Ben Ainslie grabs slender lead at World Sailing Championships


In a slug it out, last man standing confrontation between rival members of a British squad that is eclipsing the rest of the world, the Finn class world championship, one of 10 being staged off Fremantle, W. Australia, saw reigning Olympic champion Ben Ainslie grab a slender lead over reigning European champion Giles Scott.

For good measure, current world champion Ed Wright is joint third and all three, plus Andrew Mills, took the top four slots in the second race of the day.

Ainslie, who has Olympic silver and three consecutive golds, has never been worse than third in the eight races so far, with three wins. Scott also has three wins.

Saturday sees the racing move to the centre course for the final two qualifying races before the top 10 contest the medal-deciding double points finale. In theory that should be on flatter water and slightly lighter winds which would suit Ainslie. But theory is only that.

“It’s pretty brutal.  For the first time in my life I have some idea maybe of what it’s like to be a rower,” said Ainslie. “You’re pushing yourself way harder that you ever would in a training session because you’re racing and it’s amazing how hard you can push yourself when you’re actually racing for something.  God knows how an Olympic rower copes with the pressures they put on their body but somehow they make it happen.”

The only other name in the frame is that of Peiter-Jan Postma of the Netherlands, who shares third overall with Wright, but what sounded like rather boastful predictions that Britain could win all three medals are now at least a possibility, if not yet a probability.

The top 10 go into a double points medal decider on Sunday, one of four that day which includes the men’s 470 dinghy, where British chances of gold have taken a lurch. The reigning world champions, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, are marching away from Britain’s Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. 

The Australians have six wins, a third, and a ninth from eight starts and can discard that worst result, the ninth. Patience and Bithell, who had shared the lead, have a 28th, a ninth and a third from their last three outings.

So, the British pair is comfortable in second place at the moment with a 13-point cushion over the third-placed Croatians but can afford no more slip-ups.

Having to sail a repechage in a bid to secure a place in the quarter finals is the British trio of Lucy and Kate Macgregor and Annie Lush in the women’s match racing.

A late afternoon start for the latest protest against Volvo round the world race competitor Camper put extra tension on the Spanish crew preparing for the inshore race in Cape Town on Saturday and the start of the second leg to Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Camper, which is managed by Team New Zealand has to answer a 30-page document of complaint by the French team Groupama. The argument is over the use of rigging and mast adjustment which, Groupama says, the rules specifically try to prevent. The Groupama case was dismissed.