Belfast Telegraph

James Espey is off to Spain with Rio Olympics in mind

By Ali Gordon

Rio 2016 is in sight for Ballyholme Yacht Club's James Espey as he heads off to the sunny Spanish shores of Santander this weekend for the ISAF sailing world championships.

Espey will be competing in the Laser Standard category tomorrow, an event in which Laser dinghies are single-handedly raced.

The biggest attraction to racing in Laser Standard fleets is that dinghies are protected by the One Design class rules, meaning that no changes are allowed to the boat, unless specifically permitted.

This makes the event highly challenging and skillful, and ensures that it is the sailor that wins the race and not the boat.

After he sailed to victory in the Zhik Irish National Laser Championships last month, confidence is high for the Bangor sailor who is hoping to emulate his successful qualification for London 2012.

"I'm feeling confident, even though it's going to be pretty tough.

"I've been out in Santander with the boys training but it was nice to come home and win at the Irish Nationals," said Espey.

The 30-year-old has been working hard in preparation for the Olympic qualification event in Santander, which will see him compete against a difficult fleet of 150.

"I always take regattas seriously, no matter what they are, but it was nice just to come home for the Irish Nationals and know that all this training is actually working.

"There are 72 nations competing in Santander and only 23 spots at the Olympics, so you're up against 150 other sailors which is tough.

"I only just found out how few spots there were going to be and, when you start counting nations, it's a lot of people to be up against," said the sailor.

But Espey, who finished 35th in London, admitted that he has learned from the mistakes he made in his Olympic debut and is determined to better his result.

"London was fantastic and the whole buzz was just incredible.

"I was like a rabbit in the headlights, trying to keep cool and take things seriously and then someone famous like Usain Bolt walked past. It was so surreal but it was an amazing experience.

"I had my fun in the last Olympics, I guess maybe too much fun, but now I have to treat Rio as just another race and take it seriously which I probably didn't do enough the last time around," admitted Espey.

"Obviously it's my dream to win a medal, I would love to, but if I could get into the top eight that would be great.

"In a race, it's always the top eight you want to be in so it would actually feel like I was in the final but I would like to see myself up there in the medal race."

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