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Local sailing trio carrying island’s hopes at final Olympic qualifier in France

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Feeling better than ever: Benn Smith (File photograph)

Benn Smith hopes his good form of late pays off at the Last Chance Regatta in France as he and compatriots Sebastian Kempe and Campbell Patton attempt to secure a spot for Bermuda in the ILCA7 class at this summer’s Olympic Games.

The 22-year-old sailor has not enjoyed the best of times over the past several months, but is feeling inspired heading into the final Olympic qualifying regatta with the recent progress he has made in the single-handed dinghy.

“The goal here is just to get Bermuda qualified,” Smith told The Royal Gazette. “It’s going to be difficult, but I feel pretty quick these past few days, probably faster than I have ever really felt in the past six months.

“It’s been a difficult few months for me but I feel better than ever, I think, so hopefully we can just get Bermuda qualified.”

Work cut out: Sebastian Kempe (File photograph by Thom Touw)

The local trio have their work cut out battling for one of the four remaining Olympic spots up for grabs at the regatta, which runs from April 20 to 27.

“There's three spots plus one for emerging nations and luckily we are considered as an emerging nation, but so are a lot of other big countries like Malaysia, Korea, El Salvador and Saint Lucia,” Smith added.

“All really top sailors so we really got to fight for either one of the three spots or try to be the first emerging nation.

“It’s going to be difficult but hopefully we can get some good racing in and good consistent winds and hopefully it’s good.”

No easy task: Campbell Patton (File photograph)

Smith has spent the past few days fine tuning his preparations and getting acclimatised to the local conditions in Hyères Harbour.

“I have been here for a few days getting used to the conditions and it's been pretty windy most of the training days that I have done,” he said. “I don't know if it will still be windy during the event.

“It looks like the forecast could be bit a little lighter. But there's a good chance we’ll get strong winds most days, which is like the prevailing wind while racing here, so as long as we get that I think we will have some good racing.”

Bermuda Sailing Association president Somers Cooper has offered his well wishes to the island’s representatives as they go about their task competing against the world’s elite.

“The Bermuda Sailing Association and the local sailing community wish our three best male dinghy sailors, Sebastian, Campbell and Benn, the best of luck as they attempt to secure one of the four remaining men’s dinghy Olympic qualifier spots for Bermuda,” he said.

“While this will be no easy task, they certainly have demonstrated the skills and put the time in needed to give us a good chance of success at this extremely competitive regatta.”

The Olympic Sailing regatta will be held from July 28 to August 8 at Marseilles Marina.

Adriana Penruddocke (File photograph)

Adriana Penruddocke is the only Bermudian sailor to qualify for the fast approaching Paris Olympics having secured her spot in the women’s ILCA 6 class at the Pan American Games in Algarrobo, Chile, last November.

Kempe is heading into the final Olympic qualifier with momentum having led the island’s charge on the water at the recent Princess Sofia Trophy regatta in Mallorca.

The 18-year-old qualified for the gold fleet on the way to finishing 49th among the 193 sailors in the ILCA 7 class in testing conditions.

Also flying the island’s banner at the event were Patton and Smith, who finished 84th and 158th respectively alongside Kempe in the ILCA 7 class, while Penruddocke was 50th among the 116-strong women’s ILCA 6 fleet.

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Published April 20, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated April 20, 2024 at 7:37 am)

Local sailing trio carrying island’s hopes at final Olympic qualifier in France

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