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Rio 2016 spots up for grabs at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao

by ISAF on 8 Sep 2015
SWC Qingdao Fleet ISAF
The stakes at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao, taking place from 14-20 September 2015, will be raised with Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition places on the line.

As the Asian continental qualification regatta for the Men's and Women's 470, Finn and Nacra 17 the competition in Qingdao is set to be fierce with a depth of international sailing talent within the respective fleets. Alongside Olympic qualification, more than 240 sailors from 37 nations will be gunning for a share of the $150,000 USD prize fund, ISAF Sailing World Cup Final spots as well as a World Cup medal.

Qingdao will be the final chance for Asian Nacra 17 sailors to qualify for Rio 2016 after 13 spots were distributed at the 2014 ISAF Worlds and 2015 Nacra 17 Worlds. The 470 and Finn sailors will have another opportunity later on in the year at their respective World Championships.

The last time an Asian crew, who weren't representing the host nation, sailed in an Olympic multihull competition was Seoul 1988 as Naoyuki Ogawa and Takashi Tamura flew the Japanese flag on their Tornado. Fast forward to 2015 and crews from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Thailand have an opportunity to qualify for an Olympic Games outright and on merit.

Japan's Hiroki Goto and Wakako Tabata arguably come into the regatta as the pair to beat. Goto and Tabata finished ahead of Justin Liu and Denise Lim (SIN) by two spots at the 2015 Nacra 17 Worlds and five clear of Hong Kong's Tat Choi Fund and Yu Ting Chan.

Goto has hopes of qualifying for Rio but his intention and drive is to inspire the youth of the country to sail multihulls ahead of Tokyo 2020, a home Olympic Games.

'There is almost no multihull sailing in Japan whatsoever,” commented Goto. 'We have a home [Olympic] Games in Tokyo and we need someone there. It would be ideal to get someone in the Games before. I wanted someone to start but no one came forward so I went for it.

'The change to the qualification is good. It would be so tough otherwise for example Africa and Asia to qualify for the Olympics.

'I really hope that I can encourage the younger generation to take up multihull. I am 42 and I want to show if I can do it, they can definitely do it.”

Goto's hopes could turn into reality in Qingdao but the Singaporean and Hong Kong teams will provide a real challenge whilst a contingent of four Chinese teams will benefit from knowing their home waters.

Whoever takes that spot will also book their ticket to the Abu Dhabi ISAF Sailing World Cup Final making it a double whammy from Qingdao.

The Men's 470 will be one of the most hotly contested battles with eight nations, China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand all battling for one Olympic spot.

Singapore's Darren Choy, who will be sailing with Jeremiah Yeo, has had a feel of what the Olympics is like after competing at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games and is aiming for the real deal. 'The Youth Olympic Games made me want to experience the Olympic Games and feel the true spirit in the games because it is the highest prestige in the sport and to compete for Singapore would be an honour,” said Choy.

He continued, 'The event is a really important one for us. It is our only ticket now to the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as the opportunity to show that we are worth sponsoring and funding. I would love to qualify as this would give me a taste on what the Games are like and to experience it would be a dream for me.”

Compared to those around them, Choy and Yeo are two of the youngest sailors in the fleet and miss out on some big time experience that their rivals hold and Choy was quick to identify his main rivals for Qingdao when asked, 'It would definitely have to be the top Chinese and Korean teams as they have been on the Olympic circuit for many years, thus have a lot of experience. We've been working on some speed technique and race preparation in Singapore and I'm aiming to be the top Asian nation, and to qualify Singapore for the Rio Olympics.”

China will be represented by 13 Men's 470 teams in Qingdao and with a strong presence on the start line, could be viewed as the favourites to take the Olympic spot. However, in a fleet of 32 that also features top 470 sailors such as David Bargehr and Lukas Mahr (AUT) and Onan Barreiros and Juan Curbelo Cabrera (ESP), anything can happen.

In the Women's 470, the fight will be between Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. The strong teams from China and Japan qualified at the Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds making it a three horse race for qualification.

As for the battle to Abu Dhabi, defending champions Mengxi Wei and Yani Xu (CHN) return to defend their title but will face stiff competition from Angela Pumariega and Patricia Cantero Reina (ESP) and Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka (JPN).

In the Finn fleet, eight boats will take to the start line and include seven Chinese sailors and one Iranian. The odds will be heavily stacked towards the Chinese sailors with regards to the one Olympic spot on offer and the Abu Dhabi World Cup final spot but Iran's Ahmad Ahmadi will fight hard across the week.

Racing across the nine Olympic fleets is scheduled to commence on 16 September with Medal Races bringing the regatta to a close on 20 September.
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