Rio 2016 Olympics: GB sailing squad book places in all 10 of the classes


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The Independent Online

The march to Rio took a major step forward in Santander this week when the Great Britain sailing squad booked places in all 10 of the classes which will take part in the 2016 Olympic Games. Any doubts about who could or could not qualify Team GBR disappeared with the Scottish referendum vote and any doubts in opposing country squads about the continuing strength in depth of talent available to keep Britain’s medal winning ways on track were equally dispelled. Individual Rio selection will be made at a much later date.

But the gauntlet was also thrown down at the first of two Sailing World Championship qualifiers by France and New Zealand, both of which also booked places in all 10 events and Brazil, as host nation, automatically qualifies.

Both Nick Thompson, in the Laser singlehander, and the London 2012 silver medal duo of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark took bronze medals but all eyes were on Giles Scott, continuing so impressively Britain’s dominance in the heavy singlehander Finn class. He went into the double-points final deciding race with a 20-point lead and not only was the gold safely his, Ed Wright also took the bronze.

The national Olympic squads in Santander also took the opportunity to mark ‘Bart’s Bash’, an attempt to see the greatest number of sailing boats ever to take part in one event on one day to remember gold and silver medallist Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson. He was killed in a training accident on San Francisco Bay in May 2013 while with Swedish America’s Cup challenger Artemis.

It also was to raise funds for the foundation in his name at the Weymouth Olympic sailing venue, which will be part of a programme to help young people take up the game. In Hong Kong a fickle breeze led to multiple postponements, but a determined Sofia Mascia finally ensured that the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club joined a worldwide initiative.

In Chicago, Britain’s Ian Williams and a restructured GAC Pindar team made smooth progress to the semi-finals of the Chicago Match Cup. Williams and crew, Graeme Spence (bow), Mal Parker (trimmer) and Chris Main (tactics), met and beat Mathieu Richard in the semi-final as Alpari World Match Racing Tour reigning champion and defending Chicago champion Taylor Canfield, of the US Virgin Islands, also beat Sweden’s Bjorn Hansen in the second semi.

Hansen went down 0-2 to Richard in the petit-final as Williams took the first race against Canfield in the final only to lose the next three and see Canfield successfully defend his Chicago title.

Williams, a four-time world champion, immediately flies to Amsterdam for this week’s Dutch Match Cup ahead of the penultimate encounter in Bermuda – will there be a any further news about its progress as candidate venue for the next America’s Cup? – and on to the finale, the Monsoon Cup, in Malaysia in November. That is where Williams hopes to become the first ever five-time champion.