Skandia Sail for Gold part 1

Richard Langdon / Skandia Team GBR
Ben Ainslie in aggresive form; British 470 surprises and an angry Paul Goodison
Taking place on Weymouth Bay, next year’s Olympic venue, this week’s Skandia Sail for Gold has been the most important regatta of this Olympic cycle so far, featuring more competitors than even the Perth 2011 multiple world championship will see in December. Aside from Italy, that has already chosen its sailors for the Games next year, most nations were using it as a key component of their selection process and it was pretty much the first time this year that all the big guns across all the classes were present on the race course. While the competition is very different from the Olympic Games - which is one competitor per nation per class - the regatta was also the best form-indicator yet, 14 months out from the main event. We found ourselves constantly drawn back to the inter-Brit competition within a competition, as the winners at Skandia Sail for Gold had been promised a berth in August’s Pre-Olympic regatta/Test Event and also, without doubt, an initial hint towards who might be selected for next year. After three years (or more) of the sailors working up to this moment, there was a huge amount at stake. The most dramatic race today was perhaps deliberately left until last, with Ben Ainslie aggressively defending his 16 point lead in the Finn, by performing a similar stunt to his famous final race at the Sydney Games against Robert Scheidt. Today’s unfortunate recipient of being match raced around the course was Ainslie’s own Skandia Team GBR Finn squad member, Giles Scott. But with a 16 point lead (the same as Outteridge/Jensen in the 49er and Aleh/Powrie in the 470 Women), where effectively Scott would have had to have won and Ainslie finished ninth, to topple him, were such hardcore tactics really necessary? “I think so,” Ainslie told us.