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Brits target historic titles as Southern Hemisphere season concludes

by British Sailing Team 21 Feb 15:57 GMT 23-28 February 2020
Tom Squires - Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima, Day 3 © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Tokyo 2020 windsurfers Emma Wilson and Tom Squires will aim to make their mark on the last ever Olympic class world championships before the discipline switches to foiling.

Squires and Wilson will take on the world's best at the RS:X class World Championships in Sorrento, Australia, in what will also be one of the last few major regattas ahead of the Games.

Both athletes will be making their Olympic debuts this summer after receiving the Team GB call-up in October last year.

Squires steps into the gargantuan shoes of Nick Dempsey, Britain's most successful Olympic windsurfer with two silvers and a bronze, while Wilson follows on from Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Bryony Shaw, the only British woman ever to win an Olympic medal.

While both athletes have their places on their national team already in the bag, selection for Tokyo 2020 rides on this regatta for many of their rivals.

But with foiling windsurfing coming in to replace the RS:X for Paris 2024, and with so much on the line for the other nations, Squires is expecting the competition to be harder rather than easier.

"This World Championships is almost every nation's ticket to the Olympics, including Olympic champ Dorian Van Rijsselbergh and world champ Kieran Badloe from the Netherlands," said the 26-year-old from Oxford. "Luckily I've already qualified myself and only have to worry about medalling at Tokyo.

"If you haven't been on top form the last two years the chances are you've stopped windsurfing the current Olympic board and have moved onto training for 2024 on the new foiling gear. This has drastically reduced the number of RSX athletes racing here, in turn made only the most elite competitors enter this championship."

Squires will go into the regatta on a high after claiming gold at Sail Melbourne last month.

"It's given me a bit more confidence going into the World Championships," added Squires, who will be joined on the startline by team mates Andy Brown and Kieran Holmes-Martin. "Knowing you've been quick just a few weeks before a major regatta is a bonus, but this place is completely different: strong tide, offshore breeze and changeable weather is going to make small mistakes turn a good week's racing upside down.

"This will be the biggest regatta until the Olympics in July. Whatever the result, it will be a major stepping stone in my windsurfing career."

After a winter of hard training in Europe, Wilson, the 2019 European silver medallist, is buzzing to get back to competition.

"I'm feeling excited to race again," said Wilson, 20, from Christchurch, Dorset. "I've been here in Australia for three weeks now getting over the jet lag and training here in the venue. I'm keen to see where I'm at after my training over the winter in Vilamoura and to see what I need to work on going forwards towards Tokyo. It will be a tough week with a really high level but I'm looking forward to it."

The windsurfing duo won't be the only Brits looking to dominate down under. Soon-to-be three-time Olympian Alison Young will be the only Brit in the 110-boat Laser Radial World Championships across the bay in Melbourne.

Young will be looking to repeat her success in 2016 when she became the only Brit to win a Laser Radial world title and headed into Rio 2016 as the reigning champion.

"It's the World Championships so it matters," the 32-year-old from Bewdley, Worcs, said. "I'm focusing on executing the best I can here. We've made some good progress the last few days and hopefully I can build on that momentum in the regatta."

The Laser Radial World Championships begins on Sunday February 23, while the RS:X World Championships gets under way on Tuesday February 25.

Radial results will be posted here, and RS:X results here.

The regattas conclude the run of Olympic world championship regattas in Australia and New Zealand.

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