Sailing: Goodison pulls out with race fatigue

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The Independent Online

An exhausted Paul Goodison pulled out of the Olympic dress rehearsal regatta here yesterday. Lying 16th after six races in the Laser class, and having been disqualified from two of the last three, the Athens experience has been a miserable one for the man who follows in the footsteps of Ben Ainslie, who won the silver medal in the class in 1996, and gold in 2000.

Goodison had been fifth in the Laser European Championship in Split, which finished on 3 August, and then came straight to Athens to practise. He is ranked No 1 in the world and the World Championship in Cadiz starts in the middle of next month. "His focus is split and he's tired," said Stephen Park, the Royal Yachting Association's Olympic manager. "He needs to have some rest."

Goodison flies home to Rotherham today, knowing that it is not only his own ticket for the 2004 Games he aims to book in Cadiz, but British qualification with his British rivals snapping at his heels.

Not that Goodison is the only one with a punishing schedule. The Star class regatta is not one which will live fondly in the memory of the world champions, Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell. Yesterday's race, one of only two to be completed as conditions turned to custard punctuated by thunder, lightning and rain, showed that the Athens venue on a bad day can be very bad, but better breeze is forecast. Percy, lying ninth, will stay on before his boat is driven and ferried to Cascais for the European Championship, which start on 2 September, and his newer boat is in Cadiz for the worlds, which start on 15 September.

A former world champion in the class, Australia's Colin Beashel, has already had enough and was also packing his boat up last night.

An angry Ainslie, still smarting from a near-sinking the day before, was already having another bad race yesterday when he was shown a yellow flag for illegally driving his boat forward. The race was then abandoned, but the penalty stays on the record. Another and he would be disqualified from that race. Two more and he would be thrown out of a regatta which he is leading.