Ainslee makes a mark on Europe

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The Independent Online
In a relentless bid to maintain race sharpness over the last six weeks before the Olympic Games, Ben Ainslie was reassuringly on course yesterday to add the European Laser crown to his CV here in Brittany.

He was leading the 108-strong fleet from 32 countries with two wins and a fourth from the three races, and he was unlucky not to be able to count another win, made invalid when racing was abandoned on Tuesday.

The high pressure which has brought summer to northern Europe has also brought a dearth of wind, leaving the organisers at France's impressively equipped National Sailing Centre the task of trying to run three races to make the cut between gold and silver fleets today.

Ainslie, at 19 Britain's youngest ever sailing Olympian, is clearly pleased with having half a dozen of his Savannah rivals in his wake. "You need to practise, otherwise you lose your lead too quickly, especially in the Laser where a speed edge is so important," he said. "It's about being there in your head and keeping your judgement."

While other athletes are adjusting their programmes to tapered training, Ainslie plans to return to South Carolina, just north of where he has been training for a month in Georgia, to contest the Mumm Beach Classes Regatta at Hilton Head. First, though, he needs a calm, clean victory in the Europeans to put behind him the upset in April at the world championship in South Africa where he had to be content with bronze.

Britain's Eurolymp regatta at Hayling Island next week has all but been abandoned through lack of entries, but the 470 European Championship, with John Merricks and Ian Walker as favourites, goes ahead.