Scott sets sights on Ainslie's crown in Olympic waters


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Another bullet aimed at the supremacy of Britain’s top sailor, the quadruple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie, was fired by Giles Scott in the finale of Skandia Sail for Gold week on the same waters which will host the Olympic Games off Weymouth and Portland in seven weeks.

Scott won the double points medal race for the top 10 in the Finn heavyweight singlehander. Having been allowed to discard his worst result, a 21st in the first race, his record showed six wins and a second; impressive by any standards, but, coming on top of beating Ainslie in the national championship for the class in Falmouth last month, it bodes well for future success in a class where Britain won the gold in 2000 in Sydney through Iain Percy, and again in Athens and China, with Ainslie in complete charge.

To add to his misery, Ainslie capsized and came last in the medal decider, but retained the silver medal in a week that has seen the weather throw everything from the light and tricky to race-cancelling gales at over 1,060 competitors from 62 nations.

Britain ended with two golds, two silvers, and four bronze medals from seven of the 10 classes. Not too bad; but plenty to work on.   

The shining bonus of the week was the gold medal won by Alison Young in the Laser Radial, a class where there had been some doubt about Britain being in the medal zone. She had no doubt and a spirited second place in the medal decider was enough to put her on top of the podium.

Not so for her male counterpart, the reigning Laser gold medallist Paul Goodison, who ended fourth overall behind two Australians and a German, the gold medallist Tom Slingsby emphasising his status as favourite for the Games. Silver went to Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in the 470 dinghy. They still have to work out how to attack the Games favourites, also from Australia, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, who seem fast in both light and heavy conditions.

Heading a quarter of bronzes were recent world champions in the 470 women’s division, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark. They have the potential also to top the class again, as do Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, current gold medallists in the Star keelboat.

Permanently locked in battle with the Brazilian pair they pushed into silver last time in China, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada, they clashed, physically, in the medal race and that was enough to drop Percy and Simpson from first to third overall as the Irish pair, Peter O’Leary and David Burrows, leap-frogged to gold.

Bronze, too, for Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign in the 49er skiff, one place ahead of the selected games pair, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, while Nick Dempsey picked up a bronze in the windsurfer. The gold and silver went to a countback between Dorian van Rijsselberge and Julien Bontemps, the Dutchman pipping the Frenchman.

A long programme of short races, after taking the boats to contest two short courses between the two bridges which span the Bosphorus, saw Austrian Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara maintaining Red Bull’s lead in the Extreme Sailing Series in Istanbul.

The sun shone, the breeze was fresh and the hectic programme of sprints had everyone scrambling for wins, Britain’s Ian Williams ending an up and down day with a last race win to add to another in the Bosphorus, but he still lies fifth overall as he tries a new combination with tactician Nick Rogers, a double Olympic silver medallist in the 470 dinghy.

Franck Cammas and his French Groupama team extended their lead at the top of the overall points table in the Volvo round the world race after winning the Lisbon inshore race. Cammas is now eight points clear of Iker Martinez, whose Telefónica had led throughout the first half of the race, which started from Alicante last November.

The Spanish produced another shocker, coming last inshore for the third  time in four outings – they were fifth in the other one – and had taken a penalty for a collision at the start. But they still have a five-point cushion ahead of Kenny Read, second off Lisbon in the American entry, Puma.

Ten points further adrift is the second Spanish boat, Camper, skippered by an Australian, Chris Nicholson, and managed by Team New Zealand. Any of these four could still win but there was consolation for Britain’s Ian Walker. He won, in Abu Dhabi’s Azzam, the leg from Miami to Lisbon and was always in contention over a course which took the fleet under the Tagus Bridge.

And there was some satisfaction for Mike Sanderson, winner of the race in 2006-07 and skippering a last generation boat for the Chinese, finishing ahead of Telefónica.

The eighth and penultimate leg starts Sunday to Lorient over a course that will be adjusted to take account of the prevailing weather conditions. It finishes in Galway.