Ainslie slips out of pole position

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The Independent Online
Two of Britain's brightest medal hopes in the regatta off Savannah were feeling the pressure yesterday as Ben Ainslie, in the Laser, and Andy Beadsworth, in the Soling, turned in mediocre first race results as their rivals were prospering. They then dug in and the drama intensified as both Ainslie and his rival for the gold, Brazil's Robert Scheidt, took penalties in the second.

In the first race, Britain's 19-year old swapped a five-point lead for a one-point deficit to Scheidt. He was 16th, a result he promptly discarded because it was his worst of the nine races sailed so far. That put paid to hopes of wrapping up the gold yesterday with one race to spare. It was set to go down to the wire.

In the second race, it was all Ainslie and Scheidt. A collision forced them both into optional penalties, but then Ainslie incurred another when he fouled Scheidt again, allowing the Brazilian to snatch it and go into the clubhouse leading by two points with one race to go.

Beadsworth, with Barry Parkin and Adrian Stead as crew, posted a 12th to slip to third overall, but, with only one race remaining, they had enough points in the bank to make progress to the top six finals certain barring catastrophe in the final qualifying race. He finished it safely in third, outside the bye to the semi-finals and facing Denmark's Stig Westergaard in the match race quarter-final. If he wins that he would face Jochen Schumann, just the draw the German did not want.

Shirley Robertson was making the most of the 10 to 12-knot and strengthening westerly to score a fourth and leap-frog the American Courtney Becker- Dey to hold the bronze medal position with two races to run. She was also only five points from the silver. However, a 12th as she was sat on by Becker-Dey in the second race took her back to fourth, five points behind again going into Wednesday's final race.

Out to play later in the day were the double-handed 470 dinghies where John Merricks and Ian Walker had clawed their way back up to fourth place following the disqualification from the seventh on Sunday of America's Morgan Reeser and Kevin Burnham. The better breeze helped them to a sixth, keeping them a point ahead of Reeser and tied fourth equal with the Finns Petri Leskinen and Mika Aarnikka with three races to go.

One of the two classes tipped as most likely for a successful defence of a 1992 gold, the Star, saw the Americans Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel end up eighth. Colin Beashel was a premature starter in the last race decider, giving the gold to Brazil's Torben Grael, and allowing Sweden's Hans Wallen through for silver, so the Australian had to be content with bronze. Britain's Glyn Charles and George Skuodas were 11th.

New Zealand's Barbara Kendall secured the silver, to add to her 1992 gold, in the women's windsurfer, Italy's Alessandra Sensini pipping China's Ke Li for the bronze. Penny Wilson was seventh. The Finn saw Richard Stenhouse finish 12th.