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Local trio aim to secure island’s spot at Pan American Games

Sebastian Kempe (File photograph)

Tom Clarke, the Bermuda Sailing Association president, is optimistic the island’s sailors can achieve their objective at the ongoing US Open Sailing Series in Clearwater, Florida.

Promising trio Sebastian Kempe, Benn Smith and Campbell Patton are all competing in the single-handed ILCA 7 dinghy and are attempting to secure a spot in the 2023 Pan American Games men’s regatta.

Bermuda is among eleven countries vying for the five available spots up for grabs at the regatta that runs until Sunday.

“Bermuda has already qualified for the Pan Am Games as a country (women’s regatta) because of Adriana Penruddocke last year but the men have not yet, so this is a qualifier for the country for the Pan Am Games,” Clarke told The Royal Gazette.

“They have to be one of the top five countries to qualify the country. You won’t qualify individually, that’s a different programme, but hopefully we get the country qualified this week for the Pan Am Games. That is important because it is an Olympic qualifier and if we don’t get to the Pan Am Games, it reduces our chances of getting to the Olympics. It’s not the only opportunity but it’s a key one and I think our chances are good.”

The Pan American Games will be held in Santiago, Chile, from October 20 to November 5.

While Clarke fancies the island’s chances, he concedes the trio of Kempe, Smith and Patton have their work cut out against some stiff competition.

“There are eleven countries here that are going for those five spots,” he said. “Three countries have already qualified, the United States, Canada and I think Puerto Rico, but the other eleven countries have not. So there’s a lot of the Caribbean countries, Saint Lucia, Bahamas, Venezuela, Peru, and others that are all going for those same five spots, so it’s going to be pretty hot competition and it’s not an automatic.”

Conditions will also pose a great challenge for the fleet over the next few days.

“There’s some tough conditions around here. The next couple of days will be some shifty, sort of medium air with some different weather systems moving through so it will be a lot of stuff to contend with,” Clarke said.

“It’s not as difficult as The Hague because there’s not a lot of current or tide, but there is still going to be some challenging conditions for all the sailors and not just the Bermudians.

“We should cope as they have the skill set to do it,. All of them have been sailing pretty well for the last few events. Benn had a good event in Florida [US Open Sailing Series season-opener in Fort Lauderdale] the last couple of weeks, Campbell came off a really good event in Australia at the Nationals and Sebastian has been doing solid stuff but is still new to the bigger class so he’s still growing into it.”

Kempe enjoyed unprecedented success competing in the ILCA 6 before moving up to the full standard rig after securing the island’s first medals at the Youth Sailing World Championships (gold) and Laser Radial Youth World Championships (bronze).

Kempe, Smith and Patton are accompanied in Florida by Penruddocke, who are competing in the ILCA 6 among the women’s fleet.

Racing was scheduled to begin on Thursday but was called off as a result of lack of wind and fog.

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Published February 03, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated February 03, 2023 at 7:56 am)

Local trio aim to secure island’s spot at Pan American Games

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