Stakes high at Oceania Olympic sailing qualifiers

The battle for spots at next year's Olympic Games in Paris is intensifying with Sail Sydney doubling as the Oceania qualifier with 12 nation quotas available across the 10 classes.

Australia achieved the nation quota in five of the classes at the 2023 Sailing World Championships in The Hague, leaving five quotas to be achieved in the 49er, Men’s Kitefoil, Mixed 470, Nacra 17 and the Women’s iQFOiL.

The Australian Sailing Squad Mixed 470 team of Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas are second overall after two days of racing, but crucially they lead the closest Oceanic nation (New Zealand) by 12 points.

“We’re definitely keeping an eye on them so we can be sure to secure the spot for Australia” said Nicholas of their trans-Tasman rivals.

“The conditions were pretty tricky. We started the day in about five to six knots and finished the day in about 12 to 13 which was really nice.

"The top mark was right next to the land, so you had to get your timing right and hope you got the shift at the right moment.”

Sail Sydney is being run over two venues this year, with the iQFOiL and Formula Kites racing on Botany Bay out of Georges River Sailing Club and the rest of the classes on Sydney Harbour out of Woollahra Sailing Club.

Breiana Whitehead (Women’s Formula Kite), Grae Morris (Men’s iQFOiL) and Samantha Costin (Women’s iQFOiL) all have commanding leads in their respective classes.

There are tight battles among other fleets with Sam King (ILCA 7) and Brin Liddell and Rhiannon Brown (Nacra 17) among those holding slender leads in their respective classes.

Australia have already achieved a Paris 2024 nation quota in the ILCA 6, leaving the highly competitive Australian squad to now battle it out for Olympic selection.

Squad member Mara Stransky has elected to miss Sail Sydney to make an early journey to Argentina for their January Worlds, so that leaves the other squad members Elyse Ainsworth, Casey Imeneo and Zoe Thomson to battle it out at Sail Sydney.

They currently occupy the top three spots with just two points between them.

“They’re having a great tussle between themselves again, just like they did at Sail Melbourne,” said Australian Sailing’s Technical Director Michael Blackburn.

“This is a great regatta for them to fine-tune their racing skills before heading to Argentina for their World Championships starting early in the new year. 

Racing is scheduled to commence at midday tomorrow at both venues.

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