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Sailing campaign capsized by Covid-19

Flagstaff Team

Sights still set on the Olympics…Paul Snow-Hansen (left) and Dan Wilcox after winning gold at the 470-dinghy men’s class at the Hempel World Cup last year

Devonport sailor and Wakatere Boating Club member Paul Snow-Hansen was in the process of qualification to represent New Zealand in Enoshima, the island venue for yachting at the Tokyo Olympic Games, as Covid-19 took hold around the world.

Snow-Hansen, and his crew Dan Willcox, had just arrived in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for the 470-dinghy class world championships, the results from which would form part of the New Zealand Olympic Selection Committee’s decision for Tokyo. Three days after arriving, the worlds were cancelled, Spain went into lockdown and the team made a quick departure back to New Zealand. Their boat is still in Spain and, for now, will stay there for the rescheduled world championships, which will hopefully take place in October this year.

The summer Olympic Games, due to originally take place from the end of July to the beginning of August this year, have been postponed until July 2021. Snow-Hansen says that this is not too bad for him and Willcox as it gives them a further opportunity to improve their skills. Currently ranked fourth in the world in the 470-dinghy class, they have had a great season in Europe, finishing first at the World Cup series in Genoa and third at the Europeans in San Remo, and are very confident in their racing skills.

The huge swell during regattas held at the Olympic venue in Japan this season presented some challenges. Snow-Hansen says they still have some work to improve their boat speed in these conditions. They will use the extra time this delay has given them to work hard in this area.

“Enoshima, Japan, is a great sailing venue,” Snow-Hansen says. “A big swell and moderate winds made for some challenging and enjoyable sailing.”

Temperatures at this venue in summer can reach more than 30°C, so hydration, ice baths and sensible choices while preparing the boats are key to success. While in Japan this year, the team also enjoyed the local culture with its vibrant street corners and great food.

Snow-Hansen spent lockdown at his parents’ house in Devonport and says he is very grateful to be here at this time. He has been enjoying some downtime with family as well as regular bike rides up Maungauika and Takarunga. “It’s great to see the community out and about exercising. The attitude [during lockdown] in Devonport has been impressive.”

And for some extra lockdown fun, he has also been racing his 470-class competitors around the world from the comfort of Devonport, using a virtual sailing app.

Looking to the future, the two sailors are really looking forward to getting back on the water and training hard.

By Juliettte Richards

This article originally appeared in the 22 May 2020 edition of the Flagstaff. Read online here.

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