Qingdao squad announced
Skandia Team GBR - the British team in training for the Beijing and London Olympics and Paralympics - revealed the 35-sailor squad bound for the Olympic sailing centre at Qingdao in two weeks' time at a reception held on the first day of Skandia Cowes Week.
Ainslie will compete in the Finn class at the Olympic Test Event (18-31 August), which will be his first competitive foray in the heavyweight dinghy since winning his record-breaking fourth consecutive Finn Gold Cup in September 2005.
The 29-year-old was unable to compete at the 2006 Finn Gold Cup event due to America's Cup obligations with Emirates Team New Zealand, but Bournemouth-based Ed Wright stepped up to the plate instead, clinching a bronze medal at the Finn Gold Cup and signalling that there will be strong competition for the single British entry for the Finn class in 2008. The 28-year-old Wright will also compete in Qingdao next month.
"I've obviously not been able to sail the Finn very much this year due to my America's Cup commitments - in fact, I think I've been in the Finn just twice since the 2005 Gold Cup in Moscow," said Ainslie. "It's clear from the tight results at this year's Gold Cup that it's a pretty competitive class to sail in right now - both the Brits and the foreigners are improving all the time. That said, I'm really looking forward to getting back into Olympic sailing in the Finn at Qingdao next month, and seeing what the Chinese conditions throw at us."
The Skandia Team GBR line-up for the August Test Event features all of the British medallists from the Athens 2004 Olympics - with exception of double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson who's just given birth to twins. Robertson's crew of Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor, however, will still make the trip to China, where they will be helmed by Southampton's 2.4mR Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas.
"It was a real surprise when I got the phone call asking if I could be part of the team, but what a fantastic opportunity!" said Lucas.
Athens gold medallists Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb will also have a modified crew for Qingdao, with Katherine Hopson - 2004 Olympian in the 470 class - stepping in on the bow for Victoria Rawlinson. Rawlinson, a newly-qualified doctor and two-time Youth Worlds medallist in 2000 and 2001, has decided to helm her own Yngling campaign for 2008 and 2012.
Experienced Olympians Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield in the 470 class, 49er sailors Chris Draper, Simon Hiscocks, and windsurfer Nick Dempsey will all compete at the Test Event, but there will also be a number of new faces and 2012 hopefuls getting an early taste of the Olympic venue, including Laser sailor Nick Thompson and Penny Clark in the Laser Radial class.
"Skandia Team GBR has performed solidly so far in 2006, with 37 medals to date from major regattas - nine of them coming at World and European Championships - and some equally promising performances from our Development Squad sailors who will be looking to show that they have the potential to be part of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Team," said Olympic Manager Stephen Park. "The Test Event at Qingdao next month is a key milestone in our preparations towards the Beijing Games. Not only does it mark the two-year countdown to the Olympic Games itself, but it will be a real test of the facilities and a crucial opportunity to get to know the Olympic waters better in what we expect will be a challenging, light and shifty venue."
For the 2006 Test Event, competing nations can take up to two boats in each class, although Skandia Team GBR will take just one boat to Qingdao in the Star class (Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell), and has had a third entry in the Laser class accepted by regatta organisers. For the 2007 Test Event and for the Olympic Games itself, each country can only field one boat per class.
|1||Paul Goodison||Rotherham, Yorks|
|2||Mark Howard||Lee on Solent, Hants|
|3||Nick Thompson||Lymington, Hants|
|1||Ed Wright||Bournemouth, Dorset|
|2||Ben Ainslie||nr Helston, Cornwall|
|1||Leigh McMillan||Southampton, Hants|
|Will Howden||Southampton, Hants|
|2||Rob Wilson||Shepperton, Middlesex|
|Mark Bulkeley||Portland, Dorset|
|1||Sarah Ayton||Weymouth, Dorset|
|Sarah Webb||Cowes, IoW|
|Katherine Hopson||Dorking, Surrey|
|2||Helena Lucas||Southampton, Hants|
|Annie Lush||Poole, Dorset|
|Lucy Macgregor||Poole, Dorset|
|1||Chris Draper||Portland, Dorset|
|Simon Hiscocks||Portland, Dorset|
|2||Stevie Morrison||Exmouth, Devon|
|Ben Rhodes||Exmouth, Deven|
|1||Nick Dempsey||Weymouth, Dorset|
|2||Leo McCallin||Poole, Dorset|
|1||Bryony Shaw||Weymouth, Dorset|
|2||Lucy Horwood||Weymouth, Dorset|
|1||Nick Rogers||Lymington, Hants|
|Joe Glanfield||Sidmouth, Devon|
|2||Nick Asher||Lowestoft, Suffolk|
|Elliot Willis||Sevenoaks, Kent|
|1||Christina Bassadone||Southampton, Hants|
|Saskia Clark||West Mersea, Essex|
|2||Pippa Wilson||Lymington, Hants|
|Sheena Craig||Southampton, Hants|
|1||Penny Clark||Lee on Solent, Hants|
|2||Andrea Brewster||Headley Down, Hants|
|1||Iain Percy||Winchester, Hants|
|Steve Mitchell||Cowes, IoW|