Ben Ainslie in fierce duel with tormentor Giles Scott
When you are generally acknowledged to be one of, if not the best in the world, then being beaten four times in consecutive races can be a bit ego-bruising. So, for Ben Ainslie to score a win over Giles Scott in the final race of the day restored a little dignity, even authority.
The man who started the Olympic torch relay at Land’s End and has won four medals, the last three of them gold, playing away from home, will take some stopping when the Games kick off on the same waters as the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta off Weymouth this week.
But Scott has already upset the Ainslie apple cart this year, last month winning the national championship in the heavyweight Finn singlehander in Falmouth.
Ainslie went on to win the world championship a couple of weeks later, but Scott was absent, sailing for the Koreans on a 45-foot America’s Cup training boat in Venice.
Now the tormentor is back. After six races Scott has discarded his worst result so far, a 21st in the opening race, won the next four and was second to Ainslie in the sixth race. He has a clear margin at the top of eight points.
Ainslie is said to be carrying an infection, which his coaches will be monitoring carefully to ensure it does not threaten tip top fitness for the first race of the Games on Sunday 29 July.
“I had a nice final race to end the day,” said Ainslie afterwards. “I haven’t been 100 per cent at this regatta, but to be honest it is a great opportunity to get out on the water and see how the competition is doing and know more about the venue so it is completely worth doing and hopefully I will start to feel better towards the end of the week.
“I’m doing ok, but Giles is doing really well, he certainly has turned the pace up, especially upwind in these conditions. I am very lucky that he is my training partner.”
Also seeking to restore grip and authority on the Olympic selection are the west country pairing of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, who represented Britain in the 49er skiff last time round in China.
Throwing down the gauntlet have been Dave Evans and Ed Powys, and they still lead after eight races, but a first and a second in the two final races of the day have pushed Morrison and Rhodes up to fourth.
Second, and still favourites for gold in August, are Australia’s Games representatives Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen. They are just one point off the lead and know exactly how to exert pressure.
And leading the Star keelboat class is Iain Percy, who won the Finn gold medal in Sydney and went on to win the Star gold with partner Andrew Simpson in China.
“A much better day, today. We, found a lot more speed upwind and we are still working on our downwind, so we managed to get a second and a first,” said Percy. “Half way through the regatta and it all starts again, with any number of boats still in the medals.”
Percy and Simpson have a slender one-point margin over Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil, the pair they beat into second place in China. Scheidt was the man to whom Ainslie came second in the Laser in 1996 and then exacted dramatic revenge in Sydney four years later.
Racing is expected to begin early on Thursday in the hope of beating a forecast gale-force blow to the punch, so results in the bag now could prove very valuable.
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