Lanzarote will be the European and African continental qualification race course for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, to be held in the middle of this year. The Canary Islands will be the continental passport to compete in three classes of Olympic sailing: Nacra 17, 49er and 49er FX, as well as the regatta course where the Olympic representatives will be proclaimed from the 21st to the 26th of March. The programme includes 18 races, plus the Medal Race, on three different race courses.
“An event of extraordinary international projection for the island”, as stated by the Councillor for Tourism Promotion of the Lanzarote Island Council, Ángel Vázquez, during the press conference in which the details of the competition were announced. The inter-island council has set the goal of making the island a nautical reference at the international level. According to the Councillor, “this profile of tourist values the main strengths of our destination, such as sustainability, nature, sport or gastronomy”, so the multiplier effect of tourist spending is very clear.
In this sense, the vice-president of the Canary Islands Sailing Federation, Felipe Brito stated that “having an event of these characteristics in Lanzarote is a good opportunity to show the potential of the Canary Islands, and Spain”. Brito explained that Lanzarote will be the last chance to qualify for Tokyo, due to the fact that the Olympic places are very limited for each modality, “there are still many countries without a place that could miss out on the Games”. However, for the countries that have already qualified, the Canary Islands will be the stage where they will proclaim their Olympic representatives for each of these three classes.
The co-organizers valued “very positively” the high level of the island’s nautical business fabric, as it has infrastructures and marinas that are highly valued by the sailors themselves. In the words of Rafael Lasso, CEO of Marina Rubicón, “Lanzarote has the formula for sailing enthusiasts to enjoy this sport to the maximum: the sea, the wind and a stable temperature all year round”.
For his part, the president of the RCN of Arrecife, Julio Romero, who recalled that this entity, born in 1960, “has been a pioneer and benchmark for dinghy sailing in Lanzarote”, stressed that this regatta is a showcase to the world of what the island is capable of doing. With the best regatta courses in the world, the numerous sailors eager to come, the hospitality of the people of Lanzarote and the institutional support, “the perfect cocktail is formed for this type of event to take place”.
More than 100 entries from more than 30 nationalities from all over the world
Among the entries, Tara Pacheco stands out, the ‘queen’ of Gran Canaria has been world champion and is in the World Top Ten. The 31-year-old Canarian is aiming for Olympic gold and to represent Spain in the Nacra 17 class, together with Florian Trittel from Barcelona, at the Olympic Games. In the men’s 49er, Cantabrian Diego Botín and Galician Iago López are among the favourites, after finishing ninth at the Rio 2016 Games and fourth at the 2019 Worlds in New Zealand, qualifying Spain as a country for Tokyo, as well as being proclaimed 49er European champions. Real Club Náutico Gran Canaria sailor Andrés Barrio, teamed up with Antón Torrado, from Real Club Náutico de Torrevieja.
In the women’s 49er FX class, Galician Tamara Echegoyen and Mallorcan Paula Barceló will be the representatives in Tokyo, after winning the World Sailing Championships. Echegoyen was also gold medalist at the London 2012 Games (in the Elliott 6m class) and fourth at the Rio 2016 Games in the same 49er FX class. In this same category, the Canary Islander María Cantero, who sails with the Galician Patricia Suárez, aspires to Paris 2024. There is no doubt that the island has become an idyllic place for the practice of this sport not only for the Canary Islanders, but also for competitors who come from different parts of Europe and the world. In fact, more than 300 sailors have chosen Lanzarote for the last training sessions before the Olympic Games.
The Canary Islands, a leading and safe sports destination
The natural conditions of the Canary Islands make the archipelago a paradise for professional training. Many elite sportsmen and women choose the Canary Islands for their training. The figures for the Canary Islands are clear. 23ºC on average in summer, 19ºC in winter and 4,800 hours of daylight a year. “The Canary Islands have been an established sports tourism destination for many years. We are the only place in Europe that has extraordinary conditions for training in winter. And this year even more so,” commented José Juan Lorenzo, manager of Promotur.
The event is co-organized by the Cabildo de Lanzarote, the Canarian Sailing Federation, Marina Rubicón and the Real Club Náutico of Arrecife, with the collaboration of the RCN of Gran Canaria, as well as being sponsored by the Tourism department of the Canarian government.