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Bainbridge victory paves way in Hyeres

by British Sailing Team 29 Apr 02:22 PDT 21-28 April 2024
Connor Bainbridge seals a Paris 2024 slot at the Last Chance Regatta © Robert Hadjuk

Connor Bainbridge revelled in a 'rollercoaster' Last Chance Regatta that ended in him securing an Olympic quota place for Team GB.

The Formula Kite racer took top spot in Hyeres to secure his nation a ninth and final berth at the Olympic regatta in Marseille, meaning Team GB will send a full sailing team to Paris 2024.

With five spots up for grabs, Bainbridge made a slow start by his standards but rallied to win nine of the last ten races and claim an emphatic victory.

"It's been a pretty crazy winter," said Bainbridge. "For a lot of guys I was up against this week, this was their big break in terms of getting to the Olympics.

"The level kept going up and up and had been for the last couple of events, we saw it at the Europeans as well. Everyone was pushing so hard.

"I wasn't ready for that on the first day and my results showed that. I was still racing to make a series up. Me and my coach tweaked that ready for day two and smashed the rest of the event.

"I couldn't have asked more - to come out with so many race wins really builds my confidence going into the final run-up to the Games. It was physically and emotionally exhausting."

The 30-year-old finished second at last year's Paris 2024 Test Event but narrowly missed out on qualification at the subsequent World Championships.

Bainbridge began as a windsurfer, part of the British Sailing Team in the London 2012 cycle, before stepping away for three years to compete on the professional circuit. When Formula Kite became an Olympic discipline Bainbridge returned, and the rest is history.

RYA selectors will now meet to discuss nominating an athlete to the British Olympic Association to represent Team GB this summer.

The Last Chance Regatta ran in parallel to French Olympic Week, a staple event in the calendar and crucial preparation for athletes already selected by Team GB.

Team GB's Micky Beckett overcame another battle with ILCA 7 rival Matt Wearn from Australia to clinch gold.

With the medal race cancelled due to conditions, Beckett took the victory on 38 points, just one ahead of Wearn, as Germany's Philipp Buhl wrapped up the top spots.

With victory at the Princesa Sofia Regatta just weeks earlier, Beckett admitted that he is filled with confidence ahead of this summer.

"These two events have been a staple in my calendar as long as I've been sailing," he said.

"To win both of them and in the same year is not something I'd ever imagined I'd do. I'm still a little bit lost for words.

"It was a little bit anticlimactic not to have the medal race or showdown with Matt, but I'm sure that can wait for another day.

"The most important thing is that all the people I'll be racing at the Olympics were at this event as well so I could go up against them."

In the Formula Kite Women class, Ellie Aldridge led the fleet into the final having put together an outstanding series, scoring only 20 points. In the final, she finished second to Jessie Kampman of France, with another host nation athlete Lauriane Nolot completing the podium.

"There are lots of positives to take away from it," said Aldridge, who returns to Hyeres for the Formula Kite World Championships in early May. "It was a really nice opportunity to try things and work on specific parts of racing that I can take forward to the Worlds.

"This week felt much better. I've finished the event a bit happier than I did after the Euros and a bit more like I'm on track for the Olympics."

It was another supreme team performance from GB's kite girls with Katie Dabson finishing fourth, Maddy Anderson ninth and Lily Young tenth.

The mixed 470 pairing of Bettine Harris and Martin Wrigley claimed a landmark bronze medal, pipping standout Spaniards Jordi Xammar and Nora Brugman to a podium place.

It is the first senior medal for Wrigley and Harris, who only teamed up last year.

There was an excellent showing in the ILCA 6 single-handed dinghy class with Matilda Nicholls breaking into the top ten in ninth place.

Full results from the regatta can be found here.

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