Partnership with sailing great Tidey essential to Freya Black’s Olympic ambitions

·3-min read
Black, 21, is gearing up for a crack at the Paris Olympic Games
Black, 21, is gearing up for a crack at the Paris Olympic Games

By Tum Balogun

Paris 2024 hopeful Freya Black is hoping her newly-formed partnership with two-time Olympian Saskia Tidey ensures a smooth passage to Marseille Marina.

The 21-year-old teamed up with one of British and Irish sailing’s seasoned campaigners at the end of last year having made the switch from the mixed 470 boat to the heavier women’s double handed 49er FX Skiff.

The fledgling duo produced an encouraging display at last month’s European Championships in Denmark, finishing 24th overall in a field of 70 which included participants from a host of non-European nations – with Black also recovering from a bout of COVID.

The Goudhurst youngster, now based in Portland, was buoyed by the performance and detailed the challenges of changing not only a vessel but a partner with only 24 months until the Olympic Games.

“I’m new to the boat,” Black said.

“I jumped into it in January basically, so we’ve had to kind of start from the very beginning because I’ve had to learn the boat, how to sail it and the specific skills.

“It is definitely challenging as the FX is a hard boat to sail and if you get it wrong they are very easy to capsize, so it’s a hard learning curve.”

On teaming up with Tidey, who finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Charlotte Dobson in the 49er FX Skiff, Black added: “It’s amazing.

“I’m hopefully a new and upcoming talent, so to have her experience guiding me is a huge opportunity.

“To learn from her and to learn what the Olympics was like is amazing and so valuable to our campaign.”

Attention for the British pair now turns to the World Championships in Nova Scotia, Canada at the end of the month.

It marks the first in a series of events in which the duo will appraise based on their outcome rather than the process focus which their budding relationship has necessitated.

Black, who began sailing to tag along with her two older sisters at the age of eight, highlighted the Brazilian duo of Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze - winners of the gold medal at the last two Olympics - as major threats.

Netherland’s new pairing of Odile van Aanholt and Annette Duetz were also marked as ‘ones to watch’ by the Goudhurst native, though she admitted her aim for the Championship is a top-15 finish to kickstart the Paris push.

“Trials start for us early next year,” she added.

“We have one other boat we’ll be competing against for the GB spot but we also have to qualify the nation for the Olympics.

“So, we need a top-10 result overall at next year’s worlds - that’s our challenge and then the following year is our push to be in a medal capable spot.

“Statistically, to medal at the Olympics you need to be fighting for a medal at the World Championships in that year.

“That’s our aim.”

The British Sailing Team are the most successful national Olympic sailing team of all time and will proudly fly the flag for Great Britain at Paris 2024