With the 2020 Olympics just around the corner, many are wondering, who’s going to come out on top? I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 Radial (ILCA 6) and Standard (ILCA 7) sailors in the world, and how, based on my experience competing on the Olympic circuit, I think they stack up before the Games.
Laser Men (ILCA 7)
1 Matt Wearn
I had ‘Wearny’ as my favourite for the Olympics in my article previewing all of the classes, and my opinion hasn’t changed. This man is never too far away from the podium, and although he used to be considered a ‘heavy air’ specialist, Wearny is now well and truly an all round sailor. Although he doesn’t have the Olympic experience of some of his competitors, Wearn has a really strong mental game, and I’m confident he’ll be able to manage the Olympic experience.
2 Sam Meech
If my ranking list seems biased towards Antipodeans, it wasn’t intentional! Prior to the pandemic, the Australian and the Kiwi squads spent a large amount of time training together, and the benefit of training in the company of 5 of the top 20 in the world shouldn’t be underestimated. Meech has the experience of a Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and is one of the most cool headed humans you’ll ever meet. With his vast experience, I’m sure he knows how to be ready for a regatta at the right time.
3 Pavlos Kontides
With an Olympic Silver medal, and two World Championship titles under his belt, Kontides is a force to be reckoned with in the Laser Men’s Fleet. Considered by many to be slightly less ‘risk averse’ when it comes to strategy on the water, this has led to some inconsistent results throughout the last five years, but when Pavlos is on, he’s really on. Combined with the fact that he’s had the ability to continue working with his world class training group throughout the Pandemic, I’m looking forward to see what his form is like in Tokyo.
4 Jean Baptiste Bernaz
Tokyo 2020 will be Jean Baptiste’s fourth trip to the Olympics, and having been in the top 10 each time so far, he’s definitely going to be in with a shot at the podium. He tends to fly under the radar a bit compared to the names above him, but he’s one of those sailors who’s just always there at the pointy end of the fleet.
5 Tonci Stipanovic
Having won Croatia’s first Olympic Sailing medal in Rio 2016, Stipanovic is a sailor who has shown to be able to ‘turn it on’ for the Games. He’s been a little bit more inconsistent this quad in comparison with the lead up to Rio 2016, but his wealth of experience is sure to pay dividends in what is looking to be a very ‘unusual’ Olympics.
Laser Radial (ILCA 6)
1 Marit Bouwmeester
If you were to ask anyone who they would rank as the number one and two Laser Radial sailors in the world, I think you would hear the same two names no matter who you ask. Marit Bouwmeester and Anne-Marie Rindom have been the sailors to beat for nearly 10 years in this class. Despite facing a few setbacks with injuries of late, Bouwmeester has had the upper hand in this duel more consistently, and has shown great results at Enoshima - the Olympic venue.
2 Anne-Marie Rindom
Although I’ve put Marit Bouwmeester ahead of Anne-Marie in this list, that might be a mistake on my behalf. I think that it is basically a coin flip between these two girls in terms of who will come out on top, and Rindom has been showing great form recently - winning her last two ‘warm up’ regattas for the Olympics.
3 Emma Plasschaert
The Olympic debutant has really made a big step up this quad, and firmly established herself towards the top of the ‘pecking order’, bagging wins in the 2018 World Championship, and the Olympic Test Event. Although not quite as consistent as the girls above her, Plasschaert is a good shot for a medal, with the only question surrounding how she will manage her first Games.
4 Maria Erdi
With a third and a fourth placing at major regattas held on the Olympic waters, Maria Erdi is seen as a ‘rising star’ of the fleet. With one Olympics already under her belt, the 23-year-old is appearing to come into form, with a second place finish at the recent Allianz regatta.
5 Vasiliea Karachaliou
My pick for the ‘dark horse’ of the Radial fleet, Vasiliea has become a good all-rounder, and it looks like she’s been training hard throughout the pandemic. With a number of top 10 results since August 19, if we get light winds in Enoshima, Vasiliea may very well be in for a shot at the top steps of the podium.
When it comes to the Radial fleet, places 3-5 are extremely open, and there’s a number of great sailors who I could have listed in this positions. As with any regatta, the composition of the top 5 of both fleets is going to be heavily influenced by the weather throughout the event, and Enoshima has shown to be a venue which can offer up everything from light, shifty offshore winds, to nuking onshore breezes with large ocean swell.
It’s worth disclaiming that I will be working alongside the German Sailing Team throughout the Olympics, which has strong candidates in both fleets, but I chose to leave them out for neutrality’s sake.