Olympic strategy falls into place

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The Independent Online


reports from Weymouth

Just as surfers have to wait for waves and skiers pray for snow, so sailors have to rely on the wind, and too often find they either have too much or too little.

It has been a frustrating week here for the Brut Olympic Trials. Racing was disrupted early on because there was too much wind to make the conditions the same as expected in Savannah next year. Then the wind became variable in direction and light.

But the overall outcome is that the top seeds, the likely medal winners, have all come through a tiring week of long days, leaving the beach in the old Royal Navy Portland Harbour at 08.30 and not finishing until dusk. Half of the 10 places were decided last night.

The main benefit of early selection is to concentrate funds on the chosen few, rather than spreading them among those contesting late trials, and allowing time for development programmes. Whatever system is adopted there are always counter-arguments and Olympic team manager Rod Carr is in "so far, so good" mood.

The world No 1s in the 470, John Merricks and Ian Walker, are through, as are Bethan Raggatt and Sue Carr in the women's division. Shirley Robertson's two defeats - second in races nine and 10 - made no difference to her selection in the single-handed Europe for the second consecutive time, and Richard Stenhouse will contest the single-handed Finn.

The Mistral boards have Barrie Edgington and Howard Plumb vying for the men's slot, Penny Way has seen off the challenge of Jane Clague in the women's division, and in the Tornado catamaran David Williams and Ian Rhodes, are overcoming threats by both William Sunnucks and William Crossley and Jonathan Pierce and Steve Park.

The three-man Soling has been sorted by a marathon of match races which had Chris Law, Andy Beadsworth, Eddie Warden Owen and Glyn Charles in the semi-final triple round-robin. Beadsworth and Warden Owen, with six wins apiece from nine starts, qualified for today's best-of-seven final.

The selectors may wish to extend the Laser class selection, asking the top six or eight to take in a couple of regattas early next season as a decider. There is real strength in depth and the recent gold medal winner of the world youth championships, Ben Ainslie, is being pushed very hard.