Britain's top sailors battle it out for world championship title


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The Independent Online

A no-holds-barred fight between five top British sailors is in prospect for a world championship title as all 10 Olympic classes race on the Indian Ocean, former home of the America’s Cup.

Throwing down the gauntlet to the man chasing his fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal, Ben Ainslie, heavyweight singlehander rival Giles Scott says adamantly: “There are no team orders, if there were there would be a bit of an uprising. If we have to sail each other off the course it will happen. It has happened before.”

Ainslie, one of the world’s best, has already been given the Finn class place at the Weymouth venue next year and would be a near-banker to win gold again – he won silver in the lighter weight Laser in 1996, gold in the same class in 2000, and then gold in the Finn in 2004 and 2008.

His aim is to be the most successful Olympic sailor in history and to match Steve Redgrave’s rowing record.

But the world championship gold is up for grabs and Scott has his own illustrious record as reigning European champion. Ed Wright is the current world champion, Andrew Mills is always a threat, and insiders point to the potential of Scotland’s Mark Andrews if the breeze is in the fresher end of the scale. They would all be happy to knock Ainslie off his perch.

The concurrent world championships see over 1,100 sailors from 76 countries fight it out over two weeks with Britain’s world class match racing trio of the Macgregor sisters of Lucy and Kate, plus former Cambridge rowing blue Annie Lush mid-boat, opening proceedings on Saturday.

For many countries the primary aim will be to finish well enough to qualify for a Weymouth slot. Some will also use the results in Fremantle to select their one representative(s) in each of the 10 classes. Britain, as host, has automatic qualification and has already named its representatives in seven of the classes.

Perth and the Western Australia province, which says it has spent A$20m on the event, thinks it will double that in cash returns and establish itself as a world class sailing event organiser.