In a massive blow to the solar plexus of all his rivals, Britain's Ben Ainslie delivered a flawless performance as he set about winning his sixth World Championship in the singlehanded Finn class.
The stage was just off Fremantle, Australia, on the waters which hosted the finest America’s Cup of the modern era in 1986-87, an event which Ainslie dearly wants to win one day.
The backdrop is the 10 world championships being run simultaneously for all the Olympic classes which will contest the 2012 Games at Weymouth starting at the end of next July. Ainslie, with a silver in 1996 and three consecutive Olympic gold medals under his belt and consolidating an intimidating pecking order for a fourth gold on the trot, won the first two races.
He was challenged briefly in the second race of the day by fellow and rival Brit Ed Wright, the defending world champion. Wright led round the top mark first time when Ainslie was fifth. At the finish Ainslie was in front, Wright, showing no effect from last minute medication for a leg infection, was second.
Luca Devoti, the Italian who won silver to Ainslie’s predecessor Iain Percy’s Finn gold in Sydney in 2000, said: “The only way to beat Ben is to ban him from the class.”
Also enjoying a good opening day, sailed in 13 to 16 knots and rolling waves, was the 470 dinghy pairing of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. They started with a fifth and then won their second race to be second to the Finnish brothers, Joonas and Niklas Lindgren, who notched up a first and a second. “We couldn’t be much happier,” said Patience. “The important thing in these competitions is to come away without making any mistakes.”
After a high speed dash down the Atlantic, Loick Peyron and the crew of the giant trimaran Banque Populaire were two days inside the schedule to beat the 48-day target to win the Jules Verne Trophy for sailing fastest round the world non-stop.