Dempsey leads GB fleet at Toulon

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The Independent Online

Nearly a full Great Britain squad has assembled in Hyères, near Toulon, for the first of four World Cup regattas in Europe this weekend despite the difficulties of travel presented by the Icelandic volcano. The culmination of the four meets will be at the 2012 Olympic venue of Weymouth in August, with competitions to be held in the Netherlands and Germany in between.

The British Olympic manager, Stephen Park, is uncharacteristically relaxed, saying only that this is a chance for some to test new equipment, others to build confidence, and yet more to establish reputations. "But we still want to be a force to be reckoned with," he says.

The triple Olympic gold medal winner Ben Ainslie will not be in attendance The double gold medallist Sarah Dempsey (formerly Ayton) is, but will be learning a new trade.

Many eyes will be on Dempsey as, with crew Saskia Clark, she sets out on the path to a third consecutive Olympic title, this time in the 470 dinghy.

But the overall dream is to win a medal in each of the 10 sailing events, a target made more difficult as other nations, especially the United States, the Netherlands, France and, to a more limited extent, Brazil, learn all they can from the UK blueprint which has proved so successful.