Kirkland brothers realise Olympic dream

  • Jesse and Zander Kirkland in action in the 49er fleet.
File photo

    Jesse and Zander Kirkland in action in the 49er fleet. File photo


Years of sacrifice, perseverance and hard work culminated in 2012 Olympic qualification for local sailing siblings Jesse and Zander Kirkland at the 49er World Championships in Croatia yesterday.

The Kirklands qualified for the London Games at the first attempt after advancing to the Gold fleet at the ongoing regatta on the back of yet another solid display off the shores of Sailing Club Uskok.

They were the first of 13 teams to secure the remaining five Olympic slots up for grabs in Croatia after posting impressive finishes of second, third and seventh that catapulted them from 17th to eighth in the 74-strong 49er fleet.

Skipper Jesse said realising a dream of Olympic qualification was a “tremendous feeling”.

“Three years ago Zander and I set the goal of London 2012 in the 49er and through so much hard work, sacrifice and perseverance we got here,” he added. “A big thanks to a core group of dedicated supporters that have been with us from the beginning.

“Today (yesterday) was definitely one of the more stressful days in both of our lives to date with so much at stake! The points were tight throughout the top of the fleet, including all of our competition for qualifying before racing today. But we had a great day on the water.”

The Kirklands arrived early in Croatia to acclimatise to the local conditions with absolutely no doubts they had what it takes to qualify for this summer’s Olympics, which will see sailing take place in Weymouth, England.

“Despite how close it was we never had a doubt we could do it,” Jesse said. “Zan and I have been sailing well all week so it was just another day out on the water.”

The Kirklands will now be looking to finish the 49er World Championships off with a bang when Gold fleet racing, involving the top 25 boats, commences today.

“Now that we have qualified for the Olympics it’s onto Gold Fleet against the top 25 boats in the world,” Jesse said.

The eventual top ten teams after the final qualifying series in Croatia concludes will advance to Saturday’s medal race.

Congratulating the local sailors on their wonderful achievement, Bermuda Sailing Association (BSA) president Tim Patton said: “Clearly we are ecstatic that they have qualified but we are particularly happy with how they’ve done it because of the five spots that were available they were the first qualifiers.

“Their effort over the last two -years has been an Olympic effort and we are very, very proud that they have succeeded with their quest. We are very excited at the direction they are going and overly optimistic we can start hoping a little bit that they surprise the rest of the world at the Olympics.”

Ex-Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) Commodore, Peter Shrubb, who has been appointed as deputy chief umpire for women’s match racing at the upcoming Olympics, also heaped praise on the Kirklands.

“I am really happy for the boys and this is fantastic for Bermuda,” he said. “I was at last year’s European Championships and was able to watch them perform firsthand and they were very impressive on the water.

“I think all the coaching and time they’ve spent on the water is going to put them in good stead for the Olympics. We have always wanted to get sailors into the Olympics and make sailing a national sport and so anything like this certainly helps our cause.”

Defending 49er World Champions Nathan Outerridge and Iain Jensen of Australia led the overall fleet after the opening nine-race qualifying flights.

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Published May 10, 2012 at 7:53 am (Updated May 10, 2012 at 7:52 am)

Kirkland brothers realise Olympic dream

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