Artemis duo ready for 49er defence
Artemis Racing sailors Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will start the defence of their Olympic gold medal in the 49er class today in Rio de Janeiro.
The Australian pair won the gold medal at the previous Olympic Sailing Regatta in Weymouth and Portland, where local siblings Jesse and Zander Kirkland also competed in the high-performance 49er skiff, and will be keen to pick up where they left off four-years ago on the English channel.
However, their task promises to be a daunting one in a racing fleet that also boasts America's Cup rivals Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, of Emirates Team New Zealand.
The Kiwi pair have dominated the class since the previous Olympics, reeling off 27 consecutive regatta victories including four world titles.
“We don't feel like we are going there to defend the gold because since then we haven't really posted a win at any major event, and so we are going there to try and win the gold,” Outteridge, the Artemis skipper, said.
“This time the Kiwi guys have been doing a full on four-year campaign and they won every event for pretty much the whole four years. We are coming in more of an underdog this time rather than the favourites.”
Burling and Tuke's phenomenal winning streak came to a halt at last month's South American Championships in Rio where Outteridge and Jensen savoured their first regatta victory since winning the gold medal at the last Olympics.
“It was good to finally break the streak of the Kiwis,” Jensen, the Artemis wing trimmer, said. “We've felt like we've been improving over the last year and it's good to have some validation that we're closing the gap. I hope we can continue that way and bring home a good result for the Games.”
Outteridge is pumped up for the challenges associated with sailing at this level.
“It's (Olympics) a special event that you can't just show up and enter,” he said. “You have to earn your position there and the pressure that happens at the Olympics is enormous and until you've been to one you don't understand how it all works.
“I'm just looking forward to getting back into that environment of performing under pressure and taking on the challenge.”
Reigning male ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award winners Burling and Tuke have left no stone unturned in their bid for Olympic supremacy.
“Our last four years has been preparing for Rio and being in the best shape we can be,” Burling, the youngest helmsman on the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series racing circuit, said. “I'm really happy where we are.”
Crew Tuke added: “Everything we've been doing has been about this moment and we've had some good results over the last few years. But we've always said it's all about Rio. Now it's here and it's time to put down a good performance.”
The Australian and Kiwi teams form part of a 20-boat 49er fleet that also boasts Beijing 2008 49er gold medallist Jonas Warrer, of Denmark, who is competing with crew Christian Peter Lubeck.
Flying Bermuda's banner in Rio are Cecilia Wollmann and Cameron Pimentel in the Women's Laser Radial and Men's Laser classes, whose hopes of qualifying for the Medal Race have already been dashed.