Sailing: Ayton steps in to driving seat as Wilson flies home

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The Independent Online

A last-minute shake-up in Florida has seen double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton step into the driving seat of a 470 dinghy alongside Saskia Clark as her former crew, and fellow China gold medallist, Pippa Wilson has abruptly gone home for ‘personal reasons.’

Ayton won her first gold crewing for Shirley Robertson in 2004 and as skipper in 2008, before marrying Britain ’s Olympic windsurfing representative and then withdrawing from competition to have a baby.

She had originally made a bid for a place at the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes regatta, which starts todmorrow in the match racing division, but failed to secure a place, as Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Ally Martin head the UK rankings.

But Ayton, who has not raced since 2008, said: “It’s been a while, but I really enjoy sailing in Miami , and it’ll be fun to race with Sas this week at an event which is all about learning and where there’s no pressure or expectation on me to deliver a result.”

But the move leaves the UK attack on a 470 women’s medal in 2012 in a state of flux and there is no insistence that that Wilson/Clark break is only temporary. Instead there will be an analysis of future pairings when the team returns to the UK and ahead of the next major Olympic classes regatta in Hyeres , France , in April.

Latest world champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson will not contest the Star class, nor the Bacardi Cup, as they gear up with Team Origin for the Louis Vuitton Trophy series in Auckland and prepare to launch its new TP52 for an Audi Medcup series expected to include the Italian America’s cup team, Luna Rossa.

Origin skipper Ben Ainslie will also be absent from Miami , where Ed Wright and Giles Scott lead the charge in the Finn class. The 49er squad is also giving Miami a miss.