Ainslie leads British gold rush

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The Independent Online

An awful lot can happen in the three final races, but the prospect of Ben Ainslie equalling Britain's best Olympic sailing record - Rodney Pattisson's two golds and a silver in 1968, '72 and '76 - is now very real.

An awful lot can happen in the three final races, but the prospect of Ben Ainslie equalling Britain's best Olympic sailing record - Rodney Pattisson's two golds and a silver in 1968, '72 and '76 - is now very real. Similarly, Shirley Robertson could become Britain's first sailing double gold medallist, equalling Spain's Teresa Zabell in the 470 dinghy in 1992 and '96. And the four-year campaign of Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield to better the fourth they posted in the 470 dinghy last time in Sydney is on course to go three better. So it could be a hat-trick of golds for Britain on Saturday.

Races nine and 10 are scheduled for today and the 11th on Saturday. It is even possible that Robertson and her crew of Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton in the Yngling could wrap things up today with a race to spare. Rogers and Glanfield can make sure they have at least silver.

All eyes were on Ainslie at the start of yesterday as he went out on the water knowing that a jury, having studied video evidence of the protest incident by France in the second race of the Finn singlehander event, had decided it was not conclusive enough to re-open the hearing. But the unexpected bonus, as Ainslie made a clean start to his work, was that his closest rival, Rafael Trujillo of Spain, was to be one of five boats bumped from the race for being across the start line early. The other great threat, 1996 gold medallist Mateusz Kusnierewicz of Poland, went back to exonerate himself and then sailed to a despondent 17th.

Ainslie's cushion, as he hammered home a second and third in a strengthening wind - Kusnierewicz won the second race impressively - increased from one to eight points over Trujillo and to 23 over Kusnierewicz.

Sarah Ayton said only that she was "a little bit excited" after posting what, remarkably, was their worst result of the regatta so far - a sixth. This despite a problem rounding the windward mark for the second time in their second race. They hit it after being fouled by the Ukranians, did a penalty 360-degree turn, and proceeded to use their downwind speed - "We have been working on that for six months," said Ayton - to leave them in a commanding position. After their nearest rivals, the Danes, there is another big gap.

The same is happening in the 470s, where Rogers and Glanfield stretched their lead over the Americans, Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham, to six points. Also, moving into the silver medal position after four of their 16 races were Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks in the 49er dinghy. They are two points behind the leaders, Marcus Baur and Max Groy of Germany.

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