Sailing quartet bidding to secure island’s spot at Olympic Games
Sebastian Kempe, Benn Smith, Campbell Patton and Adriana Penruddocke are on a mission to secure qualification for Bermuda at next year’s Olympics in Paris.
The local foursome are among 1,200 international sailors competing for the 107 Olympic spots on offer across the various classes at the Allianz Sailing World Championships in The Hague, Netherlands.
Smith, Kempe and Patton are competing in the ILCA 7 Men’s World Championship and Penruddocke in the ILCA 6 Women’s World Championship that are both being held in conjunction with the Allianz Sailing World Championships, held from Sunday to August 20.
Kempe has done his best to prepare himself for the challenging conditions and tapered his expectations heading into the event as he braces for a gruelling schedule of Olympic qualifiers in the upcoming months.
“I’m going into this event with a clear mindset along with a lot more weight than I have previously had in this fleet,” he told The Royal Gazette. “This can be accredited to lots of preparation off and on the water for this event.
“I am going to be taking this event one race at a time. This event marks the start of a long eight months of events which have Olympic qualifying opportunities.
“It’s important for me, as I’m so young, to keep growing through this process and keep the focus on improvement and gains rather than an immediate result.”
Smith, who placed third with crew Damian Payne in the Comet International Championship Bermuda hosted in June, has also prepared himself for the trying conditions.
“A lot different conditions than what we are used to; there’s a lot of current and pretty big swell, so it’s different,” he said. “However, the current is pretty similar to where I went to college, so I have some experience in it.
“I know how important it is, especially with how strong it is here, so hopefully I can take that experience I already have into the event.”
As for his form heading in, Smith added: “It’s going good, it feels good.
“The preparations here have been pretty good; just getting over some jet lag going on. Sailing every day it’s difficult to get rid of the jet lag but I am almost there.”
Smith admits he and his compatriots have their work cut out attempting to secure an Olympic spot for Bermuda at the first attempt.
“I think it’s going to be very tough to get an Olympic spot at this event, one of us is going to have an absolutely standout regatta,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it’s definitely going to be difficult.
“That being said, I am really excited to get started at this event and really show what I can do.”
Patton got a feel for the conditions competing at last month’s Olympic Test Event in Paris, where he placed 35th among the 42-strong men’s dinghy fleet.
“This has been a great event to help uncover areas that I can work on, especially sailing in waves, which I really struggled on day four,” he said.
“I think there’s going to be some big waves in The Hague, and that’s a really important event because that’s the first opportunity for us to qualify Bermuda for the Olympics.
“There’s Olympic spots up for grabs at that event and I used the Olympic Test Event as sort of a warm-up regatta against the best of the best and help show me areas to improve on.”
Penruddocke accompanied Patton at the Olympic Test Event where she placed 31st among the 38 competitors in the women’s dinghy division.
“It was a great week of racing at the Olympic Test Event with a challenging variety of conditions and I’m very grateful to have been apart of such a prestigious event,” she said. “I have learnt a huge amount against all the Olympic-circuit athletes.
“Of course, there’s some disappointment and frustration as I didn’t start the week off how I would have liked to, considering how prepared I was going into the event.
“However, that’s how it is sometimes and I just need to do my best and learn from it for the next event.”