Dempsey gets Britons off to perfect start

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The Independent Online

First day, first race and a first place for the windsurfer Nick Dempsey set the tone for a near full-strength British squad at the Sail for Gold regatta here yesterday.

The 2012 Olympic venue was in more autumnal than summery mood with grey skies and a 15-knot sou'wester, meaning the 975 competitors from 57 countries were given no time to settle in gently. It was physical from the start.

That suited the 49er pairing of Chris Draper and Pete Greenhalgh, carrying on where they left off when recently crowned champions of Europe and again chased by the 2008 Games pairing of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes.

In the Laser class, the current Olympic champion Paul Goodison leads his group with fourth- and second-placed finishes, and the match race trio of Lucy Macgregor, sister Kate and Annie Lush kicked off with three wins, as did the American Anna Tunnicliffe's team. The new British team of Pippa Wilson, Ally Martin and Mary Brook were disappointed with three defeats.

Also unhappy were Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson – gold medallists in Beijing – who had to withdraw from the first race in the Star with a broken forestay. They returned to the dock under high-speed tow, but still missed the start of the second race by over a minute. They clawed their way back up to mid-fleet.

Meanwhile, the triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie was a little off the pace in the Finn class. But from a 13th in the first race, he improved to fourth in the second. Ainslie said: "It was good to be back racing a Finn, though my weight and sailing fitness were lacking."

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