Doing the double

Asher and Willis have been crowned 470 European Champions after finishing second in the event

Monday June 16th 2008, Author: Lindsey Bell, Location: United Kingdom
British sailors, Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, have become the third British team to claim both World and European Championship victories this year, thanks to their win at the 470 European Championships in Riva del Garda, Italy, on Saturday (14 June).

The Skandia Team GBR duo finished second overall at the Open event – incorporating male, female and mixed crews from across the globe – behind Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page who, as Australian competitors, were ineligible for the European title.

Two days of torrential rain saw a slow start to the six day event, but when racing finally got underway, 23-year-old Asher and Willis, who turns 25 tomorrow (Monday) were left fighting back after picking up a black flag penalty in race four. But consistency paid for the rest of the 13 race series, with the British pair recording just one additional race result outside of the top seven to boost them into Saturday’s medal race within two points of the leading Australian crew.

Asher and Willis couldn’t quite do enough to overcome Wilmot and Page and claim the overall victory in the final ten boat showdown, but their fifth place in the medal race was enough to hand them the European crown for the first time.

But while fellow World and European titleholders Ben Ainslie and the Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson will have the chance to make it an all-conquering hat-trick of major event golds when they compete at the Beijing Games in August, Asher and Willis have to wait until 2012 for their chance to shine on the Olympic stage, having missed out to Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield in the earlier battle for selection to the one British 470 spot for Beijing.

The Athens silver medallists Rogers and Glanfield finished the event as the fourth European boat, and in sixth place overall, and will head to the Beijing Games – their third Olympics – fortunate to have Asher and Willis as one of the world’s best crews to train alongside them in their quest for gold in Qingdao this year, after claiming gold and silver at the 2006 and 2007 Pre-Olympic events.

“This is a fantastic result for Nic and Elliot, and proves what a wealth of talent we have in the 470 class in Great Britain right now, and as we head toward our home Games in 2012,” commented RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.

“Nic and Elliot didn’t have the best of times during the Olympic selection process last year, suffering some unfortunate injuries, however they have shown great strength of character to be continuing to support Nick and Joe in their preparations for Beijing, while at the same time also making such an impact during what’s effectively the first year of their campaign to be Team GB Olympic Team members in four years’ time.”

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