FRIDAY, JUNE 1: Having mounted a successful Olympic campaign that cost $250,000, Jesse and Zander Kirkland are now in the home stretch towards the London Games.
Their top 10 performance at the 49er World Championships in Croatia last month has certainly made things easier on the fundraising front, but the brothers are still under the gun as they have to compete against full-time sailing professionals.
Zander said one thing that has changed since the duo booked their Olympic tickets is they are finding it easier to at least have people who will give them the time of day to hear their fundraising pitch.
“The only thing that has changed is the fundraising reality. It’s different when we say ‘We’re on the Olympic team’ instead of being aspiring Olympians. That’s been helpful and we continue to fundraise, but now that we’re on the team it gives us a little bit more clout when we’re trying to talk to companies.”
The brothers should also get upgraded to Elite A status by the Bermuda Olympic Association, which should also mean more money — which is a big jump since they were only at the C level prior to this.
Zander said: “The BOA have been supporting us since we started right from when we were up and coming.
They are targeting a top 10 finish at the Games, but Jesse said: “The 20 boats that will be there are all in the top 25 boats in the world. It’s the Olympics — it’s an unforgiving atmosphere. We’re going to go in fused and know we can beat these guys.
“We just have to fight — it’s going to be a real scrap because they’re very good.”
Jesse added: “We’ve been fighting time since the beginning. We’ve been fighting time to qualify and now we’re fighting time to get up to the top level so we can fight off the world champions.
“We’re hungry to get better in the final month to step it up in the windier conditions.
“We’re dialled in, in the lower breezes and we’re trying to move that forward to all breezes in the Olympics. As soon as we have that confidence in breeze, then we can focus on our tactics.
Zander said they believe they can make the medal race, which pits just the top boats against each other.
“It’s going to be in a shifty venue so anything can happen and the points will be double.
“We’re going to focus on being in the top 10. It’s a lofty goal but it’s something attainable.”
The Kirklands are aware of Bermuda’s rich tradition of competing at the Olympics in sailing.
Peter Bromby and Lee White had a fourth place finish in 2000 while Alan Burland and Chris Nash were fifth in 1984 and likewise Kirk Cooper in 1964.
Zander said: “We’ve grown up hearing stories about these guys. How they won races at the Olympics and how close they came to getting medals. We ate that stuff while sailing Optimists.”
Jesse added: “We’re just proud to put it back on the map for Bermuda’s Olympics because we were out at the last quad.”
Zander said: “We hope we can follow through and be a role model for the next generation of sailors. We want guys to join the 4er class and join us in the skiff land because it’s a lot of fun. It’s something that Bermudians would be good at because we’re pretty athletic bunch of sailors.”