters and Fynn Sterritt took gold at Enoshima. Image: Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Welcome to Japan

With the Tokyo 2020 Test Event – dubbed READY STEADY TOKYO – signifying one year to go to Games time, the British Sailing Team had selected their athletes. It is an event that often indicates who will be successful when the big show rolls around.

The British Sailing Team have been working with the town of Hayama across the bay from Enoshima, the home of the Olympic sailing competition. They have been very welcoming and have made the team feel very settled. With this relationship a summer of sailing was possible for the team, and the Test Event representatives, training partners and other select sailors got much needed time in the Olympic waters.

Away from Enoshima, the Laser and Laser Radial competitors headed to the northern coast of Japan to Sakaiminato City for their World Championships and returned with a bronze medal around the neck of Ali Young in the Radial.

As the Test Event drew ever closer there was one more World Championship to contest – the 470. The 470 Worlds were held just ahead of the Test Event, utilising the same waters and venue as the Olympic Games, the first of three events in quick succession.

Continually pushing the podium since coming together as a pair, Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre came through a tough week of sailing to take the crown as Women’s 470 World Champions, beating the home nation’s Kondo Yoshida and Yoshioka in the process.

There was no rest for the newly crowned champions, though, as just days later the Test Event began. They were joined by a team that would mimic Games times – one entry for each class, except in the Nacra 17 where the option to send two crews was taken.

There was a medal haul of three silvers and three bronzes, which gave Britain the most medals of any nation in attendance.

Mills and McIntyre backed up their Worlds gold with silver. Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell also took silver in the 49er. Two Nacra 17 entries returned two medals with John Gimson and Anna Burnet in silver and Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface just behind in bronze. Scott took bronze in the Finn and 49erFX pair Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey also had bronze.

There were also near misses for the RS:X pair of Emma Wilson and Tom Squires who both fell just shy of the podium in fourth.

Despite the success, again, there was no rest. Days later the World Cup Series had its time in Enoshima for the third and final regatta within such a short space of time.

Again, there was more British medal success. James Peters and Fynn Sterritt took gold from the jaws of defeat coming from fifth at the start of the medal race to claim victory. Ali Young took her second Japanese bronze medal in the Radial and Ben Saxton and Nikki Boniface upgraded their Test Event bronze to a World Cup Series silver.

John Gimson and Anna Burnet in the Nacra 17. Image: Sailing Energy/World Sailing

Back in Europe

On the return to Europe the British RS:X sailors headed to Torbole, Italy, to take on their World Championships. Both Emma Wilson and Andy Brown secured U21 podium finishes with Wilson in bronze and Brown silver.

There was also a medal from a class yet to taste Olympic action as Ellie Aldridge claimed an impressive European title just one year after crossing over from the 49erFX. Aldridge has been part of the #Kite4Gold programme set up in conjunction with UK Sport, EIS and British Kitesports – a programme which is already bearing fruit ahead of Paris 2024.

Athletes announced

However, it was not long before attention was turned back to Japan as Team GB announced their first athletes for Tokyo 2020 – 12 sailors.

Giles Scott and Hannah Mills have the chance to retain their gold medals with Mills going for the title of most successful female Olympic sailor in history when she sails with Eilidh McIntyre.

Other Olympic medallists in the team are Luke Patience, who will sail with Chris Grube in the 470, and Stu Bithell who will team up with Dylan Fletcher in the 49er.

Ali Young returns for her third tilt at Olympic success in the Laser Radial while on the other end of the spectrum Emma Wilson and Tom Squires will contest their first Games in the RS:X. Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey complete the line-up to date in the 49erFX.

Spots still up for grabs are the Laser and the Nacra 17, so while some can focus on an Olympic assault there is still work to be done to get on that plane for another trip to Japan for the summer showcase.

But before the British Sailing Team could ring in 2020 and the start of an Olympic year, there was still the small matter of two Southern Hemisphere World Championships to contest as the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 were in New Zealand while the Finn class were in Australia – both no doubt with one eye on Japan.

Follow the team on Facebook /BRITISHSAILINGTEAM Twitter @BRITISHSAILING and on Instagram BRISTISHSAILING



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