What Argentina, Brazil, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland do have in common? They are all top-seeded sailing nations and therefore will start the SSL Gold Cup from the 1/8th final in Bahrain (November 8-12).
Since August 7th until 15th, all these teams have trained in Lake Neuchatel in Grandson (Switzerland) for the last session before all SSL47 are shipped to Bahrain for the Finals.
Olympic champion or medalist, World champion, America’s Cup and SailGP winners, World Match Racing Champions… name it and these teams will have at least one of them or more in their rank. This is what SSL Gold Cup is all about: the best sailors defending their national colours with no financial or technological barriers.
As a reminder, just 10 years ago, London 2012 crowned and honoured some of the sailors present in Grandson, including SSL Team Australia’s helm Tom Slingsby (Gold in Laser) and his teammate Matt Belcher (gold in 470), Jonas Hoegh-Christensen, captain of SSL Team Denmark (Silver medal in the Finn) and Max Salminen (Gold in the Star class). Here are some of their impressions.
Does being captain of the World n°1 SSL national team put some pressure on Ian Williams? Well, the British skipper knows about pressure as he is already considered the most successful skipper on the World Match Racing Tour after so far winning 6 World Championship titles. He is joined by the most the talented British Olympic sailors including Luke Patience, 470 silver medalist at London 2012.
Ian Williams, Captain and helm on SSL Team GBR:
“The concept of the SSL Gold Cup is a fantastic event like the World Cup is for Football. It’s going to be very exciting for us to represent our country in Bahrain and try to bring the trophy home.”
“It feels a bit different to sail with only nationals onboard. In Match Racing, I usually sail with different nationalities. But here in Grandson, just to train as a group against the Brazilians, the Australians, the Argentinians is fantastic. We really look forward to sail against all different nations in Bahrain and see how we compare.”
“Certainly the Match Racing skills in the pre-start will come into play. For sure, the positioning on the start on a four-boat race will be very important. There won’t be a lot of spots on the starting line. But these SSL47 are a challenge to race and a challenge to get around the course in good shape and fast. And that will be the difference between the teams.”
Luke Patience, main trimmer on SSL Team GBR:
“It’s great to be back after participating at SSL Finals in Bahamas and see this beautiful SSL47 covered in gold!”
“The SSL Ranking and the overall concept of the SSL Gold Cup is amazing. It’s putting wider reaches of the sport into the same spotlight. The ranking is finally giving us the opportunity to see who is the best sailor! We often ask ourselves: “if we were in the same boat, could we beat each others?” Like me versus Giles Scott. We never do that because we are not in the same size boat.”
“And the Gold Cup is giving us the opportunity to going head to head as a group against other nations. The format is very different from the Olympic programme where you prepare yourself for 4 years for one race. Here you have 24 hours to prepare and that’s a good thing because it keeps it short and sharp. So it will be never-wracking!”
At the SSL Gold Cup inauguration, America’s Cup Legend and SSL Team Austalia captain John Bertrand made it clear: “We will give it a shot”. Skippered by Tom Slingsby, the Aussies have probably one of the most competitive team with sailors from World top sailing including Olympic and World champions as well as America’s Cup and SailGP winners.
John Bertrand, Captain of SSL Team Australian:
“It is a first time we have that team with so many talents from SailGP to Olympic and America’s Cup sailors. But you never know what to expect. Today we trained against the Brits and they were very competitive. Sailing is very complex. Nothing is set in concrete.”
“The SSL Gold Cup has a big vision: to spread the sport with a competition with 56 nations. Unless the Laser and the Optimist, there is nothing like the SSL Gold Cup. It’s a global first and I take my hat off to all the people who made that possible.”
Tom Slingsby, helm on SSL Team Australia:
“The first motivation to join the team was to represent our country on equal boats and competing on a team of people from Australia. There are 56 nations and we want to go as far as we can. Of course sailing with Australians make it so much more enjoyable. There is the full sense of national pride. And sailing with people from so many different backgrounds whom I never sailed before is a real treat.”
“I really like the format of the SSL ranking for sure it’s getting better but it’s great that everyone is treated on the same fair game field. It doesn’t matter if you are a bow, a trimmer or a helm.”
Will Ryan, trimmer on SSL Team Australia:
“It is a super unique opportunity to be in an all Australian team. And with super stars. And now to have the opportuity to sail with them is just awesome.”
Two sailors of the Brazilian team are not just Olympic champion but double-champs: Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze were crowned at home in Rio 2016 before reproducing their performance at Tokyo 2020. Also Grael has been SSL Women World n°1 for the last month as Kunze has just been dethroned by Anna Burnet as SSL Women Crew n°1 but sailing with other Brazilian legends such as Robert Scheidt or Bruno Prada is a great honour.
Martine Grael, floater and tactician on SSL Team Brazil):
“The team members are all the best sailors from Brazil so everyone is very motivating to sail together. For me it is great to sail with a crew that does so good maneuvers. Sailing at that level is just great. With Kahena we bring some important feedbacks to improve our communication which is key such big boats.”
“Of course, we go to Bahrain to be competitive. But we know, there are also some good teams. It will be amazing to race on the same boat against these great teams.
“The SSL Gold Cup will definitely bring some lights on sailing in Brazil as there is only Olympic sailing going out in the media there.”
Kahena Kunze, second-trimmer on SSL Team Brazil:
“It’s my first time to be sailing on a full Brazilian team. I am very honoured to be the second trimmer. It is very special to sail with all these big names from Brazilian sailing like Robert Scheidt. We never sailed together so it’s been super challenging and fun! There is still a lot to improve on the boat but that’s why we are here: to learn and keep the motivation.
“There are some similarities on the 49er FX as the gennaker is pretty similar. But all boats are different and all experiences are interesting on the same boat which is new for most of us. We are very focused on November and we hope we will be successful!”
Interviews by Rachele Vitello
DID YOU KNOW?
Sailing has its own World Cup, finally! Like football in 1930 and rugby in 1987, the SSL Gold Cup is designed to crown the best sailing nation of all! The World’s Top 56 countries, selected on their SSL Nation ranking, will battle their way through to raise the coveted and only Sailing World Cup trophy.
The SSL Gold Cup 2022 started on May 19th with the Qualifying Series in Grandson, Lake Neuchatel (Switzerland). All teams ranked from the Top 25 to 56 in the SSL Nations Ranking (based on January 2022 standings) will meet in eight groups of four teams each. There will be five stages, or rounds, until July 17th.
Only the top two teams of each group will go through to the Final Series that will take place from October 29th to November 20th, 2022, in Bahrain.
- Teams qualified in Round 1: SSL Team Antigua & Barbuda, SSL Team Estonia, SSL Team Ireland, and SSL Team Tahiti.
- Teams qualified in Round 2: SSL Team Slovenia and SSL Team Lithuania.
- Teams qualified in Round 3: SSL Team Portugal, SSL Team Czech Republic, SSL Team Peru, and SSL Team Chile.
- Teams qualified in Round 4: SSL Team Oman and SSL Team Cuba.
- Teams qualified in Round 5: SSL Team South Africa, SSL Team Ukraine, SSL Team Thailand, and SSL Team Malaysia.
- Teams qualified in the 1/16 finals: SSL Team Austria, SSL Team Bahrain, SSL Team Finland, SSL Team Hungary, SSL Team Croatia, SSL Team Israel, SSL Team Canada, and SSL Team Japan.
- Teams qualified in the 1/8 finals: SSL Team USA, SSL Team Argentina, SSL Team Poland, SSL Team Brazil, SSL Team Switzerland, SSL Team Norway, SSL Team France, and SSL Team Sweden.
- Teams qualified in 1/4 finals: SSL Team Great Britain, SSL Team Denmark, SSL Team Germany, SSL Team Netherlands, SSL Team New Zealand, SSL Team Australia, SSL Team Italy, and SSL Team Spain.