Sailing: Ainslie steers tyros to victory

With Ainslie as tactician was Nic Rogers, the 2004 silver medallist in Merrick's class - the 470 - as they coaxed the best out of a crew picked from some of the country's top young talent.

From bacon rolls in Shepards Wharf at 8.30am to glowing praise for his crew seven hours later, Ainslie showed all the old qualities of fierce concentration, with the added focus on crew management and big-boat helming which he is developing to further his long-term goal as an America's Cup skipper.

Among the guests on a blustery day was Matt Ray of Men's Fitness magazine. Bad call. He was immediately roped into action, hoisting the mainsail and given the first stint grinding the winch for the spinnaker trimmer, 23-year-old Scott Gray from Edinburgh.

Shifts in the Eastern Solent wind direction added a snakes-and-ladders factor and the boat could surely do with £20,000 of new, performance-boosting sails, but everyone stuck to their jobs, coped with the occasional injury, and put everything into the final half-hour on the 37.7-mile course to be rewarded with a winner's cannon at the finish line.

The crew work, said Ainslie, had been nearly faultless, adding: "This is a learning experience for me, too, setting up the boat and improving my starting techniques." Next stop is the Finn-class European Championship in Sweden, followed by the World Championship in Moscow.

One of the major prizes of the week, the Britannia Cup, was won by Eamon Conneely's 52ft Patches to complete a hat-trick for double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson after her success in the Queen's Cup and the RYS Cup.

Also back in winning form was Tony Dodd's quarter-tonner Purple Haze, giving him three wins and a second so far. In the SB3 class, Ian Southworth, was second yesterday to add to two previous wins, and in the X One Design class, a third win for Stuart Jardine extended his lead over Kim Slater.

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