Another strong haul for Team GB in sailing events at the London Olympics; not quite as good a tally as in Beijing four years ago but impressive none the less. And the discrepancy may not be due to British sailors slipping in quality, although there’s no denying age will have played a part. Many of our close competitors including Australia and the Netherlands have revitalised their sailing programmes over the last four years, which saw them bumped up the score tables and onto the podiums in 2012. So the race is now really on for Rio in 2016: will Great Britain rise to the challenge and protect the gains they’ve made in recent Olympics? Can a new breed of competitors pick up the oars from where the heroes of Beijing and London set them down? And which nation is displaying the best training techniques to ensure medal success next time around?
In the meantime, if London 2012 caused a huge upsurge of interest in sailing in your house, there are always plenty of annual events, both televised and not, to keep you going until Rio 2016 rolls around. Here’s a few of the most popular:
Holders the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco take on the challengers of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club in the 2013 edition of the biannual America’s Cup, the best known match racing event. Don’t let the name of the trophy deceive you, it refers to the name of the first yacht that ever won the race back in 1851. Since then this has grown to be the oldest active trophy in national sport, and with the New York Yacht Club who held it from 1857-1983, the longest winning-streak in sport (my run of 497 games of noughts-and-crosses to 17 against my little brother was never officially substantiated).
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
This legendary offshore yacht race is one of the most exhilarating and challenging on the circuit. 630 nautical miles of rough seas and strong winds mean many boats retire early and only the best, most experienced skippers will make it to the finish line. With the two-day record having been smashed back in the nineties, this is a great way to wind down after the Christmas celebrations. Stick it on on Boxing Day, and by the 28th the race will be won and you can return to the turkey leftovers.
Clipper Round-the-World Race
A year-long race, this one has grown steadily over the years to become one of the biggest events for enthusiastic amateurs. Basically if you can afford to take part, you can apply to crew a yacht, no sailing experience necessary. Inspired by the races between tea-carrying ships in the 1830s which had to be small, light and fast, the organising company provides a fleet of boats and the skippers, and the crews are then selected. The route takes in many countries, normally starting from Britain, and strong bonds between crewmates are often forged, as well as a life-long love of the open wave.
Held at the start of August off the Isle of Wight, this is the largest, and one of the longest, sailing regattas of its kind in the world. Position yourself with a good view of the Solent to see around 8500 sailors in action in over 40 races. If you don’t have your sea legs then there’s always a mass of events and parties shoreside to enjoy before they start handing out the trophies.
If you’re looking for plenty of sunsail and shoreside activities then 2013 is the year to make it happen no matter whether you’re competing or just enjoying those oh so beautiful ocean views.
Rob is an accomplished sailor and looking forward to getting his sea legs back in 2013.