Sailing or school

John Greenland examines the dilemma facing most potential Olympians
Josie Gibson and Saskia Clark at the Sydney International Regatta You've just finished A-Levels and you're considering the next step in your sailing/working life. Do you opt for university? Do you take a gap year? Do you fall straight into work? Or do you take up the long road to the Olympics you always felt you were destined for? There are so many options available to UK sailors. This is partly thanks to the advent of lottery funding, but also helped by some universities, the University of Southampton being one, which allow students to extend their degrees and spend time training. For example Josie Gibson, 22, is currently studying Maths at Oxford University while campaigning in the women's 470 class for Athens 2004 with Saskia Clark, 22. "I have always wanted to campaign for the Olympics since the age of seventeen and based my degree around the 2004 games," explained Gibson. In the past sailors held full-time, though slightly flexible, jobs and sailed in their spare time. However, with more and more money coming into sailing, the number of successful amateur sailors is rapidly diminishing. Olympic Gold and Silver medallist Ben Ainslie chose a different track to success, he left school to dedicate himself to the Olympic trail. Ainslie's dedication to sailing since then has gained him two medals, and with his transition into big boats, most recently the America's Cup Class, before he opted to return to the Olympic arena, Ainslie looks set to hold a career in sailing for the rest of his life. However, if his funding had run out or had he not won the medals, perhaps this may not have been the case and one wonders whether the approach taken by GBR Challenge's Ian Walker and Finn Gold Medallist Iain Percy is the better one. Ian