by Lindsey Bell
At next week’s ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami (27 January-1 February), four British sailing Olympians will be putting new partnerships through their paces when they take to the waters of Biscayne Bay.
Andrew Walsh in the Nacra 17 with Lucy Macgregor
Stuart Bithell, Stevie Morrison and the Macgregor sisters Lucy and Kate have all forged new teams in their respective bids for Rio qualification, which gets underway at the Santander Worlds this September where the first country qualifying spots for 2016 will be up for grabs.
Some 39 British sailors across 12 of the 13 Olympic and Paralympic classes have made the trip across the Atlantic, with the Miami regatta providing a valuable mid-winter benchmark of progress before the next training period leading into the start of the main racing season in April.
Stuart Bithell, 2012 silver medallist in the 470 class, turned his attentions to helming in the 49er last season, but has returned to crewing and will be making his World Cup debut alongside experienced 49er helm John Pink next week.
Pink, who won 49er World Championship silver in 2009 and finished fourth at the 2011 Worlds, and Bithell picked up a confidence-boosting second place at the World Cup warm-up event – the North American Championships – last weekend (17-19 January).
Two-time Olympian Stevie Morrison, meanwhile, has teamed up with Bithell’s former crew Chris Grube in a bid to reach his third successive Games in the skiff class, with Morrison and former teammate Ben Rhodes having called time on their 12-year partnership in October.
Morrison and Grube had their first competitive outing at the World Cup event in Melbourne last month where they finished a promising fifth.
Stevie Morrison and Chris Grube in action at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne
The Macgregor sisters, two-thirds of the 2012 Olympic match racing trio, will also be making their World Cup debuts with their respective new crews. Lucy will be in Nacra 17 multihull action with former Tornado Olympic campaigner and Extreme 40 racer Andrew Walsh, having confirmed their new partnership in the autumn. The duo picked up bronze in last weekend’s North American Championships.
Younger sister Kate meanwhile has joined forces in the 49erFX class with Katrina Best (nee Hughes) who’s back on the Olympic campaign trail after a knee injury took her out of action in the 2013 season.
Elsewhere, Giles Scott will hope to carry on his winning streak in the Finn class at the Miami World Cup, having won the EUROSAF Champions Cup event in La Rochelle last October, plus gold at the Copa Brasil de Vela in Rio earlier this month since his return to the heavyweight dinghy class after an America’s Cup sabbatical.
The British Sailing Team’s 2013 sailor of the year Bryony Shaw will hope to start her 2014 season with a bang in the women’s RS:X windsurfing class, while young pretender Izzy Hamilton will head into the World Cup regatta fresh off the back of a comfortable victory at the North American Championships.
Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield will fly the British flag in the 470 men’s event, with Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre the sole British 470 women’s team set to compete across the six days of competition.
In the Paralympic events, five-time SKUD World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell will be in the hunt for the one World Cup title that’s missing from their otherwise impressive CV, while Paralympic Champion Helena Lucas and 2013 Miami World Cup winner Megan Pascoe will look to be among the front runners in the 2.4mR class. John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas will feature in the eight-boat Sonar fleet.
Three-time Laser World Championship medallist Nick Thompson will look for a solid start to the 2014 season after a disappointing World Championship in November, while Chloe Martin and Hannah Snellgrove will be the British Sailing Team’s representatives in the Laser Radial event.
Click here for a full list of British Sailing Team contenders at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami.
Racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gets underway on Monday 27 January, with racing for the Paralympic classes finishing on Friday 31 January and medal races for the Olympic classes scheduled for Saturday 1 February.
British Sailing Team website