Britons battle for silver

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The Independent Online
Every race is a big one with medals about to be decided in the four classes in which Britain had strong hopes, but yesterday was especially important for the 470 pair of John Merricks and Ian Walker. They were not only Britain's top medal tip, most of their opponents thought so too, but they have had to work hard for something their talent deserves and are still not there.

Although apparently lying fourth equal going into yesterday's crucial ninth and 10th of the 11-race series, the system which allows them to discard their second worst result after nine races kicked in and that, in theory, could have pushed them up to the silver medal place at that stage.

In a soft and shifty southerly they were an unhappy 17th in the ninth race but they were more than happy to see their overall position, ahead of the discards, improve to third. The breeze was up for the 10th race, just as they would have wished, but it also saw any chance of the gold disappear as the Ukrainian pair of Yevhen Braslavets and Ihor Matviyenko made it secure with a race to spare. But it did little to overshadow a brilliant fight by Merricks and Walker as they battled from 16th at the first weather mark to second at the finish, going faster and faster as the strength of the wind increased.

That pushed them into second place, one point ahead of Portugal's Victor Rocha and Nuno Barreto with one race to run tomorrow. The gleam is in the British pairs' eyes.

The showdown for Ben Ainslie in the singlehanded Laser is today. One race will decide whether the two-times world champion can crown his career for all time or whether the young 19-year old prince can topple him. A bronze for Britain is assured, a silver ought to be retained, but a gold needs Ainslie to finish three places ahead of Scheidt and still well up the order. A win would need only a two-place margin.

Shirley Robertson's job of displacing Courtney Becker-Dey, of the United States, for the bronze today is more difficult, but she remains confident she can do it.

Today is the first of what they hope will be three big days for the Soling trio of Andy Beadsworth, Barry Parkin and Adrian Stead. They were switching their race thinking to the one-on-one moves required to take them through their quarter-final match against Denmark's Stig Westergaard.

Westergaard has the unenviable task of defending Denmark's 1992 gold won by Jesper Bank, in a boat he borrowed from the Spanish at the last minute when his own was declared ineligible. But he made sixth place in the fleet racing, enough to make the cut, and everything starts again.

Beadsworth was third, missing the automatic bye to the semi-finals which went to Germany's Jochen Schumann and America's Jeff Madrigali. If Beadsworth wins his best-of-five he then meets Schumann. Canada's Bill Abbott and Russia's Georgi Shaidukov are in the other, weaker half of the draw.

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