Fifteen sailors across 10 Olympic Classes begin their bid to try to help Team GB claim more sailing medals than any other nation for the fifth successive Games, when the 2016 Olympic Regatta gets underway in Guanabara Bay on Monday (8 August).
60% of the team (nine sailors) will make their Olympic debuts in Rio, including four sailors in the new Nacra 17 (Mixed Multihull) and 49erFX (Women’s Skiff) classes.
Britain has won 21 medals – 10 gold, seven silver and four bronze – at the past four Games in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London, with 10 of these claimed by Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy, Andrew Simpson and Paul Goodison, who all competed at their final Games at London 2012.
But with six previous Olympic medals in the 2016 ranks and a third of the team currently World Championship medallists, including three World Champions, Park has no fears the changing of the guard will impact on Britain’s medal-winning potential.
He said: “I'm absolutely optimistic we have a great team of talent; as strong a team as we have ever had going to the Games.
“We have 15 athletes in 10 events, who all on their day can win races at the Olympics, and if they win more races than the others, they will win the gold medal. The potential is there, but it is about who is going to deliver on that day.
“If we can come away with three to five medals we would have to consider that is a pretty excellent take from any Olympics from 10 opportunities
“This team is a real mix of age and experience. We perhaps don’t have the same level of serial medallists as we have in the past, but we do have a lot of experience and sailors who haven’t before had the opportunity to make their mark on the Olympic scene. They now have and hopefully will be able to deliver on their promise.”
Among Britain’s Games first-timers are four-time and current Finn Gold Cup winner, Giles Scott, reigning back-to-back Laser World Champion, Nick Thompson, and 2016 49er Worlds bronze medallists, Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign. Alison Young, fifth on her London 2012 Games debut, lines up as 2016 Laser Radial World Champion, and Beijing 2008 bronze medallist, Bryony Shaw, claimed RS:X silver at the 2016 Worlds.
Meanwhile, Nick Dempsey heads to his fifth Games bidding to add gold to his Olympic bronze (Athens 2004) and silver (London 2012) medals, while London 2012 470 silver medallists, Saskia Clark, Hannah Mills and Luke Patience all have unfinished business at the top of the podium.
To prepare for the challenging conditions expected inside Guanabara Bay and on the outside ocean courses, each British sailor has spent between 90-150 days in Rio over the past four years. Park, overseeing his fifth Olympics as sailing Team Manager, insists sailors who can best adapt to whatever is thrown at them will claim glory.
He continued: “To be successful in this venue it will take a good all-rounder who can sail in all conditions and is a bit of a street-fighter, who can roll with the punches. The important thing is not about how you deal with things when they are going really well it is about how you deal when things are not going so well.
“In Rio there is a chance there might be quite a few things don’t go so well, and with those results that are not looking so good to turn them into counters because these are the scores that are going to make a difference.
“I can't see anybody in any of the fleets blitzing the regatta and finishing well ahead. Ultimately, when you get to the start line it is a boat race and if they have got all the skills in the box there is just no reason why they should not be successful.”
The Olympic Regatta kicks off with the RS:X (Men and Women), Laser and Laser Radial classes on Monday, with the 49er and 49erFX the last events scheduled to get underway on Friday (12 August).
The RS:Xs, 49er, 49erFX and Nacra classes are scheduled to contest 13 race series, with other five classes 11 races each.
The showdown medal races begin with the two RS:X classes on Sunday 14 August, while the regatta is set to come to a close with the 49er and 49erFX medal races on Thursday 18 August.