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SA sailors seal spot

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa look to have sealed a sailing spot in the 2012 London Olympics later this year.

Sailing the Olympic class 470 at World Championships in Barcelona, Spain this week, Asenathi Jim and Roger Hudson have clawed their way into the Gold Fleet (the top third of the 95 boats in action) for the remainder of the championships.

The result came late on Tuesday night after the race jury had had to hear and rule on seven protests on the day’s racing.

The fleet have now raced on six occasions and our Cape Town duo are lying 28th in the 95-boat field at the end of the first three days of racing. Making the gold fleet (cut to 32 on this occasion) means they are now guaranteed a final position in the top 27 countries and have therefore secured a spot for SA in the 2012 Olympic Games and that’s mission accomplished after two years of frenetic racing and huge sacrifices.

It was expected that this combo had a far better chance at excelling at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 but this will come as a huge bonus to the two.

Once again Tuesday featured very light and patchy winds, not suiting the South Africans at all. They took 22nd in the first race (race five of the competition) but due to their good form thus far in the regatta were able to use that showing as a discard. Winds got even weaker for the sixth race but they rounded mark one in 10th place and then gained a further place each leg and end the second beat in seventh.

They held seventh for much of the final run and things were looking good but the breeze got agonizingly poorer as the fleet edged its way painfully slowly down to the finish.

A late puff of wind from behind then brought the back markers back into contention and a huge bunch of boats crossed the finish line together with the No10 sail of Team South Africa slap-bang in the middle of them.

The South Africans were scored 15th, which put them close to the margin, but in the end it was good enough to seal their spot in the gold fleet.

When it comes to Olympic selection the process is lengthy and not a little tricky, even to some experienced sailors.

Here’s how it works:

1  There are 27 slots available for the Mens Double Handed Discipline in the 2012 Games.
2  Firstly, the host nation automatically gets one, so the United Kingdom is in.
3  Secondly, the next 19 were allocated at the 2011 ISAF World Championships in Perth in December.
4  Thirdly, the remaining seven were up for grabs here at the 2012 470 Class Worlds.
5  Finally, any slots earned but not taken up by the country concerned are allocated on merit.

As things have turned out in Barcelona, seven of the 22 countries going for the seven spots here made the Gold Fleet cut (top 32 in the 95 boat fleet). Since from this stage of the World Championship the Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets race separately, the deal is sealed. As there are more than one team from many of the countries, team ranking and country ranking are different.

Roger’s father Dave, himself a former Olympic sailor back in 1992 (coincidentally also in Barcelona) is with the team and has also had his fair share of “stormy weather” back on the shore. The apartment where they are staying has been broken into and ransacked for the second time in two weeks so he says they’re “travelling extremely lightly at present.”

Sailing’s slot at the Games will now have to be ratified at SASCOC board level.


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