SA sailors hoping for fair winds to Tokyo Olympic Games
CAPE TOWN – Two young South African sailors Benji Daniel and Alex Burger who raced at the 29er World Championships in 2017 have progressed to the Olympic 49er class and are in a quest to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
The Tokyo games will take place in five months and the duo Daniel (19) and Burger (23) said their dream was very much alive.
The Cape Town-based pair have since competed at the 49er World Championships in Geelong, Australia from 9-15 February, which they said didn't go entirely as planned but they gained crucial experience to continue their qualification mission as they finished 57th overall out of 78 teams.
“Our aim for the event was to finish in the top half, this being an important milestone for us that we have not yet achieved. That meant we would have to make it into the silver fleet for the final phase,” Burger said.
“We then started strong on the last day of qualifying followed by a reasonable result putting us within reach of silver. Going into the last race we needed something reasonable to seal the deal.
“Unfortunately we thought we had to do more than we actually needed to, and sailed a riskier race that didn't pay off.”
Daniel echoed Burger’s sentiments and said they have learnt and seen that success in Olympic circuit sailing is much like the process of building a house and cannot be done overnight, but rather over a long period of time by putting individual bricks, one at a time, into place.
“However, after a few regattas now, we have identified that one of our biggest areas for improvement lies in the experience of racing in big, competitive fleets – something that can only be solved by doing more regattas,” Daniel said.
The duo said they still needed to win the African qualifier in Genoa, in April, to perform well at the Asian Championship in Abu Dhabi in March and at the European Championship in Garda in May and meet several other metrics set out by the federation and SASCOC in order to be selected for Team SA.
“Right now we are fully focused on the goal of reaching the Tokyo Olympics and performing as well as we can there for South Africa,” Daniel said.
“At the end of this Olympic cycle we will think about 2024. One year into this 2020 cycle we were still sailing the youth version of the 49er, the 29er class, where we did well in 2017 winning the worlds in the USA.
“In 2018 we got into training in the 49er, just 18 months before the Tokyo Olympics. We are pushing extremely hard right now to keep South Africa in Olympic sailing at Tokyo 2020,” he said.