Grael quest for Olympic place is in the family tradition

A Brazilian sailor with a very famous name in Olympic history is in contention to earn a place for his country at the Paris 2024 Games after day three of competition at the Last Chance Regatta in Hyères, France.

Marco Grael – son of five-time Olympic medallist Torben Grael, and brother of two-time Olympic champion Martine Grael – could claim a place in the men’s skiff for Brazil if the 34-year-old and his partner Gabriel Simoēs can continue to deliver results in the final qualifying event for the Games this summer.

Grael, an Olympian in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, and Simoes are in sixth place after nine races of the Last Chance Regatta which is being held as part of the Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères.

With four qualifying slots available, and three German 49ers ahead of them in the standings, their chances of securing one of them for Brazil are strengthening.

Grael said: “It’s not the first time in our family and it’s very good to be in a family racing in the Olympics at the highest level.

“But all the sailors are, in the end, a big family. We all travel around for numerous years together and it’s been nice to have one more year hoping to go to the Olympics again.”

Simoēs said: “It has been a good week so far. We’re improving a lot in the championships, and I believe consistency will be key for us getting the Olympic spot.”

The top two men’s skiff places are currently taken by German sailors.

Max Stingele and Linov Scheel lead, and they have been joined at the top of the table by Jakob Meggendorfer and Andreas Spranger who won the final race of the day.

No matter how good their regatta goes, however, the Germans are finding the experience at the Last Chance Regatta somewhat bitter-sweet. “We are in a frustrating situation right now,” smiled Stingele ruefullyl. “We have a complicated qualifying situation in Germany because even if we get the ticket here for the Games, our federation might not send us. It looks like there won’t be a German 49er team at the Games.”

In the women’s skiff, from which five countries will qualify, Poland continue to look good for a qualifying place with the top two slots taken by leaders Aleks Melzacka and Sandra Jankowiak and second-placed Gabriela Czapska and Hanna Rajchert. The German pair of Maria Bergmann and Hanna Wille moved into third with eight races down.

An all-Italian battle is shaping up at the top of the 470 mixed dinghy standings with two boats on the same number of points. Giacomo Ferrari and Alessandra Dubbini lead after bullets in the last three of the six races completed so far.

That run saw them push compatriots Elena Berta and Bruno Festo into second place and, with the Italian selectors yet to indicate who will go to Paris 2024 if a country place is secured from the four on offer, the next few days could be very interesting.

Ferrari said: “Today was a very good day for us. We got the two first positions and we are happy because we did a very good job in terms of strategy and tactics.

“We have to continue in this way and we know tomorrow will probably be strong winds so we are focused on that.”

Dubbini said: “It was not simple at all because Elena [Berta] is quite fast and that’s ok, the week is long and the forecast for the next days is quite windy. We are focused and let’s see what is going to happen."

Sailors supported by World Sailing’s Emerging Nations Program (ENP) occupy the top two places in women’s dinghy.

With four Paris 2024 berths available, the ILCA 6s are being led by Marilena Makri of Cyprus, in first, and Ebru Bolat of Romania, in second.

In the men’s dinghy, where four Olympic ILCA 7 places can be won, Malaysia’s Khairulnizam bin Mohd Afendy, who has also benefited from ENP support, is seeking a fourth consecutive Olympics appearance and leads after five races.

The United States, meanwhile, are on course to miss out on qualifying a men’s dinghy place despite having three sailors in the fleet. Ford McCann, who has been told he will be on the plane to Marseille if the US can qualify, is the best of them in 12th place.

In the men’s windsurfing, it is becoming hard to imagine a scenario in which American Noah Lyons does not book an Olympic ticket for himself and his country.

Lyons knows he will go to Marseille if he can secure for the United States one of seven iQFOiL places and he scored five bullets from the five races contested today. That put him 18 points ahead of next best, Rytis Jasunas of Lithuania. AIN representative Anastasiya Valkevich leads the women’s windsurfing.

Another day saw another hat-trick of bullets in the women’s kite for Elena Lengwiler of Switzerland who has dominated the Formula Kite competition from which five countries can claim an Olympic place. One of those looks set to go to Poland who have three athletes in the top six including Julia Damasiewicz and Izabela Satrjan in second and third respectively.

Poland are also well represented in the race for the five men’s kite qualifying places with Maks Zakowski in second and Jan Marciniak in third behind Connor Bainbridge.

Team GB hopeful Bainbridge has well and truly found his form, winning the last six of the 11 races contested so far as he pursues the Paris 2024 spot he was expected to have secured much earlier in the qualification process.

All classes resume competition in Qualified Nations

With 25 races sent today, all classes in Qualified Nations were able to race. In the men's dinghy (ILCA7), after a good first day, Jean-Baptiste Bernaz struggled slightly with the wind variations.

"I started the week very well with a first place in yesterday's only race but today it was a bit more complicated. I started poorly with a heavy penalty at the start, requiring a 720° turn as a penalty. Consequently, I started last but managed to climb up a bit. In the second race, I had a good start but a big wind shift ruined my chances. I was on the wrong side but the wind today was very disturbed. We only have 3 races on the results board, there is still a long way to go. We're in a fleet with a group where the best are, there will be a lot of points to distribute. I'll hang in there. This is our last rehearsal here. We have about 20 starts left before the Olympics, 20 opportunities to work alongside the best. We've worked a lot since the world championship in January. There has been a lot of physical work in losing weight to see how it goes. I also brought equipment that I am not familiar with in order to adapt. At the Games, we have a boat that we don't master, we try to adapt and, of course, in the background, everything we are already working on, the starts, the speed, the crossings, the tactics," commented Jean-Baptiste Bernaz.
In the women's category, two Australian teams lead the fleet, with the first Frenchwoman Marie Barrue in 21st position.

In the mixed double dinghy (470), the French duo Camille Lecointre and Jérémie Mion, with two third places, continue to hold the first place, ahead of the Australians Jerwood/Nicholas and the English pair Wrigley/Harris.
With 4 races in the Kitefoil for men, the positions are becoming clearer and Axel Mazella seems well anchored in 3rd place behind Maximillian Maeder (SGP) and Toni Vodisek (SLO).

"We were able to do 4 races today in a west wind. I'm still happy with my day even though I made some mistakes that I'm not used to making. I'm 3rd overall, so I secure my place to go to the semifinals and I hope for the final. The SOF is a very good training for me for the Paris Olympics this summer," confided Axel Mazella.
In the same category but for women, Lauriane Nolot, following a last race as DNC (Do Not Compete), drops to 3rd place behind Jessie Kampman in second and Englishwoman Eleanor Aldridge in first.

In the last races of the day, in the men's double dinghy (49er), the Frenchmen Erwan Fisher and Clément Pequin won the last race and are ranked 5th in the provisional standings. In the women's category, the Frenchwomen Sarah Steyaert and Charline Picon, thanks to a good day, climb two places in the standings and are also 5th.
In Windfoil, the Frenchman Nicolas Goyard, author of a good first race, falls during the next two and drops out of the provisional podium. The Australian Grae Morris and the Israeli Tom Reuveny are still leading the race.

For the women, the two Frenchwomen Lola Sorin and Hélène Noesmoen are respectively 3rd and 4th. The Israeli Tamar Steinberg dominates the category.