Today marks day 30 of the countdown to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Toulon. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the focus is on Olympic sailing action in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games. The America’s Cup and Olympians have a long affinity and the six teams which will compete in Toulon over the 9th, 10th and 11th September count among their crews 11 Olympic gold medals, with the possibility of more being added in 2016 as five regular America’s Cup sailors vie for medals in the current Games.
The rich history of the America’s Cup and the Olympics includes some legendary names, including Dennis Conner, Paul Cayard and Frenchman Marc Pajot battling it out in small boat racing, and competing with various levels of success in the Olympic Games. New Zealander Russell Coutts, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority is among the gold medallists from the Los Angeles Games and many Olympic sailing greats will be among those on show in Toulon in a month’s time.
For the Brits, the most famous Olympian sailor is Ben Ainslie, Skipper of Land Rover BAR, winner of the last Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth and overall leader in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. Ben is the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time counting four gold medals and one silver across the Finn and Laser classes. Also on Land Rover BAR, Ben’s replacement helmsman Leigh McMillian has competed in two Olympic Games, as has Giles Scott, currently competing in Brazil in the Finn class.
The team with the biggest number of Olympians is without doubt the Swedish team, Artemis Racing. Amongst the 11 sailors, nine have already participated in at least one Olympic Games. GBR’s Iain Percy has two golds and one silver medal under his belt (Finn and Star). Switzerland’s Fred Lööf (Tactician) has competed six times in the Games with a Star class victory in London. Paul Goodison pulled in a gold in 2008 in the Laser Class and has competed in three Olympics, as has Italian helmsman for the Portsmouth leg Francesco Bruni. Skipper Nathan Outerridge and Iain Jensen are synonymous with the 49er class and the reigning gold medalists. On a somewhat related link, Anders Gustafsson, Grinder for the Swedish team, has participated in four Games...in kayak canoes.
ORACLE TEAM USA also added specialist talent from other Olympic disciplines in recruiting the open water swimmer and two-time participant in the Games, Australian Ky Hurst. The Defenders also have Tom Slingsby, Australian gold medallist in the Laser Class. Not to be outdone, SoftBank Team Japan’s CEO, Helmsman and Skipper, Dean Barker, represented his home country New Zealand in 2004 in the Finn Class, and his tactician Chris Draper brought home a bronze medal in the same year in 49ers.
Finally Emirates Team New Zealand’s Skipper Glenn Ashby, was a silver medallist for Australia in Beijing in the Tornado class and the new stars of the 49ers, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are currently in Rio preparing to take on Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen for their title, won in London 2012.
What about the French, a proud sailing nation. Franck Cammas, helmsman and skipper of Groupama Team France, was pushing hard for an Olympic spot in the Nacra 17 Class, as was team member Matthieu Vandame, but neither made it to the Games this year. The only Frenchman involved in the America’s Cup right now who has competed in the Olympic Games in two classes (Finn and Soling) is none other than the coach of ORACLE TEAM USA, the highly experienced Philippe Presti.
To sum up, five men are running Olympic campaigns in parallel with their preparations for the 35th America’s Cup. Two brilliant teams will come head to head in the same series (49er) in Rio when Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen from Artemis Racing, the title holders and four-time world champions, will take on New Zealand stars Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from Emirates Team New Zealand who were silver medallists in London 2012, and who are also four-time world champions. On the British side the double Finn world champion Giles Scott from Land Rover BAR will attempt to match the record set by his mentor, old adversary and now team mate, Sir Ben Ainslie. All these supremely talented men will be aboard the AC45Fs which will compete in 30 days time in Toulon, at the only French stopover for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. From Rio to Toulon, the action will be spectacular so do not miss out!