Sailing: Ainslie may miss gold defence

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The Independent Online

Britain's defence of five Olympic medals on the waters of both Sydney and Athens may begin with multiple gold medallists being left on the beach when China stages one of its first full test events at Qingdao in September.

Double gold and silver winner Ben Ainslie has been caught up for much of this year fulfilling America's Cup duties with Team New Zealand, which also stop him from going for a fifth consecutive world title in the single-handed Finn class in Croatia this week. He will be driving the TNZ tune-up boat off Valencia and hoping he will win more than the single opportunity he had to take over the A boat in the two Louis Vuitton warm-up events this year.

Double gold medallist Shirley Robertson is expecting twins this month, while two of her Sydney crew, Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb, joined by Victoria Rawlinson, were fourth at the weekend in the Yngling world championships in La Rochelle, France. She could make China, but it is unlikely.

Nevertheless, Britain, which can claim two slots in each of the 11 events, will take 21 of them, as only Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell will take part in the two-man Star keelboat class.

In the windsurfer classes both Briony Shaw and Nick Dempsey are strong prospects.