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AINSLIE 'DETERMINED' TO TAKE GOLD
By Helen William, Press Association Olympics Correspondent
Ben Ainslie does not think he is the hot pick, at the moment, to qualify for Britain's sole spot in the Finn for the London 2012 Olympics.
Ainslie is Britain's most successful Olympic sailor with three gold medals and a silver to his name - and he is determined to win a fourth successive gold at London 2012.
His domestic challenge comes not just from Finn world champion Ed Wright and world bronze medalist Giles Scott, who beat Ainslie in the Sail for Gold regatta.
There is also his fight for fitness following two years away from the Finn after his, now scuppered, dream to win the America's Cup with Team Origin.
"They might obviously be seen as the favourites at the moment and I have really got to catch up," he said.
"I think that is just being realistic having been out of the chase for two years.
"It is is also from having done Sail for Gold and coming fourth.
"With the right amount of training I think I can get back to where I was."
Since winning gold in Beijing, Ainslie, 33, has been concentrating on big boats while rivals Wright, 33, and Scott, 23, have broken through internationally as powerhouses in the heavyweight dinghy.
Ainslie said: "Qualification - they are always hard.
"They (Wright and Scott) are obviously working really hard and have been sailing well."
For all three men 2011 will be a key year to competing at the Olympics on home waters in Weymouth and Portland in 2012.
Wright, who this month was shortlisted for the ISAF World Sailor of the Year award, has already declared that Olympic qualification and the world championship are top priorities for next year.
Ainslie's absence has coincided with Wright proving himself as one of the heavy-hitters of the Finn class able to pull out top performance after top performance.
Wright is respected as one of the fittest sailors in the fleet. He relishes the power of the Finn and the technical challenges of the class.
Scott won Britain's only gold out of a total of eight medals at this year's Sail for Gold and in doing so ended Ainslie's six-year unbeaten run in the Olympic Finn class.
Beating Ainslie was "massive," Scott admitted, but it also showed he could win in the conditions that Weymouth, the 2012 sailing competition venue, throws up.
Working towards selection is going to be really difficult but Sail for Gold undoubtedly helped with his confidence, he said.
Ainslie's plans could see him back in the Finn "by November at the earliest" as he focuses on sailing fitness and boosting his body weight.
Training and hitting the gym, plus more time in the boat to try and improve ahead of racing next year, are the single-minded aims for this winter.
Ainslie said: "The hard thing from when you have gone from being at the top of sailing to not being involved for a couple of years is that period when you are doing the hard work and trying to get back to the top but you are not performing as you used to.
"I know that this winter is going to be a lot of hard work, very hard work.
"For me I have got a lot of catching up (to do) and I have got to work harder."
It is not just fitness that he has to tackle but the right sort of fitness, he notes.
"I have not really been away from the sport. I have been doing more sailing over the last two years but in different types of boats," he said.
"For me, more fitness is going to be a really big thing and I need to get my weight up."
The enforced switch from big boat duty with Team Origin back to Olympic sailing comes after a controversial raft of new ideas and rules by America's Cup winners BMW Oracle.
Team Origin team principal Sir Keith Mills, pulled his crew out of a much-longed for challenge for 34th America's Cup in 2013, declaring it was now "neither viable commercially, nor an attractive sporting contest for Team Origin".
Ainslie skippered the team which also included Britain's Beijing champions Iain Percy at the helm and Andrew Simpson as strategist.
He said: "It was slowly building up to a point where I would have to make a very difficult decision between the Olympics and the America's Cup.
"Now this has happened this gives me a clear shot on working over the next 12 months and working hard to get in to the Finn."
But there is still huge disappointment about the America's Cup.
"It is frustrating, very frustrating for myself and everyone else who has spent the past three years working very hard to get Team Origin to a position where we could challenge for the America's Cup.
"We felt that we had got it to that point," Ainslie said.
"Sir Keith felt that would not be something that would be viable. He is not the kind of guy to play games. We understand his view and respect his experience and his decision. I know in speaking to the other guys that everyone feels that way about the decision.
"It is disappointing for everyone involved. It is a sad time for everyone, but especially for Sir Keith."
He suggests that his time on the big boats and on the match racing tour, away from the regimented life of training for the Olympics, has made him a better sailor.
Perhaps ominously, he adds: "I certainly learned a lot more sailing in the America's Cup, in the big boats and the TP52s.
"You learn a lot more about the racing and the technical side of the sport and that all helps because it is refreshing.
"I am really determined to go back in the Finn."