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Olympics spot at stake at 470 World Championships

© Jonny McGovern

© Jonny McGovern


Five Brit crews will look to secure GB's place at the Games


What, where and when?
The 470 World Championship will take place in Palma, Mallorca, from February 27 to March 3.

Five British crews will take on the world’s best this week. Two senior partnerships from the British Sailing Team, Martin Wrigley / Bettine Harris and Vita Heathcote / Chris Grube, will be looking to break into the top ten after placing 15th and 13th respectively at the 2023 World Championship – the last time this fleet raced against each other. Representing the British Sailing Squad are James Taylor / Hannah Bristow, and Haydn Sewell / Faye Chatterton, while Millie Irish / Szymon Matyjaszczuk fly the flag for the transition squad.

The lowdown
The 470 class is one of two in which the British Sailing Team has yet to secure a country place for the Paris 2024 Olympics, so the pressure is on. Only one quota place is up for grabs in Palma – and rival nation Italy has also yet to qualify – so the battle is well and truly on. Eleven nations have already bagged their spots for Paris, and after this World Championship the remaining places will be fought for at the Last Chance Regatta in Hyeres at the end of April. 

Anything else?
Many nations are in the midst of their own internal trials processes to select one team to fly the flag in Marseille this summer. The stakes have never been greater.

© Jonny McGovern

© Jonny McGovern

What they said:
Vita Heathcote (Lymington, Hants): 
“It feels like a culmination of the past few years of hard work. To perform and be under pressure, that is what is driving me and I know that will make us rise to it. Whatever happens, either way it goes, this is the time to step up and play a performance of a lifetime. You don't really know what a performance of a lifetime is going to necessarily be, it’s something that just happens, but it's just about generating that sharp focus and to be as mentally switched on as you ever have been. That’s what makes us sail the best we can.”

Chris Grube (Chester, Cheshire): 
“The main thing for us is to qualify the nation, no one has manage to do that so far. We came close at the last worlds and we were a place off qualifying so we’re confident we can do it. Vita is a lot younger than me and at the very beginning I was taking up more of that coaching-sailor role but we’re at a stage now where we’ve done that fast tracking and we’ve done our own performances. It’s been hard to gauge how our progress has been so it will be good to assess that. I know that if I bring my best and if Vita brings her best to the boat, we’ll do the job well. We know what we’ll achieve by pushing each other and training together. We’re a different partnership but I’m keen to see how we do at this worlds and whether we can medal for the Games.”

Martin Wrigley (Hereford, Herefordshire): 
“It’s quite a weird time because our last event was the World Championships and we are going into our first event of the season and it is the World Championships again. That’s a little strange because it’s an Olympic year. We are still quite a new team, we only teamed up at the start of February last year, so we are ever-evolving and our expectations are always changing. We are just trying to keep chipping away and it would be really nice if we can qualify the nation for this event and guarantee our spot at the Olympics. But because we are so new here, we are just still trying to see where we can get to. It [Olympic qualification] is always going to be there in the back of our minds but we just have to do the best that we can and see what happens.”

Bettine Harris (Axbridge, Somerset): 
“It would be awesome to be selected for the Olympics, it’s something I’ve been dreaming about. We’ll carry on for 2028 [either way], but it would be very cool to go this year. There’s a fair bit of pressure but I think we have a really good shot. We didn’t quite manage to qualify at our first opportunity last year so hopefully it goes a bit better this time. Since then, we’ve come back stronger. We have been pretty sensible and we have done our own thing instead of following everybody else.”

How do I follow the regatta?
The official website featuring results and the full entry list is here. If you want to track the progress of the Brits the best place to do so is the British Sailing Team social media channels. Each day we will keep you posted on results, and feature the best photos the event has to offer.

About the author

Will Carson