The Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 is the first test event of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games and will take place from 2-9 August from the Marina da Gloria. With 324 athletes from 34 nations, racing in 215 boats, it is set to be the largest Olympic classes sailing competition ever held in Brazil.
Organised by Rio 2016 and Confederação Brasileira de Vela (CBVela) in conjunction with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the regatta will test the field of play, equipment, workforce, systems and procedures two years out from the Olympic Sailing Competition.
All five proposed Olympic race course areas will be assessed during the course of the regatta. Three course areas – Ponte, Escola Naval and Pão de Açucar – are situated inside Guanabara Bay with the other two - Copacabana and Niterói – located outside the bay in open water.
Pãe de Açucar, the proposed Medal Race course area with its spectacular Rio backdrop, will be put through its paces from day one.
Come Games Time, a workforce of over 1,000 people are expected to be working on the Olympic Sailing Competition and a key objective of the Test Event is to start developing the skills of the team who will be critical to a successful regatta. The on water race committee teams are one such group and their training programme will get underway under the guidance of International ISAF officials from Brazil and overseas.
Coinciding with the first Rio 2016 World Press Briefing, international journalists are invited to attend specific sessions on three days in order to introduce them to the sailing venue, to athletes and to address specific issues about the Olympic Sailing Competition.
Whilst being a key regatta for the Rio 2016 workforce and ISAF Officials the regatta will offer the 324 sailors an opportunity to take to the Olympic race courses to gauge the conditions and circumstances that may be present in 2016.
Many of the teams and sailors have hours of Rio practice and race time under their belt but for ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mat Belcher with crew Will Ryan (AUS) it will be new territory.
The pair will be a part of the 25-boat Men's 470 fleet and with an Olympic quota of 26 it will resemble Games time racing, yet it's not about the end result for the Australians in 2014, 'Most teams are mainly heading to get comfortable in the Olympic environment and have an understanding of what to expect for the games,' explained Belcher. 'This isn't a performance event for us as the worlds are quite close. With this being my first time to Rio, we just are there to enjoy the experience and gather some more information on what to expect.
'It is important to spend enough time on the Olympic waters to feel comfortable. This event will provide a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of the conditions.
'Our main focus is just to enjoy the sailing and environment. We are not too focused on our development at this point. When we come back we will be in a better position to see how to adapt our preparations towards the Rio environment.'
Whilst being a newcomer to the venue Belcher has done his homework and explained what it will be like racing across the five courses, 'Rio will be unique in the sense that the conditions will vary quite considerably depending on the race course. We certainly can expect strong currents, shifty winds and flatter waters on the inside courses, ocean waves on the outer courses, with a mild sea breeze development most predominant during this period.'
Joining the Australians in the fleet will be European Champions Luke Patience and Elliot Willis, world number three pair Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO), world number five Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion and world number seven duo Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE).
The Women's 470 fleet will see a fleet of 20 take to the race course. Strong competitors are present throughout the fleet with world number one Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) set to race alongside world number five Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR), world number four Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA).
London 2012 Olympic silver medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR), former world number one Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, Beijing 2008 gold medallist Elise Rechici and Brazil's Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Luiza Barbachan are also set to race ensuring that the Women's 470 will see tight knit racing.
The Men's and Women's RS:X will see fleets of 28 and 21 respectively.
Strength in depth is present in the Men's RS:X with the London 2012 medallists all set to compete. Gold medallist Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED), silver medallist Nick Dempsey (GBR) and bronze medallist Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL) are all ready to race. With the likes of world number one Ricardo Santos (BRA), the experienced Piotr Myszka (POL) and Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Shahar Zubari (ISR) also amongst the entrants it will be a competitive week of racing in the Men's RS:X.
The women's RS:X will be equally competitive with seven of the world's top ten amongst the entrants. World number one Flavia Tartaglini (ITA), world number two Bryony Shaw (GBR) and world number three Laura Linares (ITA) all come in with good form and will be aiming to impress.
London 2012 gold medallist Marina Alabau (ESP) will make her third post-Olympic appearance after becoming a mother. She heads to Rio full of confidence having picked up silver the European Championship in June.
Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 is the first of two test events with the second following in 2015, provisionally scheduled for 12-22 August. Event website