Sailing: Ainslie takes it easy

OLYMPIC GAMES
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The Independent Online
As Britain's gold medal prospects continue their campaigns today, the youngest-ever team member, Ben Ainslie, is spending the day playing golf and going to the movies basking in a remarkable five-point lead in the Laser class.

The 19-year old has completed eight races and with three to sail is five points clear of the Brazilian world champion, Robert Scheidt. Ainslie's mature thinking and blistering speed have been the talk of the Olympic village and by tomorrow night he could statistically have the gold in the bag. However, both Ainslie and the British team management are keen to play down the prospect with Ainslie saying: "I'm trying not to get too excited at this stage."

John Merricks and Ian Walker have dominated 470 sailing for the last year but here in Savannah the patchy and flukey winds have wrong-footed them twice in a week. Though they had an emphatic minute-plus win in race two, their 15, 1, 4, 27 scoreline looks decidedly ragged against the 2, 2, 3, 1 of the hitherto unknown Ukrainian pairing of Yevhin Braslavets and Ihor Matviyenko, who top the bill three places ahead of them.

The British duo will take some consolation from the fact that they are not alone in a fleet where the favourites barely feature in the top 10. And of course, with only four of the scheduled 11 races sailed, John Merricks is right when he says: "There's a long way to go yet and we've now got to try and grind the Ukrainians down." However, he will know that to win gold from here he will need to string together the regatta of his life.

Elsewhere in the British camp the mood is buoyant. In both the women's Mistral sailboard class and the women's Europe class Penny Wilson and Shirley Robertson are in fourth and within striking distance of bronze while Bethan Raggatt and Sue Carr are just seven points out of bronze in seventh place in the women's 470. In the Soling class Andy Beadsworth, Barry Parkin and Adrian Stead are in third and looking capable of making the cut later this week when the top six go forward to a match- race final.

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