Britain’s Laser and Laser Radial sailors will take on the world’s best at the class European Championships this week as the race to Tokyo 20202 continues.
For both classes it will be the first time in 2019 that all the major players will be on the start line, marking the biggest test to date in the run-up to the next Olympics.
Among those looking to outperform their rivals when racing gets underway in Porto, Portugal, on May 20 is 2018 silver medallist Michael Beckett.
The medal was Welshman Beckett’s first at senior level – and with a fleet stacked full of world and European champions, not to mention Olympic medallists, he’s well aware of what he must do if he is to replicate last year’s success.
“A silver medal last year was a big occasion and a big event for me,” said the 24-year-old from Solva, Pembrokeshire.
“This year is a new year with a whole new set of challenges – I’ve been struggling with my performance in the earlier regattas of this year and the fleet is immensely strong. It’s clear how many guys have put in a huge number of hours over the winter so I’m not under any illusions about this challenge, but that doesn’t change how much I’m looking forwards to it.”
Porto’s Atlantic coast location makes for big waves and strong breezes, something two-time world champion and Rio 2016 Olympian Nick Thompson is looking forward to.
“If the conditions for the regatta are anything like the training we should be in for a treat,” said Thompson, 33, from Lymington, Hants.
“We’ve been here for over a week and we’ve had a good mix of everything. It’s nice racing in some tide again to add another dimension.”
The British Sailing Team will field nine athletes in the bumper 168-boat Laser fleet, and five in the 123-strong Radial competition.
Elliot Hanson, who won silver at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma last month, is expecting stiff competition in the last big European regatta of the year before the attention turns to Japan, hosts of the World Championships and the Olympic test event.
“The Euros will see all the big names line up for the first time since 2018,” said Hanson, 25, from Macclesfield, Cheshire. “We’re expecting some big waves and hopefully a good week of breeze to close out the European season.
“From my personal point of view I’ll be looking at ironing out some early season errors and refining some techniques before the major regattas this summer. That said it’s a Europeans and a title is on the line- every regatta you compete at you look to put your best foot forward and win.”
“Porto’s an interesting venue with lots of swell,” said 2016 world champion Young, 31, from Wolverhampton. “I’m looking forward to getting racing, to try to perform to the best of my ability and learn throughout the week.”
Snellgrove, 28, from Lymington, Hants, added: “I’m really happy to be back racing having been fixing a bit of a knee injury since Palma, and hopefully Porto continues to deliver the awesome wind and waves that we’ve had in training.”
Racing begins tomorrow and concludes on Saturday May 25. Results from the regatta can be found here.