Olympic hope Ben Ainslie struggles in Weymouth


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The Independent Online

Counting five wins and a second, Giles Scott is poised to inflict another major upset on the man who has been seen as almost a banker for Olympic sailing gold this summer, Ben Ainslie.

In a blustery Weymouth, which will stage the Olympic regatta which starts seven weeks on Sunday, the Skandia Sail for Gold dress rehearsal had to send some, even then not all, of the 1,060 competitors out early and then can everything early as winds blowing limpets off the rocks threatened mayhem, injury and carnage. It was over 30 knots when the early whistle blew and building.

While Scott was racking up another win in the heavyweight Finn singlehander, Ainslie, the reigning double Olympic gold medallist in the class and six times world champion, the latest in Falmouth last month, was posting his worst result of the regatta so far, an eighth.

That gives Scott a 12-point cushion after seven races with three more scheduled before Saturday’s double points scoring and compulsory medal race for the top 10 cut.

Even a third for the British women in the 470 dinghy, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, could not lift them above fourth overall, though they are equal on points with Martine Grael, famous name that, and Isabel Swan of Brazil.

But, in the men’s division Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell won again, putting the British Olympic pair just three points behind the gold medal favourites, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page of Australia.

Thankfully, no-one was crazy enough to ask the 49er skiffs or the Star keelboats to sail, so Britain led those classes for another night through Dave Evans and Ed Powys, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson. The forecast is dire, but it is the now-cast that will determine the programme.

In much more benign conditions, the Extreme Sailing Series opened its Istanbul account with the eight boats racing an open water course as opposed to the stadium course which takes over close to the shore on Friday.

Even so, the second trio of races in about 12 knots saw Austria’s double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara take Red Bull to a final tally of two firsts, two seconds and two fourth with British Olympian Leigh McMillan just a few points behind with the Omani challenger, The Wave Muscat.

Fresh from taking second place at the Korea Cup in the World Match Race Tour, Ian Williams swapped one hull for two but keeps the colours of Team GAC Pindar with an all-British crew which includes double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers making his debut on the circuit as tactician.

He is joined by another Olympian, Mark Bulkeley and Williams ended the day in fourth.