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Ainslie happy with opening day of his Finn comeback
British sailing legend Ben Ainslie blew the cobwebs off his Finn dinghy on the opening day of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth and Portland on Monday (9 August) where he’s competing in the Olympic Class for the first time since clinching Beijing gold two years ago.
The regatta, which is the final leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series, has seen a bumper entry of almost 1,000 sailors from 57 nations descend on the Dorset town, as competing teams strive to learn more about the venue they’ll hope to race at for the Olympic regatta in 2012.
“It’s great to be here racing at the Olympic venue and trying to learn about the conditions that we’ll be racing in in two years’ time,” said Ainslie, who was happy with his opening day given the time he’s spent away from the heavyweight dinghy class as skipper to Team Origin, the British America’s Cup challenge.
The triple Olympic gold medallist is targeting a top ten finish at this event, and is on track with 13,4 for his opening day’s efforts seeing him in fourth place overall.
“It was hard work, but I was pleased,” Ainslie admitted.
“They were tough conditions for me – a little bit too much wind because of my lack of weight and lack of time in the boat, but I’m happy with how it went, all things considered. I really enjoyed the racing and got better through the day.
“A couple of the guys had really good days but most people were up and down a bit.”
The 33-year-old continued: “I had two really nice starts but unfortunately didn’t get two of the first beats right.
“It was really shifty and difficult and very hard to read so I was down in the fleet a little bit at both the windward marks but I managed to pull through a bit in both races which was good. It’s heading in the right direction.”
Ainslie didn’t have it all his own way, with fellow Skandia Team GBR sailor Giles Scott finishing ahead of him in 12th in the first race of the day, and Ed Wright and race winner Andrew Mills getting the better of him in the second race.
“Ben’s obviously not right at the top of his game right now but he’s still very fast,” said Mills, who trained alongside Ainslie in the run-up to the Beijing Games.
“I think having him here makes everyone up their game a little bit – it’s nice to have him back. It feels like everyone’s here!”
Elsewhere, Olympic and World Champion Paul Goodison got his event off to a strong start, in third place the Laser fleet at the start of this six day regatta with opening scores of 4,2, while Skandia Team GBR’s 470 men’s crews are making their presence known on home waters.
Two-time World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, and 2009 world silver medallists Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell are both keen to put down a marker in Weymouth after returning empty-handed from their recent World Championships, and are in second and third overall after two races.
Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh are the leading Brits in the 49er class – they’re in third overall with Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes sixth, while Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor won all three of their opening round robin bouts In the Elliot 6m women’s match racing event, including against Skandia Team GBR teammates Katie Archer and Pippa Wilson.
Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw also had solid opening days in the RS:X men’s and women’s windsurfing fleets with Dempsey is third and Shaw in fourth place overall, while rising star Izzy Hamilton also enjoyed a superb first day.
Hamilton, who’s won silver medals at the past two Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships, is in fifth place in this senior women’s fleet, and beat Shaw by a place in the second of the day’s two races.
Star class World and Olympic Champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had a less than perfect day, breaking their forestay in the opening race of the regatta. They were towed back to shore for repairs, and made it out to two minutes late to the start of the second race, where they managed to pull back to 21st.
Hannah Mills and Claire Cumming are the leading British 470 women, currently in sixth. Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes are 16th while a black flag penalty for a premature start in race two sees Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark currently in 25th, after a great opening race in which they finished second.
Andrea Brewster is the leading British Laser Radial sailor, currently in 18th, while in the Paralympic Classes, World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell are leading the SKUD fleet after two races, Sonar world silver medallists John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas are in third, while Megan Pascoe and Helena Lucas are in seventh and ninth places respectively in the 2.4mR events.
The Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta continues on Tuesday 10 August. Racing for the Paralympic classes concludes on Friday 13 August, with the final 10-boat medal races for the Olympic classes scheduled for Saturday 14 August.
For the latest news and information, visit www.skandiateamgbr.com or follow us on Twitter (@skandiateamgbr) for updates during the regatta.
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