Sailing: Ainslie leads Britain's golden charge

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The Independent Online

A cascade of gold and silver medals was pouring out of the Spanish sky yesterday on a rainbow day for British sailing in the World Championships of Olympic Sailing. Team GBR won two gold medals through Ben Ainslie and the pairing of Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks, added a bronze by Andrew Simpson, and is lying in silver medal position in two other events. Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell have already bagged a bronze in the Star class.

"All the sailors in all the 11 disciplines have raised their game to peak for this event,'' said Olympic manager Stephen Park last night. "The results are something of which Britain can be proud and are a testament to the hard work which everyone has put in.''

Another powerful performance by Ainslie, for the second year running, the king of the Finn single-handed class. His performance in his eleventh and final race left opponents gasping and spectators muttering: "He's incredible.'' Ainslie, who had been typically wound up at the beginning of the day, said, in what is becoming his trademark, laconic post-race fashion: "I knew I had a bit on.''

From a bad first leg after which he rounded the top mark in 23rd place, he finally finished third. It took every ounce of determination and energy, plus some phenomenal speed techniques down wind, to get the result. But he is a man, who, despite an Olympic silver medal in 1996 and gold in 2000, has an insatiable appetite for winning. He was immediately confirmed for a place at a third consecutive games in Athens

But even a gold medal won with two races to spare, was not enough for a fast track to the Olympics for Draper and the 2000 silver medallist Hiscocks in the 49er high performance dinghy. The selection committee were in the luxurious position of seeing Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith in the silver medal slot, but they have to hold on to that in their final pair of races today.

With just one race to go, Leigh McMillan and Mark Bulkeley cannot fail to win a silver medal in the Tornado catamaran. They are four points behind the defending double world champions Darren Bundock and John Forbes of Australia. They still want the gold.

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