Britain in the medals despite Ainslie absence


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The Independent Online

Britain won gold, silver, and bronze on a sail-off today at the world championships for all 10 Olympic classes, but there was a great big gap on the race course off Fremantle.

It was a space normally reserved for the amazing Ben Ainslie, but he was excluded after a rush of blood to the head which had resulted in being thrown out of the final encounter.

He had jumped from his boat to confront volunteer driver on the television boat and let both him and the television crew on board exactly what he thought of what saw as driving the boat in a way which was impeding his progress.

An international jury decided this was gross misconduct and brought the sport into disrepute. He was disqualified from both of Saturday’s races and that meant he slipped to 11th overall; his worst result in the first eight had been a third but only the top 10 make the cut for the medal race finale.

This is not the first time that Ainslie, Britain’s best with a silver and three consecutive gold Olympic medals so far, had been reprimanded under the sport’s famous Rule 69 but it was the first time that he had been thrown off the race course for his notorious, usually only colourfully vocal, short temper.

Take nothing away from the gold medal won by Giles Scott. He had sailed strongly and was at times ahead of Ainslie and always threatening. He is the current European champion and Britain has won seven of the last 10 Finn worlds. In one of the races Britain posted first, second, third and fourth. The squad is the envy of coaches worldwide.

For good measure the defending champion and fierce Ainslie rival Ed Wright’s bronze provided the sandwich to Pieter-Jan Postma of the Netherlands. He was silver medallist by just one point.

Scott had surged past Denmark’s Jonas Hoegh Christensen on the last leg of the race to finish second to Postma, who needed to win by two places. “I am really delighted to have won, but it all feels a bit odd as 2012 will be an odd year. I live in Portland near the sailing centre where the Games will be staged, but I came here looking for a win, I had something to prove having missed selection, so I have done something I have dreamed of.”

Ainslie is still the 2012 Games pick for Britain in Weymouth next summer and will also have another chance of winning his sixth Finn world title in Falmouth, where he sailed as a boy at Restronguet Sailing Club. He had been watching and was immediately full of congratulation. “It’s really good,” he said of Scott’s win.

An emphatic win in the men’s 470 decider for Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell secured silver but the defending champions, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page of Australia were under no pressure and still managed, always playing safe, to sail effortlessly into fourth.

They have only sailed together for a couple of years and this was the ninth medal they have won together at various championships. And had they learned anything about Belcher and Page? “Yes,” said Bithell. “They’re bloody good.”

In the women’s windsurfer, 2008 bronze medallist Bryony Shaw started sixth but slipped to a final eighth and Alison Young finished seventh in the Laser radial with a fourth in the medal race.

The first day for the Star keelboats saw the 2008 gold medallists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson on top with a fourth and a third as two of their main rivals, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil ninth with a 13th and a seventh while Mateus Kusnierewicz and Dominik Zycki of Poland slumped to 21st after winning the first race but being double penalty yellow-flagged out of the second.

In Cape Town, the six boats in the Volvo round the world race started the second, split leg to Abu Dhabi facing strong winds in the opening hours.

Paul Campbell-James took the Prada-backed Luna Rossa to victory at the final regatta  for the 40-foot catamarans in the Extreme Sailing Series in Singapore. They went into the final day with a huge 56-point lead over their arch rivals for the 2011 title, the French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild.

The circuit, which recently announced that a sponsor of one of its competing teams, GAC Pindar, had a three-year logistics contract, is expected to announce its 2012 programme tomorrow.