Gold or glory dilemma for British sailing squad

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The Independent Online

Sail for gold or sail for glory is the dilemma facing a confident British squad going into the UK staging of a world championship event for Olympic boats on the track which will host the Games next year.

All of them want to win, but being best British is what will ensure selection for the official Olympic test event which starts at the same Weymouth and Portland beginning 1 August.

Some are almost certain, like the women’s match racing trio of the Macgregor sisters, Lucy and Kate plus Annie Lush, or the reigning Star keelboat gold medallists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, perhaps even both the windsurfers, Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw.

“This is a time to re-assess the venue, work out the umpiring systems and make sure we don’t take our foot off the fitness pedal,” says helmsman Lucy, whose team has a relatively new coach in the Dutchman Maurice Paardenkooper. “We are excited and feel there is so much more to come. There is plenty to learn about ourselves. We can’t wait to go sailing again.”

But the current Finn singlehander gold medallist– and he already has two more golds and a silver – Ben Ainslie knows he has serous rivals in Ed Wright and Giles Scott. “There is a a lot at stake in this event,” he said. I have to win, if only because I need to qualify for the official Olympic rest event. It is always possible that if someone else qualifies and then does really well that this cold influence the selectors.”

For the team manager Stephen Park, he can be rather more detached than normal. He does not have to deliver a medal haul, he has to deliver a strong team. “This will give the selectors the chance to see everyone competing under pressure, the sort of pressure that will be in evidence at the Games next year,” he said.

‘Sparky’ knows there is plenty of time to ink in the names of the final team and every opportunity to take some early decisions if that allows making some cuts and concentrating resources as soon as practicable.

He also expects a breezy week in general, with a testing 15-20 knots for the first three days.

Fitness programmes will be tested, not least in another fiercely contested class, the 49er high performance skiff, where Britain has talent in depth.

The August event will be Britain not just testing but parading an Olympic facility which has been up and running for over a year.

Skandia Sail for Gold week sees over 1,100 sailors from 62 countries already feeling the pressure of a clock running down and their coaches and selectors beginning to draw up final squads, with most decisions being taken at the world championships of sailing in Fremantle, Australia, this year.